I've read over and over that portable table saw or certain table saws are not good for fine woodworking.

I'm thinking about starting to build my own cabinets, shelves and tables. So I've been looking around for table saw reviews and often times the reviewer will mention that this or that table saw is not built for fine woodworking.

Are portable table saws ok to accomplish this kind of work? Because they are usually much cheaper in price.

Should I be look for a specific type of table saw to do cabinets, shelves and tables?

What do people usually define as "fine woodworking?"

I want to be clear, I'm not looking for a product recommendation, but which table saws are designed for which specific tasks. If any exist at all!

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    @Graphus I’ve already discovered that. But what I can’t stand is the fact I can’t build anything to my need and specification based on a given space. Cost also depends on quality. I’ve often discovered that a lot of ridiculously over priced pieces are made from sub standard materials. Like computer desks made out of mdf that cost the same piece as something that could have been made out of walnut. Lastly the satisfaction that I built it makes it a nice cheery on top. Commented May 20, 2019 at 18:52
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    "a lot of ridiculously over priced pieces are made from sub standard materials" Ain't that the truth! This is a starting point for many to want to get into woodworking, it was part of it for me and it was certainly mentioned numerous times by posters in the Reddit woodworking sub.
    – Graphus
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 6:39
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    Since you do already own a circular saw, have you seen anything on converting one to a track saw? There are commercial things available for this but it's quite easy to make one to the required tolerances. Many of the cuts that you might be thinking a table saw is ideal for a track saw can do (and more safely, although not as quickly). If you go this route to avoid getting a table saw this would largely remove the ability to plough grooves using a dado stack, so the focus for this should then shift to the router. Routers are anyway unbeatable for grooving tasks and rebate work.
    – Graphus
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 6:46
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    A Makita 2708 is a perfectly fine saw, as long as it's built into a larger table (4' minimum outfeed, 8' even better). You'll hate the switch but get used to it. Parts are surprisingly available. If you can find a Rousseau stand, you'll get a better fence (less deflection). Because it's not a big old cabinet saw, you'll see saw marks on the cut edges that you'll have to clean up after the fact, but assuming the bearings are in okay shape, it won't be too bad. And as a total aside, I couldn't fathom doing face frame cabinetry without a chopsaw (sorry @graphus!). Commented May 26, 2019 at 20:03
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    @AloysiusDefenestrate, fair enough! But you have seen how fast chopping and mitre cuts can be accomplished with a nice sharp hand saw, right? Someone showed me a YT vid the other week and the guy was cutting through his ~3x3/4 stock (cherry?) in just about 3 strokes — nearly as fast, and just as repeatable because he used a stop. And since the question was specifically about fine woodworking, I don't know any high-end maker who wouldn't be subsequently shooting his board ends to make them perfect, so arguably in context speed isn't the most important aspect anyway :-)
    – Graphus
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 6:41

2 Answers 2


Fine Woodworking is typically considered as using only solid hardwood for construction. Portable saws are made for the construction industry. What is considered as "accurate" on a job site, say 1/16 of an inch, is not very accurate by fine woodworking standards, where 1/64 or higher tolerances are sometimes required. In keeping with that definition, here are some reasons why portable table saws are not considered as good for the task.


Cabinet saws are run by large induction motors and have a very smooth power curve. They can handle rip cuts in 8/4 hardwood without bogging down. Most portable saws will use a much smaller motor that will not handle the sustained load. Smaller saws compensate somewhat for their lower power by using thin kerf blades. It can also be tough to run a dado stack with a portable saw - they often lack the power to make deep, wide cuts.


The top of most cabinet saws is cast iron. It is quite heavy, but very stable. The more solidly built cabinet, along with the more powerful motors allow full kerf saw blades to be used. These blades are less likely to deflect, keeping the cuts at a consistent angle. The aluminum tables on a portable saw are more likely to deflect when cutting larger lumber.


The fences on cabinet saws lock very tightly, and multiple cuts can be made without deflection or slippage. Multiple cuts made with the same settings will typically all be identical. With lighter saws, you typically see some deflection in the fence.

Many of the deficiencies that the portable saws have can be overcome, and many may not be an issue for whatever you are wanting to do. If you never plan on having to rip a 10' long 8/4 hard maple board, or trim large panels (as in building a dresser), or need very repeatable cuts (making a chessboard), then a portable saw may serve you well. You may start with one, and later find that it isn't adequate for your needs. In that case, sell it, and buy something more suitable.


The cheap contractor table saws* are not accurate, the better ones seem to be good, although lacking power and capacity. Having said that the upper half of them would work for most people's woodworking, could be a little inconvenient. Some people put me to shame using junk saws.(*currently with aluminum tops)

I personally use a 50's vintage Craftsman cast iron top and wings contractors' saw, modified with new highly accurate rip fence, much larger motor, and upgraded miter gauge probably now I would get less than $500 or so tied up in it (doing it today) new equivalent would be over $700. The older saws are often lacking blade guards, splitters, etc as mine is. I still have all of my fingers after 40+ years of using it.

Fine woodworking is hard to define like art.

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    How exactly are they not accurate? Why on earth would anyone use a table saw that isn't accurate to begin with? Isn't that like 80% of the reason to buy a table saw is so you can make accurate cuts? A lot of portable table saws have 4-4.5 star reviews. I can't see how that's possible if "they are not accurate". Otherwise why not just buy a circular saw and hope for the best. I just don't buy it. Sorry. Commented May 20, 2019 at 2:12
  • What makes them not accurate is what i'm trying to get at. A simple blanket statement that they are not accurate really doesn't do me any good. What factors make it inaccurate? Commented May 20, 2019 at 2:16

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