Should You Get a Bandsaw or a Table Saw?

In this article, I'm going to share my reasons why I prefer a bandsaw as opposed to a table saw. This is not in an effort to persuade or influence you to copy me, I simply want to outline the things you should think about before purchasing either of these machines.

Before you get started...

Just in case you're new here, the knowledge I'm sharing in this post is derived from both my experience as a woodworker since 2012, and also my experience selling tools and Machinery for 5 years. I worked as a sales advisor at Axminster Tools and Machinery and commonly found myself answering customer queries regarding these two machines, and which one would suit their needs the best.

This post shares both my own thoughts on the subject, as well as what generally works best for people in a similar situation to you. By the end of the post, your confusion will be allayed and you'll know exactly which machine you need to buy. 

The Footprint

The table saw is often regarded as the workhorse of any workshop. It gets prime position in the centre of the room and everything else just kind of fits around it. This is my first issue with a table saw. Space is a premium here in the UK and our garages/workshops are generally not as big as those found in the US. By putting a table saw in the centre of the room, you have lost a big portion of your floorspace.
 
A bandsaw however can sit up against a wall and only takes up a fraction of the footprint. In fact, even a large industrial bandsaw will still take up the same amount of floorspace as a small table saw for hobbyists.
 
In addition to this footprint, you also need to consider the space required around the machine in order to use it. Which we'll address next.

Infeed / Outfeed

Infeed and outfeed are unavoidable when using machines. The machine is stationary and the material is pushed through it. This means if you have a 6 foot board to cut, you need 6 foot in front of the machine and 6 foot behind the machine. A total of 12 feet. Whereas if you were using a circular saw, jigsaw or handsaw, you bring the tool to the work. This means your work area is only as big as the material you are working with. We'll touch on this more later, but it's worth thinking about.

Quality of Cut Finish

The table saw can be an incredibly accurate machine, especially if fitted with a sliding table such as those found on a panel saw or with a crosscut sled. Not only is the cut perfectly straight, but its very easy to get square and parallel cuts providing the fence has been setup correctly. In addition to this, a well maintained table saw blade will produce an extremely clean cut that may only need a light sanding after coming off the machine.
 
On a bandsaw however, it's very difficult to achieve this. Even if the machine has been setup to an optimum standard (See this video on how to do that) there will always be some sort of wobble or saw marks left over from the blade. In addition, cutting square and parallel on a bandsaw has its difficulties for the same reasons.
 
Don't get me wrong, you can get it very close. But it's not going to be anything close to a well setup table saw with a decent blade fitted.

Blade Change

If you're working with a variety of materials, perhaps switching from crosscutting solid wood to ripping solid wood then cutting sheet material. You're going to want to swap the blade quickly and efficiently.
 
With a table saw, this is pretty easy. Undo the nut on the arbour, take the old blade off, put a new one on, tighten. Done.
 

With a bandsaw, this is a bit tricker. Because in most cases you need to reset the tension, the tracking, the bearings and possibly even the fence. It becomes a bit of a hassle especially if you need to do it multiple times in one day.

To avoid this setup time, many established workshops will have more than one bandsaw setup with different sized blades to suit different tasks!

Versatility

As discussed before, the table saw is perfect for your long, straight, square cuts. The bandsaw can do this to an extent with a slight trade off in accuracy and cut finish. Although there are many other advantages to a bandsaw that may negate these cons.
 
Being able to carry out curved cuts is a huge advantage a bandsaw has over a table saw. For woodturners hoping to size their own bowl blanks, its invalauable. Furniture makers may also find it useful when cutting curved templates or shaping rough profiles into chair legs ready to be shaped later. You simply cannot do this on a table saw.
 
The other advantage a bandsaw has is the cutting capacity, specifically resawing. If the bandsaw is well setup. (Yes I'm going to plug this video again) then you can quite easily cut your own logs to size, make your own veneers, or cut a piece in half to create a bookmatch or simply to increase yield.
 
The last point I made about increasing yield is an important one for me. If I have a piece that is 50mm thick yet I only need it to be 20mm thick. I can resaw off the 20mm I need and keep the remaining piece for a rainy day. Without the bandsaw, 30mm of that material would end up in my extractor bag after being put through the thicknesser.
 
That explains the abundance of wood in my workshop….
 
One advantage a table saw does have over a bandsaw is the ability to cut rabbets/rebates and grooves/dados. This does involve removing the blade guard as well as the riving knife (in some instances) and for obvious reasons, isn't something I recommend. This is explained in the next point.

Safety

This is a point that I hesitate to mention because there are so many variables in this statement. However, generally a bandsaw is safer to use than a table saw.
 
This is not an excuse to be lazy. Caution should be used when using either of these machines and you should be 100% confident before carrying out any task. I will also say that this statement comes purely from my own observations of working in a Tools and Machinery store for 5 years, woodworking since 2012, and training students on using these machines.
 
Bandsaw
With a bandsaw, the blade is travelling down towards the table which means the cutting force is pressing down. A table saw however, is cutting towards the operator. One of the most common accident on machines is kickback where the material is thrown from the machine into the operator. This is where cutting forces come into play.
 
When cutting solid wood, springback occasionally happens. This is where tension within the wood releases once it has been cut and causes it to spring apart or pinch together. Either of these can be problematic, but the main danger is when the material pinches.
 
If this happens on a bandsaw it usually isn't a problem. The wood is cut and by the time it begins pinching the material is clear of the back of the blade. Even if it was to pinch the blade, the cutting force is towards the table meaning the chance of kickback is negligable. Don't get me wrong, kickback is not the only danger here. But its the one we are focusing on in this example.
 
Table Saw
On a table saw however. The wood has potential to pinch on the back of the blade due to the fact the blade is larger and the material is in contact with more of it at once (Which is why table saws are so good for straight cuts) On a spinning table saw blade, the cutting force on the front of the blade is pushing diagonally down towards the operators mid-section. On the back of the circular blade, the direction of travel is diagonally up towards the operators face. If the material was to pinch at the back of the blade, its going to be lifted off the table and thrown back towards the operator at speed.
 
This is the importance of using a riving knife or a splitter on a table saw as it greatly reduces the risk of this happening!
 
The other thing a riving knife prevents is the material twisting away from the fence and riding up the back of the blade. Again, throwing it towards the operator.
 
The Safety Police
Now I don't want to come across as the safety police when stating these points and I know there will be lots of people who give me flack saying “Ive used a table saw 30 years and never had a problem”
 
That's great, but giving that advice to an inexperienced person who has no idea of the potential dangers when using a machinery is just selfish and irresponsible. I've seen the results of this and the ignorance sickens me. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that companies such as SawStop exist, the innovation is incredible. But the fact they HAVE to exist is a real shame. If you want to see what kickback is, have a look at this video.
 
The main danger you will face when using a bandsaw is material rolling. Specifically when cutting round objects either by ripping along the length or by crosscutting. The best way to support round material is by creating vee shaped cradle for it to rest in. Also when cutting round objects, you need to watch out for blind spots. This video is the best demonstration of that (Its 30 seconds long and is not graphic.)
 
It's worth saying however, both of these dangers on the bandsaw are also present on a table saw.

Style of Work

This is where we begin weaving all the previous points together and start coming up with some actual advice. The questions you want to ask yourself here are: 

– Do I want to primarily work with solid wood or manmade boards?
– Do I have the means to clean up solid wood after cutting? (Such as a handplane or planer thicknesser)
– Does my work require curved cuts?
– Do I want to re-saw my own components?
– Do I need to do precise angled cuts?
– Do I need to do accurate repeat cuts?
 
If you're hoping to assemble furniture primarily made of plywood, melamine, veneered boards or whatever. A table saw is going to be your go-to option. You'll need those clean, straight and square edges to join together. You can also use the mitre fence to create incredibly accurate angled cuts and also tilt the blade if the machine is capable of it. Furthermore, table saws can be setup to produce repeated crosscuts and also square endgrain with ease. Which is invaluable if you do not own a mitre saw.
 
If you're hoping to work primarily with solid timber, such as me, then the bandsaw may be a better bet. Yes, you will sacrifice the lovely finish you get off a table saw. But if you're putting the wood through a thicknesser or planing the faces flat afterwards, the finish from the machine doesn't really matter! Of course, every now and then you will be needing to cut a manmade panel to size for the back of a cabinet for example. In these instances, I use my Power Tool Workbench which saves on floorspace, infeed and outfeed, and is very versatile compared to a table saw.

Summary

Table Saw Advantages

  • Great for straight cuts
  • Extremely clean cut can be achieved
  • Great for sizing and squaring manmade material
  • Great for squaring endgrain
  • Great for bevelled / mitred / compound cuts
  • Blade change is easy
  • Blades can usually be re-sharpened and re-tensioned

Table Saw Disadvantages

  • Cannot cut curves
  • Blade cutting depth is limited
  • Take up a large amount of floorspace
  • Potentially more dangerous

Bandsaw Advantages

  • Can produce straight cuts
  • Can produce curved cuts
  • Great for roughly sizing material before planing
  • Has a deep cutting depth
  • Cutting force is not directed toward user
  • Wide variety of blades available
  • Less floorspace required
  • Generally sits against a wall
  • Replacement blades are usually inexpensive

Bandsaw Disadvantages

  • Cut finish is not as good as a table saw
  • Blade can wander left to right when doing straight cuts
  • Blade change is slow
  • Repeat cuts are not as accurate as table saw
In short, choosing between a bandsaw and a table saw depends entirely on your style of work. If you look at the summary above, you will see that the bandsaw as able to do most the things a table saw can do. With the main trade off being surface finish.
 
If you're looking for versatility, go for a bandsaw. If you're looking for clean, straight, accurate cuts, go for a table saw.
 
However, without wanting to throw a spanner in the works if you chose the latter option, you will likely need to buy a bandsaw in the future anyway. Although if you own a bandsaw, a planer / thicknesser (or hand plane), a mitre saw, and a track guided plunge saw, you will probably not need a table saw. This is why I do not own one in my workshop.
 

If you have any further questions regarding this topic, please do not hesitate to drop it in the comments below! Alternatively, have a look at our forums where you can seek buying advice from both myself and other knowledgable individuals.

16 Comments

  • Hi Matt, that was very helpful. I have always gone to the default of a table saw. I have a very small workshop I built attached to the back of my house 6ft wide 18ft long and with my workbench taking up a huge chunk of that space I’ve tried to use a small table saw on casters but I’m now looking at the small to medium band saws from Axminster, AC1400B or AC1950B. Do you have any advice on which one? I predominantly work with solid wood for furniture etc. Cheers.

    Reply
  • Hi Matt,
    Thanks for the valuable content! I own a medium tablesaw with a larger croscut sled and high precision mitresled. Yep, that eats up floorspace but I use my bench as the outfeed area and just open the garage door for endless infeed space. Still, I want to buy a bandsaw for the recutting of solid wood and for use in joinery.
    On a sidenote, this fall I’m about to build a Roubo split-top as a replacement for the 118 year old bench my granddad bought (my sister wants to use it as a bar 😩).

    Dick

    Reply
  • I’m a woodworker for a living and I have both saws. Resaw/curves on my bandsaw and straight cuts, dados, grooves and rabbets on my table saw. My work is split between machines and hand tools. I tend to do more with hand tools but the bulk of my processing is done with machines and then refined by hand. I won’t cut joinery on a machine other than long dados and grooves though. It’s just not to my liking.
    My tablesaw is technically the center of my shop but it’s butted up to my bench for outfeed and to save space. It’s also level with my bench and when I need the extra support length, I can use my table saw top as an extension of my bench.

    Reply
  • As a hybrid woodworker (one with a tool collecting problem) I have both a table saw and band saw. And while I do a lot of work with hand tools, my table saw is kind of my best friend! Similarly, I wouldn’t want to be without my band saw either.

    I guess my opinion is that both have a place in the workshop if floor space and finances allow for it.

    Reply
  • I bought myself a good table saw in 1995 for my 50th birthday. There have been vast improvements in attachments for circular saws since then that will duplicate a lot of the operations of the table saw. If I were stocking a my garage nowI might look at a good 14″ band saw instead.

    Reply
  • Very good review, thanks for doing this.
    Axminster have just started selling a Festool TKS 80 EBS-SET Circular Saw with SawStop. But on balance I don’t like the risks; maybe one day …
    So I will stick with my bandsaw and planing.
    Talking of small spaces can you get the rest of my family to STOP putting their bikes in ‘my shop’?

    Reply
  • In the Garden Workshop series you used a jig saw – of all things! When I checked out the stats on Bosch jig saws it turns out that the largest ones can be used to cut timber up to 5 or 6 inches thick, but they’re still a compact hand tool. Their video ad shows a beautiful, smooth curve in a perfectly cut 6″ square timber (Of course it does! It’s an advert of by and for Bosch jig saws!) and it’s very persuasive.

    I have too little space at home to have any large tabled power tools or machinery, and I plan to work almost exclusively with hand tools. The idea of doing 6-foot, 8-foot, 12-foot rips and hefty crosscuts by hand on a couple saw benches (a la Chris Schwarz) is daunting. But if a jig saw that can be packed away in the closet can do basic dimensioning of raw lumber, it may be what I need. Is this a reasonable choice, or am I missing something? Thanks, Matt. -Nick

    Reply
  • Personally, I bought a used cheapo tablesaw off craigslist. I have a gripper or two and actually have, for someone who was new, done a few cuts that would be considered riskier (jointing a bord, cut 4-5 mill strips (1st cut actually), doing a box now and was doing the rebates, f’ed it up).

    Got my cousins old bandsaw, and really tbh my biggest thing is resawing and the amount of material you can get out of something. I planed a board down and tried to get it flat (would love to see a video on prepping box stock by hand, planing from 3/4 to 1/3 or 3/8, and glueing thing boards? or what’s the move there, glue em thick and plane em? been meaning to check the video bout the box top in the school, mah bad, imma get on that).

    Anyway, in hindsight while a table saw is great and box joints are easy, made a cross cut sled plan to use it shortly tbh the amount of jigs and shit you gotta make a f’en ridiculous. Imo, buy a band saw, buy a router (build a table) and a track saw or handheld circ saw w/ guides or just a straight edge tbh.

    Love watching ya work and help me out making my woodworking a lil less shitty.

    -M
    Matt Brotherhood Member
    Shitty Woodworker

    p.s. def improve my work w/ your vids. my sharpening, my tool car/ all around solid ish!

    Reply
  • I bought a cheapie table saw from Screwfix, made a decent, accurate fence for it, and made it mobile. It doesn’t take up too much space, and being mobile, can be moved to suit what I need. My bandsaw is a small “ hobbyist” version from Rutlands, but I do have a few problems setting it up, especially for trimming down for thickness. ( too much wander on the blade for anything taller than 30mm).

    Reply
  • I think the debate is really which order to buy your tools. Which one to get first. There are tasks that one can do that the other can not. I like to cut dados on the table saw but really I can do it with a router, just not as efficient / quick. But I really want a bigger better table saw and band saw. And then I want a bigger shop and another band saw.

    Reply
  • Hi Matt,
    Having worked with metal all my life I used both vertical and horizontal bandsaws all my life. The first bandsaw at my apprenticeship even had a welder and grinding wheel to join blades.
    I bought a portable tablesaw 10 years ago as only had a small space to work in. A big mistake!
    After struggling with sheet material and making a cross cut sledge I gave up as it frighted the hell out of me after a few kickbacks and the noise it made. It now lies in the corner of my small workshop gathering dust. I bit the bullet and bought an axminster bandsaw like yours and a track saw and have never looked back. The bandsaw is used for cutting stock to thickness and many other small tasks, while the track saw is used for sheet and I also have an MFT table with a flip up track to square small stock for box making.
    The edges are all squared on a shooting board which takes no time really. I even made a donkey ear so 45s are accurate and repeatable. Along with my bench disc sander for inlays I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the tablesaw, besides it frightens the hell out of me.
    Love your vids and honest approach.

    Reply
  • Agree on all counts, especially danger. However, a table saw can also take partial-thickness cuts to rebate or tenon quite safely. I’m not sure how I’d use a bandsaw to do that, except on very short pieces and with my fingers far too close to the blade.

    Reply
  • I agree with most of your pros and cons for each machine, but why do you limit the usefulness of a tablesaw to man-made material when it can also be used for sizing and squaring solid wood just as easily and well as it does man-made materials?
    I personally would like to have both in my shop, but the floor space in my shop right now is non-existent except for limited space that is dedicated to a workbench/assembly table. I do however have a DIY tablesaw that utilizes a circular saw that I have dialed in to make cuts comparable in accuracy to “real” tablesaws. It folds up for storage so I can move it outside the garage and then back in without losing its accuracy. That’s not something I could do with a bandsaw, (make it portable and able to keep its settings with repeated disassembly and reassembly), but I don’t have the floor space for one now anyway. Like I said though, I would like to eventually have both in my shop, I would like to do some re-sawing, (among other things), which is impossible to do on a tablesaw with wood wider than twice the maximum height of the blade.

    Reply
  • Do you get your blades resharpened – or just buy a new one when they get blunt? I have tried hand sharpening with a John Heisz type rig which works but is a bit ragged.

    Reply
  • Another thought. A carbide tipped table saw blade will last a lot longer than than the average bandsaw blade. If going down the bandsaw blade route, you will need a bigger budget for some more blades and sharpening services.

    Reply
  • I love tables saws. Perhaps you could get rid of your power tool bench and work out a way of converting the table saw to a power tool bench when not in use. Just a thought.

    Reply

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