Table sawA table saw consists of a circular saw blade, mounted on an arbor, that is turned by one or more belts driven by a electric motor. The blade protrudes through the surface of a table; the table provides support for the material (usually wood) being cut.
In modern table saws, the depth of the cut is varied by adjusting the amount of the blade that protrudes above the table surface; the higher the blade protrudes above the table, the deeper the cut that is made in the material. In some of the earliest table saws, the blade and arbor were fixed, and the table was moved up and down to expose more or less of the blade. Likewise, the angle of the cut with respect to the table surface is, in modern saws, controlled by adjusting the angle of the arbor to which the blade is affixed; earlier saws angled the table to control the cut angle.
There are two general classes of table saws: contractor saws and cabinet saws. Contractor saws are relatively light-weight and portable, hence their use by contractors, who often carry them to job sites. Cabinet saws, on the other hand, are relatively heavy (using large amounts of steel and cast iron) to minimize vibration and increase accuracy. Contractor saws are also usually characterized by having an open frame and four legs, while a cabinet saw is characterized by having a closed frame (cabinet). Finally, contractor saws usually have motors in the 1-2 HP range, while cabinet saws usually have motors in the 3-5 HP range.
Table saws nearly always have a fence (guide) running from the front of the table (the side nearest the operator) to the back, parallel to the cutting plane of the blade. The distance of the fence from the blade can be adjusted, which determines where on the workpiece the cut is made. The fence is often called a "rip fence," referring to its use in guiding the workpiece during the process of making a rip cut.
The table has one or two grooves running from front to back, also parallel to the cutting plane of the blade. These grooves are used to position and guide either a crosscut fence (also known as a miter gauge) or crosscut sled. The miter gauge is usually set to be at 90 degrees to the plane of the blade's cut, so as to cause the cut made in the workpiece to be made at a right angle. The miter gauge can also be adjusted to cause the cut to be made at a precisely controlled angle (a so-called miter cut). A crosscut sled is generally used to hold the workpiece at a fixed 90 degree angle to the blade, allowing precise repeatable cuts at the most commonly used angle.