The History of the Table Saw


A table saw, also known as a circular saw, is a tool used for cutting wood and other materials. It is popular for its versatility. It's the go-to machine for any woodworker. The tool has a long history of well over 200 years. In that time, it has undergone several technological advancements and is now more convenient than ever.


  • The invention of the first circular saw happened in 1777. It is credited to Samuel Miller of England. Miller created a metal disk with teeth around its edge, and discovered that at fast speeds the disk was very adept at cutting. His spinning saw blade would eventually be used in sawmills to cut lumber. It did not use electricity, and it was not portable.

Treadle-Powered Saws

  • One company that marketed table mounted saws was W.R. & John Barnes in Rockford, Illinois. Their saw was treadle-powered, meaning the operator used his feet. It had a design similar to sewing machines. The user would pump a pedal on the floor beneath the table that made the saw spin. These treadle-power designs were sold as early as 1878.

Radial Arm

  • In 1922, Raymond Dewalt created the first circular saw with a radial arm. This saw was more versatile than its predecessors. It was attached to an overhead arm that could be moved or rotated making the saw blade mobile. Using the radial arm, it was easier to control the depth and direction of cuts. Dewalt's design was popular enough that he decided to start his own company to produce and sell the machines just two years later.

Portable Saws

  • Art Emmons of Porter Cable invented the first portable circular saw in 1929. His saw used a helical drive with an electronic motor. The design made it lightweight and compact enough to take the saw to work instead of just taking work to the saw. This innovation helped to make Porter Cable a leader in the power tool Industry. Emmons' design is the basis for all portable circular saws today.

Safety Advancements

  • Since the invention of the first portable circular saw, the tools have evolved to be much safer for the carpenters who use them. Today springs and feeder wheels are used to apply pressure on the top and side of the material being cut. This prevents the operator from getting his fingers too close to the saw. Some saws even come with the ability to detect a change in electrical current that could indicate a hand coming in contact with the blade. If this happens, an electronic brake is activated and the spinning is stopped within 5 milliseconds.

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  • Photo Credit "No mercy" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: jurek d. (Jurek Durczak) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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