This question comes up all the time in woodworking forums: if you’re already laying down the cash for a cabinet saw why not just get the 5HP model instead of the 3HP? Now, as someone who drives a (cheap) 4 cylinder station wagon because of gas mileage you know I’m the thrifty type who doesn’t go for power when power’s not necessary. I’d be the first one to ask if you could get away with buying a hybrid saw instead of a cabinet saw ;)

If you’ve already picked out your top three cabinet saws though and you’re weighing the finer points then this question of horse power can be a big one – kinda like what college are you sending your first born to. Here are some questions and general observations that should make your decision a little easier…

Guiding responses from include:

1) “I would say the only advantage to a 5HP saw would be the higher feed rate possible with a power feeder. This would really only be useful if you plan on doing large production runs. The only way I’ve been able to bog down a 3HP saw hand feeding is by using an incorrect blade. For example using an 80 tooth crosscut blade for ripping 3″ maple. Even with a power feeder the time you will save with a 5HP saw is nearly non-existant.”

2) “The true advantage is if you are ripping thick hardwoods. And a lot of it. When I chose the 5hp option in my General cabinet saw (1 phase) I did so knowing I’d be cutting a fair amount of wet wood. I live in timber country, so much of my lumber comes to me free from downed trees milled by friends. For average work, 5hp is overkill. However, when it comes time to sell, you will attract more buyers from commercial shops who favor heavier grade equipment that can run all day long.”

3) “Of far more importance is a good blade. Take that extra $200 and buy yourself a couple Forrest blades when they go on sale.”

4) “I have the 3 HP Uni and can’t imagine it will ever be put to its limits in my hobby shop. A 5HP is over kill and instead of throwing $200 at something you’ll never reap the benefits from I would buy the 3HP and take the extra $200 and spend it on accessories.”

5) “At $200 the difference in price between the two is trivial (in my opinion), but on the flip side, the need for the 5 hp is not that strong either. I ran a professional shop with a 3 hp and never wished I had more, nor have I come close to fully loading the 3 hp.”

Do I need a 5hp Unisaw?

What advantages to a 5hp -1 phase saw vs 3hp -1 phase

A Table Saw Buying Guide: Benchtop vs Contractor vs Cabinet vs Hybrid