Feb 29 , 2016
Having a fancy cabinet saw is great, but what do you do when you need to go on location? Well, for me the answer is the Ryobi BTS21—a 10-in. table saw with a portable stand. I shopped around, looked at a variety of portable table saws to see if they met my list of “must-haves,” and found that the BTS fit the bill.
My favorite feature is the wheeled leg unit. The saw collapses neatly into an easily movable wheeled platform. Three swift motions are all it takes to get it back to working height. Weighing a mere 82 lbs., it can easily be folded up and moved by almost anyone. Another feature I like is the wide right rip capacity—at 32-1/4 in., it’s the widest in its class. The right tilting blade swings to 45 degrees. Unlike other models, the BTS21 features a geared bevel adjustment, rather than a loose gravity alignment system. It also sports a rather large spreader and blade guard with two anti-kickback prawls.
One feature that takes some getting used to is the sliding miter table. If you’re used to using miter slot jigs, you won’t be able to use them on this table saw because there are no miter slots. But all is not lost—you can build a jig and adapt it to the sliding table.
The rip fence is hefty and locks down tight. However, the lack of any T-slots or drilled holes makes it difficult to add sacrificial wood to the fence. To access the extended rip length, simply lock down the fence at 16 in., reach underneath and release the table wing lever, then slide out the wing. From then on, you’re reading the extended ruler. Mine came out of the box nearly dead-on accurate, only needing a slight nudge on the pointing indicator.
The BTS21 features a 15-amp direct-drive motor. It’s housed in a machined aluminum trunnion. Some may say that this makes the portable saws less accurate than their cast iron counterparts, but this saw cuts incredibly accurately, and I was equally impressed with how quiet it is. Blade height and bevel angle adjustments are made via a rack-and-pinion gear system. A single knob controls both operations and is very smooth.
Ryobi included a nice 36-tooth general-purpose blade, but I opted to mount my 80-tooth Freud. The spare blade can be stored on-board, along with the included blade wrenches on the left side, underneath the convenient cord wrap handle. The rip fence stores on-board as well, on the right side. Speaking of blades, this saw is designed to work with a 6-in. stacking dado blade system. You’ll be hard pressed to find one at your local box store, but they can be ordered from nearly any woodworking supply store or online. You will also need to order a dado throat plate from Ryobi, since it’s not included with the saw. Also, don’t forget that the 5/8-in. arbor has reversed threads.
A large dust collection bag that connects to the standard size dust port is included. I would have liked to have seen an accessory outlet plug for the shop vacuum, as you’d find on a router table. The owner’s manual is nicely written and easy to understand. It detailed all the steps needed to set up the saw for the first time. However, the saw came out of the box nearly perfect and already assembled. Five minutes after opening the box, I was ready for my first cut.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the saw. Not to mention that at only $270, it’s budget friendly. You can buy it at Home Depot.
–Jason Nailen, field editor