A good table saw is a must-have item for any serious woodworker or DIYer. Table saws are excellent tools for making quick, precise work of repetitive cutting tasks since they support the piece of material being cut with a table. You can learn how to properly and safely use a table saw here if you’re looking for one or just got one for your workshop.
Basics of Table Saws
In addition to the price per blade, table saws cost between $300 and $700 based on their size. Table saw sizes vary from 8″ to 12″; the 8″ version is handy for small tasks, and the 12″ version is great for cutting thicker materials. Table saws include the following components:
Most brands offer tables with a top of at least 3’X3′ (and possibly up to 4’X6′), with extensions. On a stand or metal cabinet rests a table, typically made of cast steel or cast aluminum. There are also portable versions of table mini miter saw with foldable legs for easier transportation.
- With a blade-height crank, a blade can be raised or lowered
- Rip fences are guide bars running parallel to a saw blade
- Making crosscuts is made easier with the help of a miter gauge
- Protects your fingers from the blade while it’s cutting by enclosing it while cutting
- With push sticks, your fingers don’t get near the moving blades of the saw as you feed the material through
- You may also need accessories to support long pieces of wood such as rollers and table extensions, vacuum attachments, and clamps, depending on which saw you choose.
First, keep yourself safe
The lack of knowledge about table saws has injured too many weekend warriors and professionals alike. The material being cut can become stuck if it is not handled properly, either flinging it at a high velocity toward the person or pulling their fingers toward the blade when they are attempting to cut it. In order to reduce the risk of kickbacks:
- If you are cutting material that is touching the blade, don’t start the saw.
- When cutting with a rip fence, always use it.
- For crosscuts, the miter gauge should be used, not the rip fence (the rip fence isn’t strong enough to support the cut).
- Maintain a flat surface against the table when cutting.
Additionally, read the manufacturer’s safety instructions before using the table saw and wear goggles and ear protectors. You should also unplug the saw before adjusting or aligning the blade, and you should not remove the safety guard.
Making the Cuts
Woodworkers rely on the table saw for two basic cuts, but can make any specialty cuts they need with options such as clamps, stops, and jigs. Almost all table saws are used for ripping, which is cutting materials to a specific width. The term crosscut refers to cutting a specific length out of a piece of material. In the following sections, you can find details on how to make common cuts with a table saw.
Table saws come with rip fences, which help you adjust the width of the cut and serve as guides as you cut. This is the easiest cut to make because it is so straightforward.
- The table saw should be unplugged and a rip blade should be fitted into the blade arbor (appropriate for the material being cut). The blade height should not rise more than 14″ above the thickness of the material you’re cutting. You don’t want the blade to rise above the tabletop when cutting through 1″ plywood. Set the blade no higher than 34″ when cutting long pieces. For this, start by loosening the arbor nut (the nut that holds the blade in place) and positioning the rip blade so the teeth face the front of the table saw. Table saw blades spin in the direction of the user from top to bottom, so the sharp blades must face forward instead of backward. The arbor nut should be snugly tightened.
- By releasing the latch on the front edge of the fence, it will be locked into place, and you can then slide the fence so its inner edge corresponds to the width of the cut desired. There is a ruler attached to the front of your table saw that helps you position the fence, but you shouldn’t rely on it exclusively for measuring your cut. The distance between the fence and the closest edge of the saw blade tooth should be measured with a precision tape measure. There are two blade teeth per blade, one to the left and one to the right. By measuring up to the closest edge, you can determine how much wood (called the kerf) the blade will remove during the cutting process.
- The table saw should be plugged in, and materials to be cut should be placed on the table, aligned with rip fence, but the material cannot touch the blade until the saw is fully operational. Whenever the blade makes contact with the material before it reaches cutting speed, kickback will ensue.
- It is important to keep your material flat along the tabletop and securely aligned with the rip fence by moving it slowly but firmly along the fence using either one or both hands, whichever you have to do. During the initial ripping of large, thick boards, you’ll need to use both hands to guide the material. As the cut approaches completion, you can switch to one hand. It is best to use either a table extension to support long materials or to have helper support long materials to ensure they remain flat during cutting. Keep hold of the material while you walk to the back of the table saw to prevent the material from lifting off the table and creating a kickback situation.
- Avoid touching the blade with your fingers when necessary by using a push stick. When you are making narrow rips near the blade, a push stick allows you to guide the material. Push sticks are your best option.
Crosscutting on a table saw requires careful attention to the rip fence and remembering not to use it as a guide. Crosscuts are commonly made on narrower materials, such as cutting a board in half or taking off its end. The rip fence stabilizes long lengths, however. Attempting to use the fence increases the risk of kickbacks since not enough material is available to fit along the rip fence during crosscuts. Using a miter gauge is a better option.
With a miter gauge, you can stabilize the material with the guide fence and insert a bar into one of the deep grooves on the table surface. By installing the bar into a groove, the whole miter gauge slides up and down as you cut with the table saw. In addition to the protractor-like guide, it also has a knob that is adjustable to select the appropriate angle before it’s retightened. Miter gauges that come with table saws are sometimes a bit heavy. If you plan on doing a lot of crosscutting, you may want to consider buying a miter gauge that’s more substantial. Additionally, a miter sled can be used (see “Note” below).
- As described above in Step 1 of “How to Rip,” unplug the table saw and attach a crosscut blade to the arbor.
- Miter gauge guide can be adjusted to create straight or mitered (angled) crosscuts.
- The material should be aligned and positioned along the front edge of the miter gauge, using clamps if necessary.
- Start the table saw and make sure that the blade is spinning as fast as possible before you touch the wood.
- Through the moving blade, slide the miter gauge along with the material you’re cutting slowly and carefully.
- Remove cut-off pieces of material near the blade before turning off the table saw.
To support your crosscut material, you may consider using an aftermarket miter sled. Miter sleds resemble shallow rectangular boxes with pre-cut slots on the bottom, which allow the user to position a piece of material inside the sled and then slide it over a table as it is being cut. However, you do not have to purchase one. You can find detailed plans online for free if you are looking to build your own miter sled. You might like to make a miter sled with your new table saw as a first project.