Tips & Care

Tool Know How [ Using a Table Saw. ]

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Using a Table Saw


When shopping for a tablesaw, use a straightedge to check the table; it should be a perfectly flat plane. If the table has extensions, make sure they are flat as well. A small, lightweight tablesaw is handy if you need to move it around often. However, the smaller table area makes it more difficult to use, and you will have a hard time making accurate cuts on large pieces of material.

The fence of a tablesaw should move smoothly along its guide rails and lock firmly and exactly parallel to the blade. If possible, turn the saw on and watch the blade. There should be no hint of a wobble. A belt-driven tablesaw works more smoothly and lasts longer than one with direct drive.


Safety Measures for a Tablesaw Because a tablesaw runs so smoothly and seems so stable, it's easy to lose safety-consciousness while working with one. A tablesaw is a tool worthy of respect. Many professionals have had parts of fingers cut off by a tablesaw blade. Always keep your fingers well away from the blade. Never wear long sleeves or loose clothing. Never reach across the saw blade while it is running. Keep push sticks and an anti-kickback featherboard handy and develop the habit of using them. Turn the saw off when you need to free a piece of wood that has become stuck.

Expert's Insight

rip cut
rip cut
bevel rip cut
bevel rip cut
push sticks
push sticks

Tablesaw, Radial-Arm Saw, or Power Miter Saw? A tablesaw and a power miter saw make an ideal combination. With a tablesaw, you can make straight, long cuts with ease. A tablesaw also is superior for cutting dadoes. With a power miter saw, you can crosscut long narrow pieces easily -- a task that can be tricky with a tablesaw.

A radial-arm saw does the jobs of a tablesaw and power miter saw, but not quite as well. It crosscuts with less precision than the miter saw. Cutting angles other than 90 degrees may be a problem. Making long rip cuts in sheets of plywood also is difficult.

Key Techniques

Making a rip cut

Check that the fence is perfectly parallel to the blade by measuring the space between the blade and the fence at the front and the rear of the blade. Set the blade depth so it is 1/4 inch above the top of the board. Start the motor and allow it to reach full speed. Hold the lumber against the fence so the wood glides smoothly and is flush against it at all points as you push it forward. Never allow your fingers to come within 6 inches of the blade; use a push stick when you come to the end of the cut.

Making a crosscut

Make sure the miter gauge is exactly perpendicular to the blade; slip it into its channel and square it using the edge of the table as a guide. Set the blade depth 1/4 inch above the board and start the motor. Hold the board firmly against the miter guide and slide it toward the blade. Hold the board only at the miter gauge. If you hold the wood on both sides of the cut, the blade may bind, causing a dangerous kickback. Keep your fingers well away from the blade.

Making a bevel rip cut

To set the bevel, use the saw gauge or mark the bevel angle on the butt end of the board and tilt the blade until it aligns with the mark. Hold the board against the blade at the correct location, slide the fence against the board, and lock the fence in position. Follow the same procedures as for a rip cut.

Setting the blade height correctly

Before every cut, adjust the blade depth so it is about 1/4 inch above the top of the board you are cutting. This makes a cleaner cut and helps avoid binding and a dangerous kickback. If you are cutting a sheet of plywood that is warped, you may need to raise the blade higher, so it cuts through the sheet completely at all points. Always unplug the tablesaw before making blade adjustments.

Using push sticks and featherboard

To make an anti-kickback featherboard, cut one end of a 16-inch-long 1x6 at 60 degrees, then cut 8-inch-long slots 1/4 inch apart on the angled end. When clamped as shown above, it ensures a straight cut and prevents kickback in case the blade binds. Make push sticks out of 1x lumber or 1/2-inch plywood and use them whenever you need to hold the board within 6 inches of the blade.

Cutting dadoes, rabbets, and tenons

With a dado blade, you can make a variety of groove sizes. With a regular dado blade, sandwich a combination of chippers between the two outside cutter blades to get your desired width. To set the blade to the desired depth, mark the depth on the board and hold it next to the blade as you adjust it. Adjustable dado blades dial to the desired width.

If you need to make a groove wider than the dado blade, make repeated passes, moving the board a little less than the width of the blade for each pass.

On a tablesaw, you will not be able to see the cut as you make it, so test your settings on a scrap piece to make sure the dado is the correct width and depth. Then make the real cut.

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