How to Use a Table Saw for Perfect Cuts

Last Updated: by Peter Lynn

Any serious carpenter or DIY (do-it-yourself) person will ultimately want to have a table saw in his/her tool arsenal. The table saw is an outstanding tool for making fast and precise cuts on your wooden workpiece.

So, if you are in the market shopping for a table saw, or just bought one, the perfect starting point is learning how to use it.

This is crucial to ensuring you can make all cuts safely and accurately. To help you with this, join me as I demonstrate how to use a table saw to make different cuts.

How to Use a Table Saw Safely: The Must-Have Items

To help you learn how to safely use a table saw, it is important to ensure you have the following items.

A Table Saw

Of course, the table saw is our subject here. So, make sure to have a good table saw positioned well in a flat area, such as your workshop. We recommend that you also use it in a well-lit area for better visibility.

Safety Gear

Table saws, like other power tools with running blades, are dangerous. If you are not careful, they can easily rip off your fingers or entire arm.

Therefore, it is crucial to take every safety precaution, including having the right safety gear. These include eye protection to block loose chippings from getting into the eyes, and gloves for a better grip.

The Workpieces

Ensure to have a number of workpieces to make both rip and crosscuts. You should also have additional blocks of wood to serve as push sticks for your workpieces.

Arbor Nut Wrench

This is an important tool used to loosen or tighten the table saw arbor nut when setting the cutting depth. Most table saws are sold together with arbor nut wrenches.

A Precision Tape Measure

A tape measure will come in handy in helping you to set the right cutting depth and determining where to position the fence.

A Clamp

When making crosscuts, it might be necessary to clamp the workpiece to the miter gauge so that they move together easily through the blade.

How To Safely Use A Table Saw For Rip Cuts

Ripping a workpiece involves cutting it along the entire length, usually along the grain. A good example is when cutting the entire length of a door frame.

So, here are the steps to follow when using a table saw to make rip cuts:

STEP 1: How to Set Up a Table Saw

First, you need to unplug the table saw and fit a rip blade into the machine’s arbor. Then, adjust the blade height, ensuring that the blade does not rise higher than ¼-inch above the thickness of the wooden piece you want to cut.

For example, if you are cutting a 1/2-inch plank of wood, the blade should be set at ¾ inch above the tabletop.

To set the blade, you need to locate the table saw arbor nut wrench that came with your table saw. Then, loosen the arbor nut and position the teeth so that they face the front of the table saw.

When running, a table saw spins towards you, so the teeth need to face the front as opposed to back.

STEP 2: Position the Rip Fence on the Table

Once you have the saw blade properly set, the next step is setting the fence. The fence is a straight edge meant to help your workpiece maintain a uniform width. To position it at the right place, you need to release the lever that locks it in position on the front.

Then, slide the fence so that its inner edge matches the desired width of the cut. Although you can use the table saw ruler that is located at the front when setting the fence, do not solely rely on it.

Using a precision tape measure, carefully measure the distance from the closest edge of the saw blade to the fence. Remember that the table saw blade’s teeth alternate so that one faces the left and the next to the right.

Therefore, by measuring to the closest edge, it implies that you have already factored the wooden material that would be removed by the saw.

STEP 3: Plug the Table Saw and Position the Material Ready for the Cut

Before you can start your rip cut, you need to get the material to be cut on the table, ensuring it is properly aligned with the rip fence. However, you should not let the wood touch the blade.

If it touches the blade before reaching the top speed, there is a risk of suffering kickbacks. So, hold on for a moment until it reaches maximum speed.

STEP 4: Guide the Workpiece along the Rip Fence

Slowly guide the material along the rip fence using either one or both hands, ensuring to keep it flat on the tabletop and aligned with the rip fence.

If you are cutting large and thick boards, it is important to use both hands to guide the workpiece at the beginning, and then change to one hand as you approach the end.

If the workpiece extends beyond the back of the table, ensure to have a table extension for support. You can also consider having a helper to hold the workpiece for you.

Make sure to hold such a long workpiece well until it is ripped off completely. If you release it too early, there is a risk of kickback.

STEP 5: Use a Push Stick to Drive the Workpiece when Finishing the Cut

As the blade rips the workpiece and you are approaching the end of the cut, it is important to be extra careful to prevent the blade from ripping your hands.

To do this, you should use a push stick to push the workpiece through the blade. We also recommend that you always use a push stick when ripping a small workpiece.

How To Use A Table Saw To Make Crosscuts

When you are making crosscuts, there is no need to use the rip fence. Rip fences are used for stabilizing the length of the cut, but crosscuts are pretty narrow.

To set the cutting length when making a crosscut, you should use a miter gauge, which has a fence to stabilize the workplace and a bar that fits in one of the grooves on the table.

So, when the bar is fitted into the groove, the miter gauge will slide from the front to the back, allowing you to control the cut. The miter gauge also comes with a knob that allows you to set the angle of the cut.

Here are the main steps that you should follow to make a crosscut:

STEP 1: Unplug the Table Saw and Adjust the Miter Gauge

The first stage when using a table saw to make crosscuts is similar to that of making the rip cuts. So, start by unplugging the table saw and fitting the right blade for crosscuts.

Then, adjust the protractor guide on the miter gauge depending on whether you want to make straight crosscuts or angled (mitered) crosscuts.

STEP 2: Position the Workpiece on the edge of the Miter Gauge and Plug the Table Saw

Before you can start making a crosscut, position the workpiece well at the front edge of the miter gauge and turn on the table saw. You might want to clamp or screw the workpiece to the miter gauge.

Note that you should not let the workpiece touch the blade, but wait for it to reach the maximum speed.

STEP 3: Slide the Material and Miter Gauge Along the Blade

Carefully move the workpiece and the miter gauge through the spinning blade. Then, turn off the table saw before retrieving the cut off parts from the blade of the machine.

Note: If the workpiece is long and extends beyond the table saw top, you should consider setting an additional bench for extra support.

Having a working partner would also come in handy to keep the wood workpiece in position when sliding it through the blade.

Conclusion 

In this article, we have demonstrated how to use a table saw to make crosscuts and rip cuts. To make the cuts smooth, professional, and more appealing, you should always get the measurements right, use the right blade, and ensure the workpiece is firmly held when running it through the blade.

Remember that no matter what, safety comes first when using table saws. Also, do not get disappointed if the first few cuts do not come out as expected. As you practice more, you will be able to make smoother crosscuts and rip cuts like a pro.

Our special thanks go to FineWoodworking. You guys were amazing and the video; first class.

Leave a Comment