Last updated on September 5, 2021
What are the different uses of a table saw?
If you’re wondering what do you use a table saw for, these are the popular cuts that can be done.
Rip cuts. Table saws are great for ripping or cutting wood along the grain. And they can do so at great speeds and with high efficiency.
Straightening board edges. With the help of a table saw’s fence or miter gauge at 90 degrees, you can straighten board edges easily and accurately.
Beveled rip cuts. By changing the angle of the blade with respect to the table surface, you can make beveled rip cuts.
Cutting joints. Table saws can be used to cut more complex wood joints like rabbet, dado, and shiplap with ease and speed.
Kerfing. The guides on a table saw can help you cut thin strips of wood with consistent thickness all throughout what’s needed to kerf.
Materials you can cut with a table saw
Softwood. These durable yet cheap wood types are the most common types of wood that can easily be cut with a table saw.
Hardwood. Tougher and denser wood that would be difficult to cut by hand or with a circular saw. The high-powered motor and large blades of a table saw make short work of this.
Nonferrous metals. Metals like Aluminum can be safely cut with a table saw, provided you use a blade made to cut this type of material with a high TPI (Teeth per inch) while taking all the necessary precautions like wearing safety glasses.
Parts of a table saw you need to know
1. Power button
Turns on the electric motor powering the saw. Smaller blades have a toggle switch that turns the saw on or off, bigger table saws have big buttons at the lower end of the table so that it’s easily reached by your knee in case of an emergency need to stop.
Provides a smooth and flat surface to work on and ‘slide’ material towards the blade. It is crucial that the tabletop maintains a flat, even surface as it will affect the quality of your cuts.
A perpendicular panel or stop that guides workpieces to make accurate straight cuts. It can be moved closer or pushed further away from the saw blade to adjust the cutting width.
4. Fence dog
This part refers to the lever that locks the fence in place. This is crucial as a moving fence is practically useless and can be an added hazard if it does move while in use.
There are different types of blades that you can attach depending on the specific job that needs to be done. Ripping framing or ripping finishing trim.
6. Blade insert
Also known as the throat plate, it’s a replaceable panel that provides an opening for the saw blade to protrude through the table surface.
Being removable, it also provides access to the arbor when replacing blades.
7. Blade angle adjuster
This helps set how much the blade is angled and is helpful when doing bevel cuts.
8. Blade height adjustment wheel
As the name suggests, this dial is responsible for changing the height of the blade. This is essential to ensure that the saw will be able to cut through pieces of wood of varying thickness.
Ensure safety while working with a table saw
What are the dangers of working with a table saw?
This is characterized by the workpiece suddenly jerking back towards the operator at a high speed. This happens when the material gets caught or snags on the back of the saw blade.
If you work without wearing the proper protective gear or disregard the correct protocols, you’re at risk of getting all sorts of cuts and bruises. Even the most experienced woodworkers can accidentally hurt themselves if they aren’t careful. In the worst case, mishandling the tool can lead to an amputation.
Be sure to plug in your saw at a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet when working. GFCIs work by detecting any sudden change in the electrical current and cuts the power automatically before there’s a possible risk of electrocution.
Cutting a large volume of wood in combination with a very fast-spinning saw makes the blade expel a lot of sawdust. If inhaled, this dust can irritate the lungs , causing difficulty in breathing or even lead to certain respiratory diseases.
It’s important to wear a dust mask.
How to work safely with a table saw?
- Avoid wearing loose clothes that can get caught on the saw blade.
- NEVER EVER wear gloves . While there is a risk of cutting your skin without them, gloves introduce the risk of latching onto the sawblade and possibly causing more serious injuries.
- Wear your protective goggles to protect from small, ricocheting material debris and from kickback.
How to set the blade height?
Learning how to use a table saw involves setting the blade to the right height.
- Locate the blade height adjustment wheel. Determine which turning direction (clockwise or counterclockwise) that moves the saw blade up or down.
- Take the workpiece and place it next to the blade.
- Raise or lower the blade accordingly so that the gullet (the groove in between the blade’s teeth) is at the same height as the workpiece. Another rule you can follow is to raise the blade around ⅛” higher than the workpiece.
How to set the guide rail position?
Learning how to use a table saw to cut logwood includes getting to know the guide rail well.
- Locate the fence dog and loosen it to unlock the guide rail/fence. This allows the fence to move freely from side to side.
- Set the fence at an appropriate position for your cut. You may need to raise the blade to get accurate measurements for good alignment.
- Lock the fence using the fence dog.
- Check if the fence is square and make small adjustments by tapping the fence with your knuckles.
How to secure the wood on the table saw bench?
- If you’re cutting a big sheet of material such as plywood or MDF, you may want to attach extension wings to support it.
- Make sure that the fence or miter gauge is locked in place.
- Hold the wood firmly against the fence or miter gauge with both hands.
How to feed the material into the blade?
- Adjust the fence and the blade height according to your needs.
- Turn on the table saw and place the workpiece against the fence. Don’t apply too much force as the fence may misalign and back-spring which can dangerously cause the material to kick towards you.
- Slowly slide the material, feeding it into the blade as you make the cut.
- After completing the cut, turn off the table saw before removing the scrap wood.
How to make crosscuts with a table saw?
- Acquire a miter sled or gauge. This will help you push the material safely and smoothly.
- Place the workpiece against the sled and align it with the blade. Set your desired width.
- Once the saw is on, push the wood using the sled and secure it with your hand. Be sure to avoid putting your hand too close to the blade.
How to make angled beveled-cuts?
Using a table saw to cut angles is more effective with a miter gauge.
- Make sure that the saw is properly aligned with the fence and miter gauge.
- If you are using a zero-clearance insert, you’ll want to replace it with something that has a wider slot as this is incompatible with angled cuts.
- Using the blade angle adjuster level, angle the surface of the tabletop to your desired bevel angle.
- Start the table saw and feed the material into the blade.
- Turn off the table saw and remove the scrap wood.
This cut is much better done with a miter saw.
How to cut joints using a table saw?
You can also cut joints when you know how to use a table saw properly.
- Remove the blade insert and insert a dado blade. This is a special type of blade made out of two circular blades separated by a set distance.
- Replace your blade insert with one that accommodates your dado blade.
- Set the fence, or miter gauge, and blade height according to your needs.
- Turn the table saw on and feed the material into the blade.
- After cutting, turn off the table saw and chisel off the material between the now-cut dadoes.
- Replace the blade and its insert just as you would when cutting a dado joint.
- Set the fence or miter gauge distance accordingly. The outer blade should be touching the material’s edge and the inner blade is the one that will be cutting.
- Turn the table saw on and feed the material into the blade.
- After cutting, turn off the table saw and chisel off the material between the now-cut rabbets.
- Attach a dado blade in the saw insert. Make sure that the saw is unplugged before doing this.
- Fasten a sacrificial wooden plank along the fence. Mark the plank with your intended blade height.
- Adjust the fence so that its width is the same as that of your intended shiplap.
- Raise the blade up to the mark on the plank.
- Turn on the table saw and make the cut. Do the same thing for the next plank and check if the two pieces will fit.
How to cut kerfs with a table saw?
- Attach a miter gauge. This will help you maintain equal measurements for the gaps in between each cut.
- Raise the blade to your desired height.
- Adjust the fence to match your intended gap measurement. Be sure to lock it after so that it won’t move while you are cutting.
- Turn on the saw and feed the material into the blade.
- Unlock the fence and adjust it again, maintaining the initial gap measurement. Repeat this as many times as needed.
Pro-tips for using a table saw
If you’re having trouble keeping the material firm on the fence or miter gauge, use a feather board to get a straighter and more consistent cut.
You can also clamp on a longer fence or attach one on your miter gauge so that you have more support for any kind of cut.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced woodworker, a table saw is definitely something you should have in the workshop because of its versatility and efficiency. It helps make clean and precise cuts with a number of different materials and its big blades and powerful motor are up to the challenge of mowing down thick and heavy workpieces.
Safety should be a big concern, you can consider a SawStop that retracts the blade when it senses possible contact with your finger or human skin. A table saw is like business, with the higher risk comes a higher reward.
- Wood dust-health effects, a publication from https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/wood_dust.html
- Two dozen table saw safety tips, a blog from https://www.woodcraft.com/blog_entries/two-dozen-table-saw-safety-tips
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