How To Use A Table Saw Effectively

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Did you know that the table saw is the most dangerous machine in a woodworker’s shop? Yes, it is because its razor-sharp blade can easily cut through flesh and bone in the same way that it can cut through sheet goods, rip boards, and make mitered cuts!

For this reason, safety is the most important aspect of properly using a table saw.

For beginners who are new to it, a table saw basically consists of a circular saw blade mounted on a large metal table and a motor that runs the blade.

The table itself should have a large, flat, and heavy quality with a rip fence for moving the table on the blade’s either side, a removable insert for quick blade changes or for easy dado blade installation, and a blade guard, among other safety features.

Think Safety First

Safety experts suggest always reading the instruction manual for a new table saw before actually using it. There will likely be specific instructions for its safe and effective use, especially when it’s a new model with new-fangled features.

Furthermore, a safety first mindset is a must for both beginners and veterans. A few important table saw safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear the proper safety gear including thick work gloves, safety glasses, and earmuffs, as well as work coveralls
  • Turn off – or better yet, unplug – the unit when squaring up the blade. Be conscious of where the on/off switch is located so that it can be easily accessed in case of an emergency
  • Check that the safety guard support is in alignment with the blade. Otherwise, the boards can become hung up on their support during a cut
  • Avoid cut-offs shorter than 2 inches, although it’s acceptable to shave off a little from the board’s end. Otherwise, the too short cut-offs can become dangerous projectiles
  • Always be conscious of where your hands and fingers are in relation to the blade. Be focused on what you’re doing instead of being distracted by the surrounding noise, not even by music from your earphones

In the following sections, we will discuss using a table saw for making crosscuts.

Making Accurate Right-Angle Cuts

The key to making precise right-angle cuts is in squaring the miter gauge handle in relation to the saw blade. While a table saw may have angle indicators, we suggest using a 45° drafting triangle.

Loosen the miter gauge’s handle, square it up to the blade using the drafting triangle, and retighten the handle. The side of the drafting triangle against the blade should fall between the teeth closest to the plate.

The best extension fence is usually a straight board at least 12 inches in length, as well as either 1×2 or 1×3.

Making Precise 45° Miter Cuts

Creating perfect miters are nearly as easy and as fast as making perfect crosscuts. But be sure to set the miter gauge to its 45° angle – use a drafting square just to be sure – and mount an extension fence to it.

Next, start making fine cuts to the wood. Be sure to hold the material in a secure and nearly tight manner because the blade will likely pull it offline otherwise.

If possible, start with the miter cuts before making square cuts. The latter should be done at the opposite end since it will likely be more accurate.

In the case of complete frames (e.g., picture frames), we suggest making two test boards first and then pushing the miters together for checking with a drafting square. Adjustments can be made in the miter gauge in case these aren’t perfect.

Making Accurate Square Cuts

The steps in making precise square cuts with this tool can be summarized as follows:

  • Rough cut the long boards 3 inches or so longer than their final length
  • Increase or decrease the height of the blade according to the thickness of the boards, approximately 1/8 inch higher
  • Place the board’s factory end past the extension fence’s end, which will make the blade shave it but not cut it
  • Hold the board tightly against the fence so that it doesn’t get out of line
  • Slowly push the board through the blade until the cut is completed
  • Slide the material away from the blade
  • Switch off the saw and remove the cut-off pieces
  • Mark the desired length at the board’s other end before aligning it with the extension fence’s end
  • Make your final cut

Many of these steps can also be applied to other cutting tasks.

When you’re building several identical pieces, such as for cabinets, the best step is to make a perfect cut of the first board. You can then use it as a stop block for cutting the succeeding boards.

Making Rabbet Cuts with a Table Saw

When trying to make the best use of rabbets, you need to understand the different ways to cut them. Rabbets are a rectangular recess along the edge or end of the workpiece. It is often used as a joint in casework as well as a design feature in molding.

If you are making a rabbet cut using a table saw with a standard blade, you can leave the blade in and make the cut in two passes. To do this, you need to make sure the fence is set precisely as well as the height of the blade. 

Cut the rabbet to its correct depth with the workpiece face down on the surface. You can then stand the piece on edge to cut the rabbet to width.

What are the Different Types of Table Saws?

There are five different types of table saws and each has its own use. There are benchtop table saws, jobsite table saws, contractor saws, hybrid saws, and cabinet table saws. Most of these saws are portable table saws with the last two being stationary.

Benchtop table saws are often used for smaller projects like furniture, coffee tables, and lighter construction projects. They do not have a stand, so benchtop table saws are always going to need to be placed on a cutting surface like a bench. They are also not as powerful as the other saw types.

Jobsite table saws are also portable table saws and are designed to be used by professionals on a daily basis. They are much more durable than benchtop table saws and can withstand much harder use. There are stands you can get that fold up with wheels to help you transport the saw around. They also have a much larger cutting surface and a bigger ripping capacity. Additionally, they are also often equipped with dust collection features to catch the sawdust and riving knives.

Contractor table saws are stationary and designed for heavier professional use. They are often used for home jobs, construction, and carpentry work. Their motors are much bigger, and the belts are much larger.

Hybrid table saws are also stationary and are a cross between contractor saws and cabinet saws. They have more power and feature a larger cutting surface so you can make even more significant cuts. It is ideal for larger wood work pieces.

Finally, a cabinet table saw (also stationary) can handle pretty much anything that is thrown at it. They are not ideal for smaller crafts and hobbies and are too big for homeowners. The fences are sturdy and dependable, and the miter gauges allow for much more accuracy.

What Side of the Table Should the Saw Fence Be On?

The rip fence is always going to be on the right side of the saw blade. This is because most people are right-handed, and this way makes it easier for them to guide the piece of wood against the fence with their right hand. However, if you are left-handed, there really is no reason that the fence can’t be put on the left side to accommodate you.

Which Way Does a Table Saw Blade Spin?

The table saw blades spin clockwise. This means they spin toward you as you are feeding the material through the table saw. It turns clockwise because of how the motor is oriented. However, they can also be changed to spin counterclockwise as well.

Table Saw Tips and Tricks

IN order to make cleaner, safer, and straighter cuts, we have a few tips and tricks for the next time you use your table saw.

Utilize Featherboards

These can be used to help keep your boards straight as you work. The featherboards hold the wood against the fence so you can achieve a much straighter cut. The wooden fingers on the featherboards will keep the wood held in place tightly against the fence. These fingers are also flexible and cut at an angle. If there is a kickback, they can help with this as well.

Use a Clamp for Long Boards

If you are working with longer boards, you can clamp on a long fence. Attach a level to the fence to guide the boards. When doing this, however, it may prove to be a challenge because the wood can wander away from the fence. This is why the clamp should be used.

Use Push Sticks

If you find that your hands are getting too close to the saw blade as you work, you can use push sticks to save your fingers. This is an accessory you should have handy when you own a table saw. Push sticks are notched and hook over the end of your board. You can then push your workpiece through as you hold it down at the same time. This allows for a straight cut without your hands and fingers getting too close to the blade.


Keep in mind that properly using a table saw requires a few hours of practice. You may want to use spare boards to practice your skills first before making your final cuts on the boards that will be used for your home improvement project. There are many table saw brands available, check out our article. Many table saw reviews are given.

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