The table saw is a very versatile woodworking tool with the compatibility of manufactured and diy jigs and upgrades. For example, you can cut thin pieces, long pieces, create joinery, cut circles, and more!
In this article, I will go over how to make the most out of your table saw and some tips and tricks.
- How to cut straight
- How to cut thin and small pieces
- How to perform dado cuts, tenon cuts, and half-lap cuts
- How to get the perfect bevel
- How to get the perfect miter
- How to perform crosscuts on long pieces of wood
- How to perform rip cuts on long pieces of wood
- How to cut short pieces of wood
- How to flatten wood
- How to create circles
How to cut straight
The first step to creating a straight. Is to look at the table saw rip fence as you are cutting the wood. This may sound dangerous because you are not looking at the blade to ensure you do not cut yourself. But ideally, your hands should be a safe distance from the blade and you should look a the fence to make sure the wood is pushed against the fence throughout the cut. If the wood pushes away from the fence, for even a second, then the cut will not be perfectly straight.
- Look at the fence when cutting
- Take your time
- Upgrade the fence or miter gauge -if necessary-
- Poor rip fence
- Poor miter fence
- Not looking at the fence while cutting
If you tried these steps and the wood is still not cutting straight, then you may need to upgrade your rip fence. This is a very common issue for budget end saws like my Kobalt KT10152 table saw. I have the Kobalt table saw and have had small issues with play with the table saw fence. My boards cut straight, but edge joinery is not as seamless as one may like. For a hobbyist, I do recommend this saw. While these are my experiences, some users do report more extreme alignment issues.
You can upgrade your table saw rip fence by purchasing a compatible rip fence with the make and model of your saw. Additionally, you can create a DIY rip fence upgrade. There are several methods to create this fence upgrade. To create the upgrade that I built for my table saw, check out my article here.
To cut straight cross cuts, you may need a miter gauge upgrade. If the miter gauge is too loose in the miter track, then the easiest way method to upgrade a miter gauge is by purchasing a better quality after-market one.
You can upgrade the miter gauge by giving the gauge less slack in the groove and by extending the support. To learn how to upgrade your miter gauge, check out my article here.
How to cut thin and small pieces
- Create a thin piece jig
- Create a superficial rip fence with thin strip clamping
- Increased risk of personal injury
- Increased risk of saw damage
Cutting small pieces of wood on the table increases your risk of blade and kickback injury. Additionally, small pieces can cause damage to the rip fence if the blade grazes the fence.
To prevent damage to the saw and injury, you should create a jig to cut thin pieces and a superficial fence out of wood. The jig will allow you to clamp close to the cut point without having to risk injury to your body and slippage of the push stick. Additionally, the superficial fence will essentially be a piece of wood mounted to the face of the rip fence so you will not damage the fence itself with the blade.
A good upgrade to the superficial fence is to have a thin piece clamping mechanism. This mechanism will keep the thin piece of wood in between the blade and the fence flushed to the tabletop. This is beneficial because the thin piece has a tenancy to rise and break off.
Below is an attached video of the thin piece jig and auxiliary rip fence with thin piece clamping.
How to perform dado cuts, tenon cuts, and half-lap cuts
There are two main ways to perform dado, tenon, and half-lap cuts. The first method involves using the miter gauge and the second method involves using the tenon jig. I actually prefer the miter gauge method because you do not have to create a separate jig. The benefit of the tenon jig is that does require less cleanup than the miter method
Miter Gauge method
- Adjust the table saw blade to the desired depth
- Use a miter gauge to align the blade to the marked line
- Cut the line and cut every ¼ to ⅛ of an inch
- Chisel out the joinery
First, you want to adjust the table saw blade height to the depth of the dado, tenon, or half-lap joint. Next, you will align the blade to the marked line and proceed with the cut. For dados, I like to cut each line and then perform several cuts to clean out the middle. For the tenon and half-lap joints, you only have one line to cut and then you will perform several cuts to the end of the wood to clean it up.
The more cuts you perform, the easier it is to clean up the joint but the longer the cutting process takes. So you have a trade-off. I recommend 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch in between kerfs (the thickness of the blade and the amount of material cut out). You can do more or less based on your needs.
Tenon jig method
- Adjust the table saw blade height
- Clamp the wood to the jig and cut the joinery thickness
- Use the miter gauge to cut the joinery width
A simple way to cut tenons or wood that is oriented vertically is by using the tenon jig. The tenon jig holds the wood in the vertical orientation and cuts the tenon thickness in one pass. This method is quicker because you can cut the tenon thickness and the tenon width in two passes in total and you have less cleanup.
To learn how to create this tenon jig, check out my article here.
How to get the perfect bevel
- Use an angle gauge
Many table saws do not have bevel adjusters with positive stops. This makes it difficult to create accurate bevels as they need to be extremely precise for your workpiece to fit correctly. For example, being one degree off on a picture frame with 4 45-degree angles will leave a 4-degree gap in your workpiece which will affect the aesthetics and strength.
- Inaccurate and imperfect bevels
Angle gauge method
Since most table saws do not have positive stops on the bevel adjuster, the easiest way to adjust the table saw blade is by using an angle gauge.
- Zero angle gauge to the tabletop
- Place angle gauge on blade
- Make sure the angle gauge is not touching the teeth of the blade
- Adjust the angle using the bevel lever
How to get the perfect miter
Miters are created by using the miter gauge on the table saw. The main issue with inaccurate miters is a poor miter gauge. Miter gauges with no positive stops and fine-tune adjustments are more difficult to get accurate. Additionally, some miter gauges, like the one that comes with my Kobalt table saw have a lot of slack or play in the miter slot which leads to an inaccurate cut.
- Poor miter gauge
The two ways to create accurate miters with the table saw are to either upgrade the miter gauge to one with less play in the miter slot and positive stops or to use the angle gauge method.
Upgrade miter gauge
The easiest way to get a precise and accurate miter is by upgrading the miter gauge itself. Most table saws come with miter gauges that are not the best. Additionally, lower-end table saws come with miter gauges that are even worse. Some of the common issues with miter gauges are the lack of positive stops, poor visualization and metrics for precise tuning, and a loose track.
The positive stops help with being able to quickly and precisely get common angles like 90 and 45-degree angles. Fine-tuning allows the user to get adjust the miter gauge angle precisely and with a small margin of error. In this picture, you can see how poor the fine-tuning metrics are for the miter gauge that came with my table saw.
Having a lot of play in the table saw track is a huge issue no matter how precisely you adjust the miter gauge angle. Any movement in the track will throw off your measurements. This issue is more difficult to fix and will require modifications to your existing miter gauge.
Angle gauge method
If you have a solid miter gauge with minimal play in the miter track slot, then you can use an angle gauge and straight edge, like a speed square or level
- Align the speed square of level against the miter slot track
- Place the angle gauge along the side of the leveler and zero it
- Place the angle gauge along the miter gauge and adjust the miter gauge using the adjustment knob
How to perform crosscuts on long pieces of wood
The main method for performing crosscuts on the table saw is by using the miter gauge. You can also use a crosscut sled jig for smaller pieces of wood. But how about long pieces of wood?
- Use an outfeed table with rollers on the side of the saw
- Wood twisting during the cut
- Increased risk of injury and kickback
The issue with using the miter gauge for long pieces of wood is that you are only holding the wood close to the blade so the back. So you will be putting unnecessary stress on your body while pushing the wood and the wood will want to shift, thus increasing your risk of kickback.
Use an outfeed table with rollers on the side of the saw
As a result, you want an outfeed table on the side of your table saw to support the wood and allow for it to easily glide as you cut.
I highly recommend taking an outfeed table that is slightly shorter than the table saw tabletop and adding rollers to it. The rollers will allow for easy gliding as the friction of wood on wood may be too much to prevent the wood from shifting mid-cut.
The rollers that I recommend are these ball-bearing rollers by Harbor Freight.
How to perform rip cuts on long pieces of wood
Rip-cutting long pieces of wood can be dangerous without the use of an outfeed table.
- Wood falling over mid-cut
- Saw tipping over mid-cut
- Increased risk of personal injury
The weight distribution will become uneven as you progress toward the end of the cut when rip-cutting long pieces of wood.
Let’s say you are rip-cutting an 8 ft board. Around the 6 and 7 ft mark, you will have more wood hanging over the saw. This will cause the wood to fall over or the saw to tip. Either scenario increases your risk of bodily harm.
Use an outfeed table behind the saw
To prevent injury, you should use an outfeed table when rip-cutting long pieces of wood with the table saw. The outfeed table should be the same height as your table saw tabletop. While it may be helpful, it is not essential to use ball-bearing rollers for this outfeed table like it is for performing crosscuts.
How to cut short pieces of wood
- Increased risk of injury
- Poor visualization and control when cutting
Cutting short pieces of wood on the table saw is difficult because you are forced to place your hands close to the table saw blade. Additionally, you will have a poor grip and control over the wood.
This is an issue because it greatly increases your chances of injury and mistakes.
Use a crosscut station jig
One easy way to cut short, small pieces of wood using a table saw is by creating a crosscut station with a small piece clamping mechanism.
To use this jig, you will place the wood at the cut location and use the face clamps to hold the wood in place. To feed the wood through the saw, you will push the crosscut jig. This not only clamps the wood in place and increases your visualization, but it also keeps your hands away from the blade, thus keeping you safe.
How to flatten wood
Jointers are woodworking tools that flatten wood. One of the biggest issues with jointers is that they are pricey, not versatile, and take up space. So jointers are not common woodworking tools for beginner woodworkers.
- You don’t own a Jointer
- Warped wood is affecting your project
If you do not own a jointer and warped wood is affecting your joinery and alignment, then you will face issues with flattening your board. Warped wood can greatly affect edge joints, miter joints, and wood alignment.
Luckily, there are two main methods to flatten wood with the table saw which are by using the leveler method and using a taper jig.
Use the leveler method
Using a leveler is the simplest method to flatten wood using a table saw. To use the leveler method, you will need to align the level along the rip fence and the wood along the level. The level should be sandwiched between the wood and the rip fence. Next, you will run the level and wood along the saw.
The key to this method is to keep the level in the same position as the wood and move both pieces simultaneously.
This method works because when you cut wood on the table saw, you want the wood to be flushed to the rip fence at all times. With the leveler method, the level will be pressed against the fence at all times. Since the level is dead straight, the wood will be cut dead straight as well.
Use a taper jig
A taper jig allows you to taper wood to create straight angles. With the taper jig, each cut will be dead straight. The taper jig is more difficult to build than by using the leveler method. However, you can use the taper jig to not only flatten wood but create tapers in your workpieces.
To use the taper jig, you will mark the starting and ending locations where you want to cut, clamp the wood to the taper jig, and proceed with the cut.
- Easier to create
- Harder to control
- Better for longer wood pieces
- Not ideal for face grain jointing
Taper jig method
- More difficult to create
- Easier to use
- Not ideal for longer wood pieces
- Not ideal for face grain jointing
How to create circles
Circles can be created using a table saw with the use of a table saw circle-cutting jig.
Use a circle jig
A circle-cutting jig is created by spinning the wood on the jig pin. You will then cut points of the wood. For example, if you start with a square, you will cut the 4 90 degrees angles, then the 8 resulting angles. You will continue this trend until you have a full circle.
In this article, we went over the various table saw tips and tricks. We went over how to cut small, large, and thin wood pieces. We also went over some tricks like how to flatten wood, create joinery, create circles, and perfect miters and bevels.
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