Table Saw Use Guide: How-to’s and Common Injuries


Table saws are a popular power tool in woodworking due to their precision, efficiency, and ease of use. In this article, I will go over different ways to use the table saw, table saw maintenance, and safety tips.

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How to cut wood on a table saw

There are two different types of cuts that you can perform on the table saw, the crosscut and the rip cut.

Crosscuts go against the wood grain and rip cuts go along the wood grain.

Table saw setup

Before cutting wood on a table saw, you need to ensure that everything is set up properly.

  1. Inspect the blade
    • Before fixing anything on the table saw, you need to make sure that the saw is unplugged.
    • Check the blade and the inside of the table saw for any possible obstruction
  2. Make sure you are feeding the wood in the right direction
    • The anti-kickback fingers and blade guard should be on the opposite side of the table saw.
    • The blade teeth should be pointing towards you and not away

How to rip cut on a table saw

To perform a rip cut, you will need to use a table saw fence to guide the wood through the cut.

  1. Align the wood with the saw blade
  2. Push the fence against the wood
  3. Pull the wood back and start the saw
  4. Push wood against the fence and feed it through the saw

Important tips:

  • Keep your eyes on the fence
  • Use an outfeed table

How to crosscut on a table saw

To perform a crosscut, you will need to use a miter gauge to keep the wood aligned.

  1. Place wood against the miter gauge
  2. Align the wood with the saw blade
  3. Pull wood back and start the saw
  4. Hold the wood against the miter gauge and feed it through the saw

Important tip:

  • Pull wood away from the blade and not up to prevent kickback and chipping

How to cut small pieces of wood with a table saw

Table saws are designed to cut larger pieces of wood that you can support without cutting your hands. However, you can use your table saw to cut smaller pieces of wood with the help of jigs.

Push sticks

Push sticks come with almost every table saw and can be purchased separately. While, you do not need a push stick to operate a table saw, they are designed to allow for you to support the wood that is close to the blade without cutting yourself.

The idea is that the blade will knick the push stick and not your finger.

Push sticks, however, are not designed to be used to cut very small pieces.

Table saw sled

Table saw sled are an ideal jig to cut small pieces without injuring yourself.

The way table saw sled works is that you clamp the wood to the sled and then feed the sled through the saw.

This ensures that your hand is not close to the blade as you operate the table saw.

To learn how to create a table saw sled and other table saw jigs, check out my article here.

How to cut angles on the table saw

Table saws can create beveled and mitered cuts. A beveled cut is when the angle is made through the thickness of the board and a mitered cut is when the angle is made through the width of the board.

How to create a beveled cut on a table saw

To create a beveled cut, you will need to adjust the blade angle. To adjust the blade angle, you will need to pull the lever that is commonly on the front side of the table saw to the desired angle.

Most table saws to not have detents to get a perfect angle reading, and because of this, you will need ensure that the angle is correct.

The best way to check the angle of your table saw blade is to use a digital angle meter.

  1. Raise the table saw blade
    • Using the hand wheel, raise the blade at least two inches above the table saw to get an accurate reading.
  2. Roughly adjust the table saw angle
    • Pull the bevel scale lever to the desired angle
  3. Calibrate the digital angle meter on the table
    • Place the angle meter on the table saw tabletop and zero it out.
  4. Place the angle meter on the blade
  5. Fine tune the blade adjustment
    • Continue to adjust the blade angle using the bevel scale until you get the desired angle

How to create a mitered cut on a table saw

To create mitered cuts with a table saw, you will need to use a miter gauge and have your saw blade at 90 degrees.

  1. Feed the miter gauge into the miter gauge slot
  2. Adjust the miter gauge hand screw
  3. Push the wood against the miter gauge and proceed with the cut

Miter gauges that come with the table saw do not get precise angle measurements a lot of the time. To find a miter gauge that will take precise measurements, you will likely need to buy an aftermarket product.

Table saw maintenance

How to change table saw blade

You may need to change a table saw blade to replace a dull blade or use the correct blade for the task.

  1. Unplug the saw
    • Whenever working on the table saw blade, you always want to unplug the saw to prevent injury.
    • This ensures that the saw will not be accidentally turned on while switching the blade
  2. Remove the throat plate
    • Locate the finger slot in the throat plate and use it to pull the plate out of the table saw
  3. Raise the blade all the way
    • Using the handwheel, raise the blade until it stops
  4. Loosen the blade
    • Locate the table saw wrench storage
    • Put the wrenches on the table saw bolt, and push the wrenches together.
    • Remove the table saw bolts and blade.
  5. Replace the blade
    • Replace the blade and bolts and tighten them by pulling the wrenches apart
    • Only use your hand strength and do not over tighten the blade with extensions.
  6. Replace the throat plate
    • Once the blade is secure, replace the throat plate

How to clean a table saw

Cleaning table saw inside

To clean the table saw interior, it is best to use either a shop vac to suck up the dust or pressurized air blower to blow it away.

I prefer to use a shop vac because you have less dirt particles floating in the air. An air blower, however, is much quicker.

How to clean the table saw tabletop

Most table saws are made with cast iron tabletops. The issue with cast iron is that over time, the scuffs can lead to rusting. You want to address rust as early as possible because it will just spread.

You will need to follow these three steps to clean cast iron table tops

  1. Degrease
  2. Remove the rust
  3. Apply top layer wax

Step 1: Degrease

You will first wipe down the tabletop using a general purpose degreaser, wax remover, or mineral spirits.

This will remove all of the gunk that is on the tabletop like oils, dried up glue, and compressed wood shavings.

Step 2: Remove the rust

Now we will remove the rust. The remove rust from cast iron machinery, you can either use mesh pads or steel wool.

“Use mesh pads or steel wool with lubricant to remove the rust”

If your tabletop is heavily rusted, then I would recommend that you start out with 0 grade steel wool with rust remover and working up to 000 grade thinner steel wool.

If your table stop is slightly rusted, then you can start with 000 grade steel wool or mesh sanding pads.

To remove rust more effectively, I recommend using a penetrating oil lubricant.

Step 3: Top layer coat

Lastly, you will apply a top layer, machine wax to add minerals that will allow the wood to easily slide along the table saw tabletop.

Table saw Safety

How do most accidents occur

Most accidents occur on the table saw from blade injuries and injuries due to kickback.

Blade injuries

Some of the most common blade injuries include lacerations or amputations of the fingers, hands, and arms.

Kick back

Kick back is when an object is shot back at the user. This commonly results from a dull blade, pieces of the wood already being loose, and improper use of the machine.

Kick back cannot be 100 percent prevented and protective equipment should be worn like protective glasses.

Kickback can lead to lacerations of the face, eyes, and body. Kickback of larger items are easier to prevent. However, glasses should be worn to protect you from kickback of smaller wood pieces.

Compounding injuries

Compounding injuries are injuries that happen over time. Some common compound injuries with woodworking a respiratory and hearing problems. To prevent these injuries, you should always wear a respirator and hearing protection when operating a table saw.

To learn more about protective equipment and woodworking safety, you should check out my article “PPE for woodworking”.

How to use a table saw safely

These are the 7 main tips to use a table saw safely.

  1. Use a sharp blade
    • It is important to use a sharp blade to prevent kickback. A dull blade may snag the wood and send it flying back towards you.
  2. Always unplug the table saw when working on the blade
    • When inspecting, adjusting, or changing the blade, you always want to completely unplug the saw.
    • Unplugging the saw eliminates the possibility of accidentally powering on the saw while you are working on it.
  3. Never start the saw with the wood touching the blade
    • You always want to start the saw first, and then feed the wood through the saw.
    • If you start the saw with the wood already touching the blade, you will likely get kickback and potentially injure yourself.
  4. Always use a push stick for thinner cuts in width
    • You always want to use a push stick if you need to support the wood close to the blade.
    • Push sticks are made to take abuse and protect your fingers form the blade.
    • You do not need to use push sticks all of the time. You can judge what is too close or not. I do not put my fingers within 6 inches of the blade.
  5. Remove any trip hazards from the work area
    • Before using a table saw, remove all objects form the tabletop and possible trip hazards in the area.
  6. Always know where the blade is and where your hands are
  7. Always wear protective equipment
    • Always wear protective glasses, a respirator, and hearing protection.

Conclusion

In this article, we learned how to perform ripcuts and crosscuts on a table saw. We also looked at table saw accessories and additional cuts like miters and beveled cuts. We then discussed table saw maintenance like changing out the saw blade and clearing the table saw tabletop. We then talked about table saw safety risks and proper usage.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!

Rachel

My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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