Table Saw Tips and Techniques

Improve the performance of your table saw, whether it’s on a bench or in a stationary position. You can make safer, more accurate rips, crosscuts, dados, rabbet cuts, and more with these jigs and accessories.

Plywood Base with Extra Stability

Attaching a 3/4-in. plywood base with a hole cut in the center to any new portable table saw (when not using a leg set) is a “must do.” The best table saw under 200 can be clamped or screwed to the sawhorses, which provide a broad foundation for added stability. This also elevates the saw off the ground, allowing for a more comfortable working height. The bottom hole allows sawdust to fall through, which helps keep the saw cool. But the base has a lot more to offer. Drill a couple of 1/2-inch holes on one side of the saw so you can hang it from hooks on the workshop or garage wall when you’re done with it.

Cut a 1-sq.-ft. Hole in the center of the plywood base, which should be a few inches wider and longer than the base of your saw. Mark the mounting holes on the plywood with your saw. At each mark, drill a 1/8-inch hole through the plywood. To recess, the carriage bolt heads, flip the piece over, and drill 1-in. dia. holes about 1/4 in. deep. Then, in the center of the recesses, drill 5/16-in. Holes. Install the carriage bolts, then slide the saw over the bolts (using spacers if the saw comes with them) and secure the saw to the base with washers and nuts.

CAUTION – Near misses and not-so-near misses are all too common among table saw users. There’s no denying that table saws can be hazardous. Always treat them with deference. When possible, use your blade guard, and always wear safety glasses and hearing protection. Read your owner’s manual and double-check that your saw is set up correctly.

Block of Cut-Off

When you crosscut directly against a rip fence, you risk dangerous kickback. When the board between the fence and the blade is pinched, the blade, which is spinning toward you, catches it and hurls it back at you; this is known as a kickback.

This hazard can be avoided with a simple block. Cut and clamp a block to the side of your rip fence, then adjust the distance between the blade and the fence (the length of cut plus the thickness of the safety block). Clamp the block so that the workpiece does not come into contact with the safety block as it enters the blade.

The workpiece does not bind between the fence and the spinning blade when using this crosscutting method. Never make a cut that causes the blade to bind in any way. Before you begin, consider all of your cut setups.

Using a Standard Blade as a Dado Guide

By making successive passes over the blade, you can cut accurate dadoes without a dado blade. The tricky part is getting a tight fit. Make a saw kerf in a 13 fence extension and screw it to your miter gauge. Trace the thickness of the board onto the homemade miter gauge fence extension for a tight fit. To get the hang of this method, practice on a small piece of paper.

A Simple Jig for Outfeed

With an easy-to-make outfeed jig screwed to your plywood base, you can confidently cut longboards. Make sure the jig’s highest point is level with the saw table. As you push your board through the saw, the jig’s gradual incline (about 12 degrees) helps guide sagging pieces and slowly bring them up. Ordinary roller-style outfeed supports don’t work well for longboards because the board sags and hits the stand beneath the roller, causing the roller to tip over. This jig is particularly useful for cutting long, thin pieces like siding, which tend to sag and separate as you cut.

Plywood Edging Done Quickly and Effortlessly

If you’ve ever tried to cover plywood edges with solid wood, you know how difficult it is to get the edging to sit flush with the plywood. Try this next time: Begin with edging that is about 1/8 inch wider than the plywood thickness. That way, you can quickly attach the edging without having to worry about a flush fit. Clamp or screw a tall “floating fence” to your table saw fence to trim off the excess edging. The floating fence should then be aligned with the blade’s outer edge.

Safely Cut Skinny Strips

It’s dangerous to cut thin strips. There’s no room for a push stick between the blade and the fence, and some table saws require removing the blade guard. To cut safely and quickly, all you need is five minutes and a 6-inch-wide scrap of plywood or particleboard. Simply screw a wooden “heel” to the scrap to create a sliding guide that allows you to keep the guard in place while keeping your fingers safe. Make it easier to pull the guide backward after each cut by adding a handle.

How to Straighten a Slanted Board

Simply mount the crooked board to a larger carriage board and run the entire assembly through your table saw to cut a straight edge on any board. You can use screws to secure the crooked board, or you can use 4-inch-long screwed-down cleats at both ends if you don’t want to drill holes in it. Set the fence on your saw to the same width as the carriage board. You’ll be able to see exactly where the blade will cut the crooked board this way.

Using a Dado Blade, cut rabbets

The fastest way to cut notches, or “rabbets,” along the edge of a board is with a dado blade in a table saw. And here’s how to speed things up even more: Set the blade to a width that is slightly larger than the rabbet width. Then attach an auxiliary fence to the saw’s fence by clamping or screwing it in place. You can now precisely adjust the width of the rabbet by moving the fence and allowing the dado blade to cut into the auxiliary fence, rather than fiddling with dado adjustments.

Converting Worktables

Admit it: You use your table saw as a makeshift workbench from time to time, slopping it up or damaging it. To protect it from glue, paint, and tools, it’s best to build a plywood cover. The cover has cleats on the edges to keep it from sliding off the saw. It also works well as a coffee table!

Preventing Laminate Disasters

When cutting plastic laminate (or any other thin material) on a table saw, an auxiliary fence mounted tightly against the table is required. Without it, skinny stuff can slip through the cracks in the fence, causing a crooked cut, major chipping, kickback, and injury, as well as ruining an expensive laminate sheet.

Outfeed and Instant Stand

You can make a benchtop saw stand and a long outfeed table with a few minutes, a couple of 2x4s, a slab of plywood, and a pair of sawhorses.

Unwavering Support

Table saws aren’t good for straight cuts like lap joints, tenons, or rabbets. If you don’t build a simple box to guide and support the workpiece, that is. Take the time to build a square and sturdy box because precise cuts require it. Always make adjustments and mistakes on scrap wood before cutting valuable wood.

Ester Adams

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