Table saws are among the most important power tools for the furniture-maker, the woodworker and other handy people.
When used properly, these saws can quickly deliver accurate and safe cuts that leave a quality finish. However, if used carelessly or with insufficient knowledge, a table saw can cause deep injuries in just seconds.
Of course, this guide applies to the best table saws in the market as well as second-hand table saw purchases. Should you have a hard time purchasing a table saw or are still confused about understanding a table saw buying guide, we have amazing tips on our table saw articles all for you.
In this guide, we will discuss how one can set up a table saw properly, how to use a table saw, and the things to remember to be safe in using a table saw.
We will also discuss important table saw topics like the types of cuts a table saw can make, and other important features of a table saw and how to use them.
How to Setup a Table Saw
The following are steps that you can take to make sure your table saw is properly configured:
1. Make sure your power cord and fence wire are tight
2. Figure out if the height of the guide blocks needs to be adjusted
3. Place the blade on carefully with making any sparks fly off the teeth, or getting any oil from its surface onto other materials.
4. Make sure the blade is aligned with the table, and that it will not move at all. There should be no gap between the blade and the table.
5. Make sure there is enough space between it and the fence for you to operate comfortably.
6. Adjust the fence so that your blades are in perfect alignment with each other, and that they fit snugly against each other along its entire length (if there are round holes in a fence, adjust them so that they fit snugly together).
7. Make sure all of your fingers are far enough away from any moving parts of your table saw to avoid getting cut by it when you turn it on or off.
How To Use a Table Saw
Table saws are a power tool that can be used to cut boards, including the aforementioned tables, and various types of lumber. The saw is constructed with a circular saw blade contained in a stationary metal groove running along the width of the table or work surface (the “table”) at one end opposite the handle.
The directions for using this tool are below:
1. Make sure your hands are away from the table and other people’s hands.
2. Switch on your table saw and make sure everything is set up correctly before you put your hand near it.
3. Carefully measure out how long or wide you want to cut your board before picking it up off of whatever surface it was on (tables, floors, etc.) and place it on the table.
4. Make sure your board is placed in a straight line by making it lean against something on your side or asking somebody to help you keep it straight.
5. Next, position the board vertically by turning on the saw and making sure that it is not touching or close to your hands/body.
6. Finally, turn off the saw and pull your board away from the table before putting pressure onto the top of it. This will make sure that you don’t cut yourself or burn yourself with any sparks.
How to Use a Table Saw: REMINDERS
It is very important to follow these directions when using a table saw. A user can cut themselves as well as burn themselves or damage the saw.
Tissue damage from a saw includes things such as drawing blood and cuts requiring stitches, cuts not healing in time or having an infection develop from what was thought to be a minor cut, etc.
How Do You Push Wood Through a Table Saw
The user pushes the board of wood through the saw blade, making sure that they are following the usage instructions. It is very important to follow these directions as well.
1. First, the user must have a support on either side of the board that they wish to cut through.
2. Next, align the saw with where you want your board to go. The positioning of the saw blade and how it is set up directly affects where your cut will be.
3. The user must turn on the saw and make sure that it is aligned correctly with where they want the wood to go before pushing it through only after they have made sure that there are no protruding parts beneath or around it.
How To Use a Table Saw Safely
Secure the Workpiece
The most important thing to keep in mind before using a table saw is to make sure that the workpiece you’re working on is held securely. In most cases, this means using clamps or other fastening devices to secure the wood in place. The last thing you want is for the wood to move around while you’re making your cut, as this could lead to serious injury.
Use whatever fasteners are necessary to secure the workpiece and see your table saw with confidence.
Use the Proper Blade
Most table saws come with a collection of table saw blades. These blades do different things, from cutting wood to scoring tile, so make sure you’re using the right blade for the job. If you’re not sure what blade to use, ask a more experienced friend or contractor for advice. Blades are surprisingly expensive and it’s easy to damage your saw if you use an improper blade.
Clean Your Blade
After every few cuts, clean the blade of your table saw of any buildup or debris. This will help extend the life of your blade and help prevent unnecessary accidents and injuries.
Maintain Your Saw
Table saws will need to be maintained from time to time, so take the necessary precautions. If you’re not sure how to perform a specific maintenance task, check with your local dealer or manufacturer for help. They’ll know how to maintain your saw and keep its performance steady and safe for you.
Use Protective Gear
There are some jobs that require a lot of pressure and speed, like cutting under tabletops or cutting through a large slab of wood. When completing these tasks, use protective gear such as goggles, gloves and ear protection to help minimize the possibility of injuries.
Wear Protective Clothing
Most table saw accidents occur when people wear loose-fitting clothing, like shorts or sandals. Shirt sleeves can also pose a slippage hazard, so make sure you’re wearing something comfortable that will stay on throughout your work session. You’ll want to wear this clothing every time you use your saw so that it becomes second-nature and nothing gets in the way of your work.
Use the Push Stick/Push Block
A table saw’s blade is extremely sharp and capable of causing serious injury if touched. To avoid such injuries, always use a push stick or push block when cutting with a table saw. You can use a push stick or push block to prevent a slip, rather than placing your hands or feet directly onto the blade.
Cut Loosely, Don’t Cut Tightly
Table saws are some of the fastest tools in most people’s workshop. When you’re cutting large pieces of wood with this tool it’s important to move at a slow and steady pace. This will help keep you safe while keeping your workpiece from getting damaged. If the speed is too fast, the blade could easily cause accidental injury and damage your workpiece. It’s important to cut loosely and with care so that you don’t suffer from a cut injury.
Overloading is tempting on a table saw, but it’s something you’ll want to avoid at all costs. Overloading could easily cause the blade to stick or even break, which could potentially cause injury. If your wood isn’t fitting onto the table, skip that cut and make another one rather than force it on. You’ll be glad you did.
Don’t Reach over the Blade while its running
One of the worst hazards that table saws make possible is reaching over them while they’re running. Always remember to clear the area over a table saw before turning it on as this will help avoid accidents.
If you see sparks or debris coming out of your table saw, this means the blade is starting to get overheated and could start to break. If you’re in any doubt about whether the blade is hot enough, especially if it’s flying through the air or scorching itself on a piece of wood, don’t do it!
45 Steps – How to Use a Table Saw Safely
1. Make sure the blade is exposed and properly installed
2. Put on a pair of safety glasses or goggles and turn the saw on
3. Lock the workpiece to the table by clamping it or securing it with screws, miter gauge, etc.
4. Raise the saw blade to the necessary height and use the guide (it is most convenient if it is removable)
5. Make sure the back of the workpiece is flush with the cutting line
6. Move against the grain only. Do not crosscut; always make a start from one side to avoid damaging to both sides of this workpiece
7. If you do not want to change blades, make sure that changes are simple for you and that there are no loose parts or exposed wires under your table saw.
8. Hold things (tables, workpieces, etc.) at least a safe distance away from when they will be cut.
9. Be very careful when dealing with already-cut objects.
10. If a piece begins to bind, immediately turn off the saw and let it come to a complete stop before removing that piece.
11. Make sure there is no one directly behind you when you are using the table saw. While cutting, stand aside from the table saw as well (but close enough so you can turn off the saw if needed).
12. Make sure that your cuts can be made with this particular blade without unnecessary or excessive force/movement.
13. Never attempt to make cutouts in metal or masonry.
14. Clean up all scraps that may have fallen into the table saw and remove debris from any blades.
15. How to use a table saw is not complete without the proper dust collection port: use vacuum or shop vac to collect fine particles of wood and clean sawdust while taking protective measures (wear protective goggles, respirator, etc.).
16. Use clamps or fingers to hold small pieces so that your fingers will not be close to the blade.
17. Make sure you know how to start the blade after every interruption ( i.e. when reloading wood, removing cut-offs or making adjustments).
18. If you cut a very long workpiece, ensure that it can be supported by the table saw fence so that it does not fall to the floor.
19. Never operate a table saw with damaged or defective fences or guards.
20. Keep your table saw clean, and don’t store objects on your saw.
21. Be mindful of broken glass (from previously-cut shatters or from light bulbs or other bulbs that can break.
22. Keep your workshop clean and tidy to avoid tripping over tools and to prevent injury from falling materials etc.
23. Do not use the table saw if you are tired or hungry; wait until you are refreshed.
24. Always work near the exit route, or designate a space for quick access to this area.
25. Do not cut materials that are too large for your table saw.
26. Never cut with the power already on. Set your use of this saw according to your needs (i.e., if cutting wood, use the tool with power off).
27. When using compressed air, make sure the holes in your table saw are clear and unobstructed and that you also know where each of these holes is located. The air hose must be firmly connected to these holes so there is no way to loosen its connection.
28. Use your table saw as an accessory to other machines and tools you use (i.e., use it as a workbench, not as a tool to work alone).
29. Always keep in mind that table saws do not operate with the same safety features of other power tools.
30. Keep your hands away from moving parts of the machine.
31. Make sure all exposed moving parts are grease-free. Use grease if they are not free of water spots (which can cause rust).
32. Do not overload your table saw. If your power source is overloaded, it may damage other equipment in the area and/or itself.
33. Heat generated through cutting can distort and break wooden structures and kill or injure you if you put your hand in it. This tool is not a cooking appliance!
34. To avoid injuries, use appropriate safety measures when possible (i.e., guards, etc.).
35. Always turn off your table saw and allow the blade to come to a full stop before carefully removing cutoffs, changing blades, etc.
36. Do not try to re-start the table saw if it has stalled or if there has been an interruption in the power.
37. If you are working outside in cold weather, make sure your hands do not get too cold and use extra caution when handling tools that are very sharp or hot.
38. Do not leave wood unattended on your table saw until you know that it will be safe from possible harm (i.e. “burning” from heat vents, animals, intruders).
39. Do not try to start your table saw if it is wet.
40. Do not “force” or “bend” your table saw fence or table into a shape that is not recommended by the manufacturer.
41. Make sure dust port and other holes are kept clear of obstructions and never cover them with wood or similar materials.
42. Keep extra accessories, parts and tools away from electrical parts of the tool (i.e., motor, wires).
43. Keeping in mind the safety measures that you have researched, it is important to be aware that there are some additional precautions to follow when using any other power tool: keep flammable liquids out of your immediate workspace (i.e. gasoline, vapors, etc.).
44. If a tool becomes damaged through misuse of improper use or due to other reasons that are not covered by the manufacturer, do not attempt to repair it yourself.
45. Always try to use your table saw in the way that is recommended by your manufacturer.
How to Use a Table Saw Safely: REMINDERS
Follow all safety precautions properly and you should be able to use your table saw without getting hurt.
Table saws may be dangerous, but they’re a useful tool that makes woodworking projects much easier. So if you follow safety precautions and use common sense, you’ll be able to get a lot of use out of your table saw for years to come.
If you do all of the above steps, the table saw will cut your board without hurting your fingers or the sides of the board in any way.
What PPE should be worn on the table saw?
Proper protective equipment includes tight workshop wear, gloves, goggles and/or other eye protection.
Why won’t my table saw cut straight?
The problem is that you are not holding the board securely enough. Your hands need to be able to hold both the workpiece and the fence at all times; this will help stabilize it so it doesn’t twist out of your hands and off the table saw when you cut.
What causes kickback on a table saw?
Kickback is caused by a variety of factors:
- The blade is not sharp.
- The blade has become dull and needs to be sharpened.
- The wood or other material being cut is too hard for the size of the blade chosen.
- Too much power is being supplied to the blade for the type of material being cut (i.e., you are trying to cut through metal with your table saw).
How fast is a table saw kickback?
A table saw kickback, caused by a force of impact that is strong enough to drive the material being cut back and up at the operator, can be as high as 20 miles per hour. When this happens, a person’s fingers on the hand that is feeding the material into the blade can get caught between the blade and workpiece causing severe injury to any finger that it touches.
The side of your hand may also be injured if you are not using gloves or tight protective clothing with an open cuff. If you get hit in this way your hand may take a hard blow from either side depending on which part of your hand was closest to where you were holding your fingers when they got caught in between the blade and workpiece.
Types of Cuts I can do with a Table Saw
A rip cut is a type of cut that is done parallel to the board’s grain.
If you want to do a rip cut, put the board on the table saw so that it sticks out over both sides of the table and make sure it is lined up with the blade.
Now, without touching any other part of your body, use your non-dominant hand to gently feed material into your dominant side as you make contact with one side of the material and then let go as soon as contact has been made.
Move your non-dominant hand straight in front of or behind your dominant hand and make contact with one side of fabric before letting go again.
When cutting large pieces, have someone else feed off each edge while you cut.
A crosscut is done perpendicular to the board’s grain. To do a crosscut, put your workpiece on the table saw so that it sticks out over one side of the table and lined up with the blade. Slowly turn on the saw and let it move up to speed before making contact with the material being cut.
A dado cutter is a type of blade that can be attached to a table saw. It is used in conjunction with other saw blades and provides a cut that is similar to those made by a traditional hand-held circular saw blade, but with much less effort. A dado cutter rotates, rather than oscillates like the regular blade on a table saw. It cuts two generally rectangular shapes at once: one between the upper and lower teeth on the front of the slot (top cut) and one in back (back cut). This allows it to produce long planks from soft or dimensionally unstable materials without requiring turning or repositioning.
A miter cut is a type of cut that requires a special blade. The miter is an angle of between 0 and 90 degrees that the piece being cut off makes with the wood’s grain. It can be used for joining two pieces or finishing the edge of a piece.
To make a miter cut, you need to find out what the angle your workpiece should be at.
A bevel cut is a type of cut with the blade tilted at an angle. It is used for trimming the end of a square piece of material.
To do a bevel cut, hold your workpiece on the table saw so that it sticks out over one side of the table and lined up with the blade. Then turn on the saw and let it move up to speed before making contact with the material being cut.
Table Saw Features and How To Use Them:
The blade height of a table saw is the depth of cut that you can make with it. The depth of cut can vary in size depending on the type and thickness of the material that you are trying to work with.
To adjust your blade’s height, you should be sure to have an extra set of hands available to help out. There should also be a waste board underneath where you are making your cuts because some wood dust will escape from your workpiece and fall on other parts of the table saw if there’s nothing underneath it.
You should first loosen up whichever wing nut or locking knob is holding your blade into place so that it doesn’t get damaged when being adjusted. Once loosened, take a wrench or wrench set to remove the nut or knob. Turn your blade’s height slowly towards the front of your table saw, making sure that it is lined up properly so that you are cutting at the proper depth all the way through. Then tighten your wing nut or locking knob back up to keep it from being moved around and damage its positioning.
If you do not have a wrench set, make sure to put a piece of wood underneath where you are adjusting it so that there is something to stop any sudden movements from happening and damaging your table saw.
A blade guard is a metal extension around the blade of the saw that is made to prevent contact with it and any body part.
A blade guard should be used at all times for safety reasons. It helps protect your hands from getting hurt if you accidentally start up the table saw without properly setting up or attaching wood in place.
Anti Kickback Pawl
An Anti Kickback Pawl is another safety feature on table saws that can easily be overlooked by inexperienced users. The anti-kickback pawls are positioned behind the teeth close to the back of the mouth where they provide a barrier against kickback due to clamping two pieces together on the saw as well as making sure that material won’t come into contact.
Dust Ports are a very important feature on table saws. Whenever you cut through wood, the bits of sawdust made by the blade will fill up your work area and get everywhere. So, to combat this problem, you should make sure that your table saw has a dust port to help create an easier method for removing the dust from your workspace.
A fence is a supplementary guide that helps to ensure accurate cuts. If you are cutting at an angle, it will make sure that the cut is straight. It also minimizes the amount of tear-out from your work which can damage the wood and spoil your project. A fence can also be used to control depth as well as length when cutting a workpiece for joinery.
One type of common table saw fence is known as the T-square fence which consists of two bars with one perpendicular to the other, similar in appearance and use to a T-square used by carpenters for measuring angles and distances when marking out large pieces of wood for cutting on other saws or machines.
A Rip Fence is a guide used to make a straight cut parallel to the workpiece’s edge. It has an adjustable pin at the end of it that can be slid up or down. The width of the cut can also be adjusted by changing the distance between this adjustable pin and one of the railings on either side of it.
A Dado Fence is used to guide cuts made in this type of blade and consists of two bars, one perpendicular to the other, with spaces for blades projecting down from each bar into which a saw blade is inserted as required. This fence will ensure that your cut remains square while minimizing tear-out from your workpiece since both sides are being held securely during cutting.
A Crosscut Fence is used to ensure that the cut remains square while minimizing tear-out from your workpiece since both sides are being held securely during cutting. The crosscut fence is also used to control depth as well as length when cutting a workpiece for joinery.
The type of common table saw fence for this is known as the T-square fence which consists of two bars perpendicular to one another with one being similar in appearance and use to a T-square used by carpenters for measuring angles and distances when marking out large pieces of wood for cutting on other saws or machines.
An auxiliary fence is a type of fence that works in tandem with the rip or dado fences on table saws. It allows for shorter workpieces to be supported by the rip or dado fences while still allowing many of the same functions and safety benefits as if longer pieces were used.
A Miter Fence is a guide used to make a straight cut parallel to the workpiece’s edge. It has an adjustable pin at the end of it that can be slid up or down. The width of the cut can also be adjusted by changing the distance between this adjustable pin and one of the railings on either side of it.
A Miter Gauge is a device used for measuring the angle of the blade relative to the wood. The gauge is placed against one side of the wood and held in place by clamps or wedges. The miter gauge can also be used to set angles in general for various purposes, such as cutting triangular mortises where all three sides need to have equal lengths and angles relative to their adjacent sides.
A Miter Slot is a slot found on the front of table saws that is used to hold material during cutting. This feature also aids in ensuring safety when using the table saw but can, at times, limit flexibility and space.
A saw blade is the cutting blade component of a saw. The term “saw blade” typically refers to a metal-cutting or wood-cutting tool, typically with parallel edges and one or more sharp teeth projecting from each side of the blade, which are designed to cut various types of materials.
Saw blades are typically available for purchase in hardware stores or home improvement centers for easy replacement coupled with the abrasive task of cutting through hard materials.
The riving knife is a safety device that reduces the chance of kickback reactions. The blade guard and anti-kickback pawl are two other safety features involved in the prevention of this type of reaction.
The throat plate is the metal, flat surface that serves as a protective barrier between the blade and the operator.
The throat plate is installed so that it is parallel to the saw’s table. The blade should be flush against this smooth, flat surface while still protruding through the other side. This helps to keep both hands away from danger while cutting the material being used for your project.
The outfeed table is a part of the table saw that serves as a place for workpieces to be pushed past the blade. This prevents any possible contact with the blade and adds some safety features.
There are many advantages that this type of table saw feature provides to its user. It is helpful in reducing back strain and also makes it easier for you to support longer lengths of material while cutting without needing extra hands to hold it in place or risking injury from bending down too much, which can result in back problems later on.
Additionally, it reduces frustration since you don’t need other people around just for some simple tasks like pushing your wood over the outfeed table each time you need to cut something new.
The arbor nut is a part of the table saw that is used to attach the blade to the motor.
The arbor nut attaches the blade to the motor by using a hex wrench and provides safety by preventing injury from loose blades.
Types of Table Saw Blades
A rip blade is a type of blade that cuts through material from the side opposite the workpiece’s edge.
It is typically designed to cut a straight line without any bevel on it.
A dado blade is another type of table saw blade sometimes referred to as an upcut or down cut saw tooth design and both types can be installed either in front of or behind the teeth on a table saw depending on how it will be used. A dado blade, sometimes is a stacked dado blade, does not work well with overly thin material because there is no support for it and unless the blade is sharpened properly, it will not cut evenly.
A crosscut blade is designed to cut along a line at an angle with respect to the workpiece’s edge. This type of blade can also be installed behind or in front of the saw teeth if desired depending on how it will be used. A crosscut blade only works with hardwood and softwood material that has been properly pre-conditioned. An improperly used or dull table saw will render this accessory useless.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do I need a riving knife on my table saw?
Is a table saw worth it?
What type of stock should never be ripped on the table saw?
What is the minimum length of stock that should be cut on the table saw?
When cutting plywood should the good side be up or down?
How do I make sure table saw blade is straight?
How can I make my table saw more accurate?
How to Use a Table Saw
This ends our Definitive Guide of How to Use a Table Saw.
We hope the knowledge you gained here will help you in the future with your DIY or Professional Woodworking projects. We want you to be sure of that what you get from us are 100% facts, so please don’t hesitate to ask for advice or to advise us in return with accurate facts.
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Henry is a long time Trade Instructor at Dunwoody College of Technology. Henry has been teaching the trade of carpentry for over 15 years and is excited to share his knowledge with the next generation of builders. With his posts you will explore some general terms, tools, and techniques that are helpful for the beginning DIY Enthusiast!. He’ll also provide a list of all the best tips needed to start your building journey right away!