The table saw is a very popular machine, mainly because it can take care of so many operations in a shop. Here are a few tips on how to better use your table saw for a safer, more productive small shop.
By Rob Brown
Photo by Rob Brown
Dust can be very harmful to your lungs. If shoots upward into your face while you cut. Distractions and obstructions are not fun while cutting.
There are many jigs and fixtures out there that will make using a table saw more productive and safe. Old standards like crosscut and mitre sleds, to more unique jigs like panel raising and dowel making jigs, will open up a lot of opportunities for you. You might even be able to create a new one of your own.
While it’s important to always listen to the sounds a machine is making for feedback on how it’s reacting to the cut you’re making, loud noise may also cause you to get nervous and lose concentration. Standard ear protection will reduce the intensity of the noise yet still allow you to listen to the saw for feedback on whether it likes what you’re doing or not.
We’ve all heard this is an absolute no-no, but that’s not entirely true. Clamping a stop block to your rip fence well behind the blade, then butting the workpiece up to that stop block and guiding your workpiece through the blade with your mitre gauge is perfectly fine. Another time using both mitre gauge and rip fence is acceptable is when you’re not cutting off the entire thickness of the workpiece. Dados and rabbets are a great example, as the entire thickness of the workpiece isn’t being cut into. Bevelling a workpiece is another example, if you use a specific technique. Check out the link in the Related Articles at the bottom of the page to read the article “Tilting to the Right” to read about this bevelling technique.
Using the table saw as a work surface is common practice when you don’t have much room, but when actually using the table saw for its intended purpose, ensure its surface is clear. Mistakenly pushing tools off the far end of the table saw can damage the tool, and if you start reaching for that tool while the blade is spinning you can hurt yourself.
New table saw operators have a lot to think about while making cuts. With so many thoughts running through their minds, it’s important to not lose track of where the blade actually is by glancing at it from time to time during the cut. At the very least, keep your fingers away from that area.
Making quick movements, which can shift the workpiece during a cut, can cause harm to the user and the workpiece. Have a plan, stick to it, and operate a table saw with a calm mind.
Like any tool, a sharp tool will be safer and will work much better than a dull one. Most blades can be sharpened many times, so think of a good blade as a long-term investment in your woodworking future.
Table saws come in a wide variety of sizes, from a portable jobsite saw, up to very heavy panel saws. It’s not impossible to cut a 4×8 sheet on a small saw, but make sure the saw won’t move or tip during the cut. I have literally almost pushed a saw over while cutting a full-sized sheet, and trust me when I say it wasn’t fun.
Work supports, from rollers and sawhorses to router tables and workbenches, will turn a dicey operation into a nice, straight cut. Because the table saw is such a popular tool, and there are so many things to consider while using one, watch for another 10 Tips on How to Better Use a Table Saw in our next issue.