Top 10 Tips on How to Better Use a Table Saw – Part 2

The table saw is a very common machine, mainly because it can do so many operations in a shop. Adding to last issue's Top 10 list, here are 10 more tips on how to safely and productively use your table saw.

By Rob Brown
Photos by Rob Brown

1. Clear the Area

Cutting an 8′-long sheet on a table saw requires at least 8′ behind the blade and over 8′ in front of the blade to be clear of obstructions to be able to safely make a decent cut. That’s a lot of room. Don’t realize you don’t have the space half way through a cut.

2. Table Saw Kickback

This is a classic way for woodworkers to get injured. It’s also a way to give emergency room doctors a great story to tell. Learning how to properly use a table saw is crucial. Three quick guidelines: Use a splitter, don’t allow a workpiece to come into contact with the rip fence and mitre gauge simultaneously while a cut is being made (though there are exceptions to this), and don’t stand directly behind the blade.

3. Watch Your Eyes

Protect your eyes. It takes only a split second for a piece of wood to travel into your eye and do some serious damage. This goes for using many power tools and machines around the workshop.

4. Protect Your Hands

This is one of those tips that is in a grey area. I use snug-fitting gloves while working with 4′ x 8′ sheet goods, and sometimes while working with rough lumber. It keeps the slivers to a minimum, and gives me great grip on the workpiece while manoeuvring and cutting. On the other hand, if you’re working closer to the blade (which you really shouldn’t be doing anyway), gloves only offer something else for the blade to catch.

5. Use the Correct Blade

Every blade has a purpose and should only be called on to do that task. Using the wrong blade will not only produce a less than premium edge, but it may increase the danger level of the operation.

6. Be Careful of Dado Blades

Though they’re safe if used properly, dado blades remove more material than any other type of blade. This increases the chance of kickback. Hold the workpiece down properly, don’t remove large amounts of material in one pass, and always know the limits of the machine you’re using.

7. Check the Setup

A table saw’s fence must be aligned properly, and its blade must be running true in order to get good, safe results. Small adjustments sometimes yield great improvements.

8. Know When Not to Use a Table Saw

Bandsaw might be better for ripping. A router or shaper might be better for running a dado or groove. A track saw might be better for breaking down sheet goods. Consider which tooling option is best for the situation before making the cut.

9. Use a Push Stick if Necessary

A well-designed push stick allows the user to control the workpiece while making the cut. They can be purchased or shop made. There’s no one best push stick, as each one is generally made for one specific purpose, and does only that task well. Controlling a workpiece with your hands is generally the best approach, but a push stick can be the difference between a dangerous and a safe operation.

10. Ask Questions

If you’re unsure about something, just ask. Whether it’s a trusted friend, a detailed how-to book or a woodworking forum, check to make sure you’re not doing something dangerous. You may be surprised at how helpful people can be when it comes to sharing their knowledge.


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