How to Use a Table Saw

Make quick work of ripping and cross-cutting boards with a table saw. We'll show you how to complete both tasks with safety and efficiency.

Go back to basics and discover our top tips for using a table saw.

If you have access to one, a table saw is a great tool for ripping and cross-cutting boards. Once the saw blade is secured, the tool is ready to be used. This feature makes the table saw a handy tool for large woodworking projects that require multiple boards to be ripped or cross-cut the same way. For both tasks, we'll show you how to change the blade, prep for the cut, and safely saw. 

If you're not a frequent woodworker, consider renting a table saw for your next major DIY project. Check out local hardware stores and national home improvement chains for details. 

Editor's Tip: Whenever you're working with a saw, make sure you take the appropriate safety precautions. For this saw, we recommend you wear safety glasses. 

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How to Make Rip Cuts

Step 1: Fit Blade

Unplug the saw and fit a rip blade into the blade arbor. To do so, loosen the arbor nut with a wrench and adjust the position, facing the teeth towards the front of the saw. Adjust the blade height to fit your material. You want the blade to be only about 1/4-inch higher than the material you're cutting. Tighten the arbor nut. You only need to do this step if your project requires a blade with different teeth than what is already installed or to replace the blade for general maintenance. Rip cuts require fewer blade teeth than cross cuts, so be sure to change the blade if you change cuts.

Step 2: Position Rip Fence

Release the lock on the front of the fence, then slide the fence until its inner edge matches the desired width of the cut. Once in place, measure and mark your cut. You'll want to mark the distance from the fence to the edge of the saw blade. 

Proven tips for accurately measuring and marking lumber.

Step 3: Prep for Sawing

Place the marked material on the table and line it up with the rip fence. Plug the saw in and turn it on. Let the saw run for a few seconds so it can get up to cutting speed. 

Step 4: Start Sawing

Guide the material along the rip fence. Keep both hands on the wood until you near the end, using a push stick as needed to keep your fingers away from the blade. When you're finished with the cut, turn the saw off, then retrieve the pieces. 

Put your sawing skills to use and build this custom bookcase.

How to Make Cross Cuts

Step 1: Fit Blade

Unplug the saw, then remove the rip fence. Remove the blade guard and fit a crosscut blade into the arbor, repeating the steps for removing and fitting a table saw blade. Adjust the blade height to fit your material. You want the blade to be only about 1/4-inch higher than the material you're cutting. Tighten the arbor nut. 

Step 2: Prep for Saw

Measure and mark your cut with a pencil and ruler. Then adjust the protractor guide. For straight cuts, set the guide to 0. For angled cuts, set the guide to the desired angle measurement. Then align the material you're cutting along the front edge of the miter gauge. Plug the saw back in and turn it on. Let the saw run for a few seconds so it can get up to full speed. 

Step 3: Start Sawing

Slide the miter gauge and material slowly through the blade. Since you're cross cutting, you likely won't need to use a push stick. When you're finished with the cut, turn the saw off, then retrieve the pieces. 

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