Better accuracy from your tablesaw
Tips and tricks for getting the best results from your tablesaw.
Our advice for your improved accuracy
Even old hand-me-down saws and low-cost benchtop machines can produce clean, on-the-money cuts. We'll show you how.
Know the angles
You'll find the best and least expensive tablesaw accessories at an office supply store, of all places. Invest about $10 in a couple of plastic drafting triangles. They give you perfect 90°, 45°, 60°, and 30° corners for setting blade angles and miter angles as shown in photos.
As shown in photos, set a blade angle, raise the blade fully and register the triangle against the body of the blade, not against the teeth. Raising the blade fully gives you the most surface for the triangle to rest against. Lower the blade to the proper cutting height after setting the angle.
Ask for an extension
An extension screwed to the miter-gauge head will improve the quality and accuracy of your cuts. Use a flat length of 3/4" plywood, MDF, or hardwood, as shown in photo.
The extra surface steadies longer stock. An extension that reaches past the blade backs up the cut, preventing tear-out on the back edge of the workpiece.
Keep it down
If your benchtop saw won't accept a dado blade to cut a rabbet, you need to make a series of cuts and nudge the fence over slightly between passes. The trick with this method is getting each cut precisely the same depth. Photo left, shows a simple way to apply consistent pressure downward during each pass. A hold-down prevents the workpiece from rising off the table, ensuring cuts of equal depth. When clamping the hold-down to the fence, use the workpiece as a gauge. Bevel the leading edge of the hold-down to guide the board under it.
And here's a bonus tip: Use a rip blade for the best results. Its square-profile raker teeth cut a smooth, flat bottom.
Be sneaky; then stop it
It's often smart not to cut to finished size on the first pass. Instead, cut the workpiece slightly oversize; then sneak up on the final dimension for a perfect fit. This works especially well when the piece must fit into an existing opening.
An easy way to sneak up when crosscutting is to use a stopblock. When you can safely hang on to the "keeper" piece, clamp a stopblock to a miter-gauge extension, top Photo. Nudge the stopblock toward the blade between cuts to get to the desired length. Once the stopblock is positioned, you can cut any number of pieces to identical lengths.
For keeper pieces too short to hang on to, attach the stop to the rip fence as shown in bottom photo. The stop creates space for the cutoff to rest safely between the blade and fence without being kicked back. Cut test pieces until you have the rip fence and stopblock set properly.
Cutting sheet goods to size can be a challenge on any size saw. Make the initial cut about 1/8" oversize. This reduces the size of the sheet and makes it easier to handle. Then reposition the rip fence to trim the more manageable panel to finished size.
Washers ease guide placement
To precisely mount miter-slot guides to a sled, first place a couple of washers in each miter-gauge slot. Then set the guides on top of them, as shown in top photo. The guides should sit just above the surface of the tablesaw. If they don't, add another washer or two. Put a strip of double-faced tape on top of each guide.
Use the rip fence to help squarely position the base as you lower it onto the guides, as shown bottom photo. Press the base firmly onto the guides; then carefully remove the base with the guides attached. Now screw the guides in place.
How we do it in the WOOD Shop
Watch a video on how to verify tablesaw setups at woodmagazine.com/tssetup