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Tablesaw tips, tricks, and techniques part 1

If you think of your tablesaw as a machine for simply ripping or crosscutting, you're selling it short. To give you a fresh perspective, we mined the minds of the WOOD® magazine shop guys and unearthed their favorite time- and work-saving tablesaw tips. Here's a mother lode of helpful hints you can put to work in your shop today.

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  • Make a quick zero-clearance tabletop.

    Instead of crafting a new zero-clearance insert to replace your tablesaw's factory throat-plate insert, create a temporary tabletop for your saw in seconds, as shown. Set the fence for the cut you intend to make; then mount a piece of 1/4" hardboard to your tablesaw top with clamps or cloth-backed, double-face tape. Hold the hardboard down with another scrap and then slowly raise the spinning blade through the hardboard to cutting height.

    You need to first attach your temporary hardboard tabletop to the saw's tabletop, then raise the blade through it, and finally, set the distance from the rip fence.

    Note: Blade guards have been removed in these photos for clarity. Always use the appropriate safety guards with your tools.

  • Two-step stop defines a dado.

    Don't have a dado set? Or do you need to machine a dado wider than your stacked set can handle? You can cut consistently wide slots using this double stop. The key dimension is the distance between the ends of the stops: Subtract the width of the desired dado from the width of the saw blade or dado set, and then offset the stop ends by that amount. Position the stock against one stop, make the first cut, and then reposition it against the other stop and make the second cut. (If you're using a single saw blade, "nibble" away the waste between the kerfs.) To keep the jig accurate, we created dust relief by adding a 1/4" plywood spacer, slightly offset, to the bottom of the fixture.

  • Tablesaw-trim edge banding.

    Don't precariously perch a router on the edge of a plywood shelf to clean up overhanging edges on solid-wood or veneer banding. Instead, make an auxiliary fence 4-6" tall and cut a rabbet into its face at least as wide as the blade's kerf. Mount the auxiliary fence to your rip fence and position it so that its face is flush with the outside edge of the blade. (Test the setup by running scrapwood against the fence: If the blade contacts the scrap, nudge the fence closer to the blade and test it again.) Hold the shelf to be trimmed - banding down, with the excess edging in the rabbet, as shown - and trim it flush. For best results, use an 80-tooth carbide blade and zero-clearance insert.

  • Trim edge banding, the sequel.

    Use a similar technique to flush-trim the excess length from solid-wood edge banding. This time, though, cut a notch just a whisker wider than your saw blade in a piece of scrapwood spacer, as shown in the photo. Again, position your fence so that the outside edge of the spacer is flush with the outside of the blade, and make a test cut. Finally, trim off the end of the banding as shown.

  • Calibrate your miter gauge, part I

    To ensure that your miter gauge squares with the blade, try this trick: Set it for a 90° cut and then crosscut one end of a 6" (or wider) scrap. Flip the scrap top-for-bottom, keeping the same edge against the miter gauge, as shown, and repeat the cut at the other end of the scrap. Now, compare the lengths of the two edges of the scrap using a precision steel rule. If A and B match exactly, the miter gauge is square. If not, adjust the gauge and repeat the test cuts until they are, and reset the cursor.

  • Locate the "wide" teeth fast.

    With an adjustable dado blade (sometimes called a "wobbler"), it's hard to tell which tooth cuts farthest to the left and which cuts farthest to the right. Find the widest-cutting tooth—or teeth, in the case of the dual-blade adjustable dado, shown-using a square. Then label that tooth's post with a permanent marker. Now you can measure from that tooth when setting up your cut.

  • Calibrate your miter gauge, part II.

    Previous tip doesn't work to check the 45° stop, so do this instead. Lay a reliable framing square on the tabletop, as shown, so that the edge of the miter slot aligns with the same dimension marking on both legs of the square. (In the photo, we used the 6" markings inside the square.) Now, loosen the miter gauge, slide it flat up against one leg of the square, and retighten it. Reset the 45° stop, if your miter gauge has one.

  • Leave a perfect footprint.

    Cast iron is softer than you might think, and an uneven floor can actually transfer its warp up to your tablesaw top. So, after you've found the perfect level spot for your saw, mask off the legs, then spray paint around each foot to mark their locations, as shown. Now you can stow the saw and later move it back to the correct location with confidence.

  • Take your outfeed table on the road.

    A permanent outfeed table isn't practical in a small shop: You just can't dedicate that much real estate to it. The fold-down outfeed table, shown, extends 3' of support beyond the blade, yet adds only a few inches of depth to the back of the saw when stowed. And it's always ready, even on a mobile-base-equipped saw. (You'll find plans for this outfeed table at

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