Tablesaw Tips and Tricks
Try these shop-tested tips for hassle-free tablesaw operation.
Glue setscrews for a temporary grip
My tablesaw's throat insert used to cause me a lot of grief. Vibration loosened the setscrews over time, and the insert dropped down below the tabletop. When I tried to rip a board, the bottom edge of the forward end would catch, resulting in an end grain tear-out.
To keep the setscrews firmly in place, I put a dab of Loctite 242 on the threads. The thread-locker prevents the setscrews from moving, but a hearty twist with an allen wrench breaks the bond.
—R.J. Lemerise, Utica, Mich.
End fence-alignment hassle with rear measuring tape
Having trouble lining up your fence parallel to the blade or miter-gauge slot on your tablesaw? For those of you who have a fence with a square or flat rear rail, here's a quick and easy solution.
First, buy a suitable length of an adhesive-backed tape measure. Secure the tape measure to the rear fence rail so that it reads the exact same measurement at the right-hand miter slot as the measurement scale on the front of the fence. Then, set your saw blade parallel to the miter slot by following the instructions in your tablesaw owner's manual. Whenever you position the fence, just make sure that the face of the fence bar aligns with the same measurements on the front and back rails before locking.
—Scott Geurin, San Clemente, Calif.
Ripping guide steadies rough-edged stock
Do you need a safe, secure way to rip lumber with one rough edge? This ripping guide costs next to nothing, and it keeps lumber tight against the fence.
To start, cut the 11⁄2 x 31⁄2 x 10" ripping guide from a piece of smooth hardwood, such as maple. Then, put a dado blade in your tablesaw, tilt it to 20, and rip the angled rabbet as shown in the drawing at left. Finish the guide by chiseling or sanding a slight bevel on the infeed end of the rabbet. This prevents the guide from snagging on splinters or rough edges of the stock.
To use the ripping guide, hold the rabbet against the rough edge of the board on the left side of the blade and about 4" behind the leading edge of the blade, where shown in the drawing at left. Push the workpiece snugly against the fence and feed the wood into the blade. Keep the ripping guide and your hand stationary as you feed the workpiece into the saw blade. Don't move the guide with the wood, always keep it at least 4" in front of the blade.
—Allen Ulrich, McClure, Ohio
Clean up edge banding using your tablesaw
When edge-banding plywood with solid stock, completing the corner joints can be a nuisance. Cutting off the jutting excess banding with a handsaw can leave scars, and sanding seems to take forever. Here's a way to clean up that excess.
Make the opposite edges of a scrapwood spacer block parallel to each other. (The exact width of the piece doesn't matter, but a few inches is all you'll need.) Now, set up your tablesaw fence to remove just a whisker more than the blade's width from the end of one edge so it looks like the spacer block shown in the drawing below.
Without moving the fence, lay your spacer block against the fence and a piece of scrap against the spacer block and push both a couple of inches into the blade. If the scrap makes contact with the blade, move the fence a tiny bit closer to the blade. Finally, set aside your test scrap, replace it with your edge-banded workpiece, and run the banding through the saw as shown. Touch up the end of the joint with a sanding block.
—Chuck Hedlund, WOOD® magazine staff
One-handed bar clamp keeps crosscuts square
When an elbow injury made it difficult for me to squarely crosscut long workpieces, I had to find another way to get the job done. My solution was to mount an auxiliary fence to my miter gauge, then clamp the workpiece to the fence with a one-handed bar clamp as shown. The clamp holds the workpiece tightly against the auxiliary fence, ensuring a square cut. It also provides me with a convenient handle to help push the piece through the saw.
—Dave Rickett, Sylvan Lake, Alberta
Clean-cut lids for closed boxes
One big problem with cutting the lid from a closed box on a tablesaw is that the box and lid become more unstable as subsequent cuts are made. The bigger the box, the more potential for binding and gouging and the more dangerous the operation becomes for the woodworker.
For several years I've made boxes as small as 4" square and 2" deep for jewelry and other pieces and as large as 16 x 24 x 48" for blankets and toys.
For safe, stable lid cuts, I raise the saw blade to the correct cutting height (slightly greater than the stock thickness) and cut the two long sides first. Next, I apply a small amount of hotmelt glue to each kerf where shown in the inset illustration below. I then make the end cuts and separate the box and lid by cutting the glue with a sharp utility knife. I also use the knife to peel or shave away the glue before sanding to remove the saw marks.
—John Ash, Lockport, Ill.
Use playing cards to micro-adjust your tablesaw fence
My tablesaw fence doesn't have a micro-adjustment knob, but that doesn't stop me from making finely tuned cuts. To make a cut on the money, I make a test cut in scrap and check the measurement. Then, I slide a wooden block against the inboard or outboard side of the fence—depending on which way I need to adjust the cut—and clamp the block to the saw table. Next, I loosen the fence, insert a playing card or two between the block and the fence, relock the fence, and make another test cut.
—Ken Kerns, Fairview, N.C.
Custom pushblock safer for small pieces
I needed to chamfer the edges of a small block of wood to make a decorative post cap. But when I tried to use my regular pushstick, the tablesaw blade twisted the block away from the fence, gouging the workpiece beyond repair.
To keep the workpiece under control, I built a custom pushblock from 2 x 4 scrap as shown. By cutting a notch in the scrap to fit the workpiece, the pushblock holds the work firmly when making the cut and prevents the saw blade from twisting and pulling the stock away from the fence.
—Richard Rosencrans, Cody, Wyo.
Make stronger doors with your tablesaw
When building frame-and-panel doors, I make them extra strong by making the tenons long. Rather than chisel out the deep mortises, you can cut them on a tablesaw.
In the stile, center a 1⁄4 "-deep groove for the panel with your dado blade. Then, raise the tablesaw cutting depth up to 1". Measure the width of your tenon and clamp a stopblock to your tablesaw fence as shown above. Then, run the stile groove-side down over the dado blade to the stopblock.
—Erv Roberts, Des Moines, Iowa
Make legs four-of-a-kind and flush to the floor
If you've ever built a table or chair with splayed legs, you know how frustrating it can be to cut those legs off so they stand flush on the floor. Here's a foolproof technique that I've used with great success.
Put your project on a flat surface, such as your tablesaw top as shown at right. In a piece of 1⁄4 " plywood, cut a hole larger than the diameter of the leg. From the same stock, cut three more small shims.
Place one leg in the hole, as shown in the foreground of the drawing above, and trim the leg using a flexible flush-cut saw. Move the hole jig to the next leg, shim the just-cut leg (as shown in the drawing), and repeat the cutting and shimming process for the remaining three legs.
We invite you to hop on over to WOOD's Top Shop Tip forum. The shop tips forum is for you to share your shop tips that might be of benefit to other woodworkers. Our tips editor, periodically reviews all of the tips posted here for publication, and all tips are eligible to win our Top Shop Tip $250 tool prize, as-well-as $100 per published tip awarded in each issue of WOOD magazine.
—Marvin Aberle, Beulah, N.D.