Get The Most From Your Portable Tablesaw
A little tuning goes a long way
Any tablesaw must be set up accurately for safety and precision. That starts by aligning the blade and rip fence parallel to the miter-gauge slots (photos, above). Benchtop/job-site saws lack the robust induction motors of stationary saws, so use thin-kerf blades to reduce strain on the motor. Full-kerf blades typically cut a 1⁄8"-wide kerf, so get one that measures 3⁄32" or thinner.
Help workpieces glide smoothly across your saw's top (photo, above) to reduce the chance of burning or hang-ups.
Keep your workspace (and lungs) cleaner by connecting your saw to a shop vacuum. Most tablesaws in this class come with a 2-1⁄2"-diameter dust port (photo, above).
No clearance is a good thing
The wide slot in your saw's factory-supplied insert plate accommodates a full range of blade tilt angles, but doesn't support the wood around the blade, leading to tear-out. Adding a zero-clearance insert plate provides complete support for the workpiece. You can buy zero-clearance inserts for some saws, but making your own means you always have one on hand (photos, above).
Accessorize your saw
Whether store-bought or shop-made, these products add more functionality.
A tablesaw needs a dependable miter gauge for making accurate crosscuts and miters. If your saw's factory-supplied miter gauge works well, improve its support by adding an auxiliary fence (photo, above).
Very few of these gauges provide screw-mounting holes or slots, so drill your own holes, or attach the auxiliary fence with double-faced tape instead. But if your miter gauge comes up short, upgrade to an aftermarket model (photo, above).
A stacked-dado set cuts rabbets, dadoes, and grooves quickly. Most saws in this class accommodate a dado stack up to 1⁄2" wide, so for wider channels you'll have to overlap multiple cuts. We recommend using a dado set 6" in diameter because it won't stress the motor as much as the additional mass of an 8" set. And with a dado set you'll also need a dado insert plate (photo, above). Manufacturers typically offer them as an accessory, or you can make your own, gaining zero-clearance support in the process.
You certainly can use one of these tablesaws on your workbench or other tool stand with great results. But a collapsible stand, often sold with the saw or as an accessory, improves portability and storage (photo, above).
Long boards or sheet goods get unwieldy when cutting on a small tablesaw. Outfeed support, in the form of a store-bought or shop-made stand (opening photo) or table, helps steady and balance these workpieces. As a bonus, use it with additional machines, such as the bandsaw, planer, drill press, or mitersaw.
A featherboard or similar hold-down/hold-in presses a workpiece against the rip fence (photo, above) or tabletop (when mounted on the fence) to prevent the piece from shifting during a cut. Most come with anchors for mounting in the miter slot and rip-fence T-slot. Buy these in pairs; there will come times when you need a featherboard in the miter slot and on the fence.
The splitter/riving knife on your saw's blade-guard assembly not only helps protect you from injury, but also prevents kickback by preventing the workpiece from drifting into the rear of the blade, where it could be picked up and rocketed back at you. If you remove the guard and antikickback pawls, the riving knife moves up and down with the blade. If your saw did not come with a riving knife—all saws manufactured after 2012 do—add a fixed one to the throat insert with a simple kit (photo, above).
Jigs make jobs easier
Some tasks require more assistance than the rip fence or miter gauge can provide. For these jobs, a set of shop-made jigs gets the job done.
Every woodworker should own a crosscutting sled, whether shop-made or purchased. With one you can crosscut workpieces wider than possible with a miter gauge (photo, above top) or too small to handle safely (photo, above bottom).
And to cut perfect 45° miters, build a miter sled, such as the one shown in (photo, above).
Cutting long tapers on any tablesaw requires a jig to carry the workpiece. Rather than buying a pricey tapering sled, make this simple version (photo, above).