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Tablesaw tips, tricks, and techniques, Part 2

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.

  • Put wings beneath your wings.

    How do you keep all of those tablesaw accessories close at hand without being under foot? Take two pieces of 1" angle iron a couple of inches shorter than the width of your saw and bolt them to the front and rear of your contractor-style saw's stand, as shown. Now cut plywood shelves to fit between the stand and the ends of the angle iron, and bolt them on top of it. Add a strip of hardwood at the end of each shelf to keep things from falling off, and you gain valuable storage space.

  • Make an instant extension table.

    A simple T-shape support, made from scrap plywood or MDF, mounts in your portable clamping workstation, as shown. Once you've matched the support to your table height, drill the base of the support and insert dowels to instantly set the height each time. To make this table even more versatile, use it with your bandsaw and mitersaw, drilling separate dowel holes for each height.

  • Build your own base.

    There's no law that says you have to use the steel leg stand that came with your contractor-style saw. Replace it with a simple cabinet, such as the one shown, and not only will you add enclosed storage; but your saw also will run quieter. For a more elaborate and versatile take on this concept, visit

  • Make cleaner crosscuts.

    A zero-clearance crosscut sled virtually eliminates tear-out in veneered plywood, guarantees a square cut, and costs just pennies to make. We spiffed up the sled shown with an adjustable stop, but that's just the icing on the cake. This fence-forward design allows you to cut wider workpieces than one with the fence closer to the operator. During assembly, locate the miter bar so that about 14 " of the fence will overhang the blade. Before you use the sled, run it through the blade to remove this excess and create a zero-clearance edge.

  • Taper with confidence.

    You can buy or build more elaborate tapering jigs, but this simple helper will handle most of your tapering chores. It runs in the miter gauge slot. To use the jig, measure the width of the sled and set your fence that distance from the blade. Remove the top screw, loosen the pivot screw, rotate the fence to match your desired taper, and then tighten both screws. Butt your workpiece against the dowel with one edge against the jig's fence, and then cut your taper.

  • Saddle your saw fence for cutting tenons.

    If cutting the ends of parts such as tenons on the tablesaw gives you the heebie-jeebies, this rip-fence saddle will put you at ease. Supporting tall stock from both the side and behind, all you have to do is clamp the workpiece to the saddle and guide it through the cut. A coat of paste wax on the inside of the saddle where it contacts the fence makes it glide smoothly.

  • Practice common (and uncommon) sense

    Keep it clean. Before making any cut, clear the tabletop of all scrap wood, tools, fasteners, and other debris. (That includes not using the top of your fence as a tool tray.) These objects not only distract but they also can become missiles.

    Protect your eyes. Without face-hugging safety glasses, airborne dust and chips can blur your vision (not good in the middle of a cut), or worse, injure your eyes permanently. A decent pair of safety glasses costs less than a visit to the ER, so buy a pair and wear them.

    Set the right height. There are lots of ideas floating around about proper blade height, but Freud's Jim Brewer has the final word, advising that about half the highest tooth should protrude above the workpiece, as shown. Brewer emphasizes that the bottom of the tooth should never be higher than the workpiece top.

  • Tablesaw tips, tricks, and techniques, Part 2

    Be alert! The tablesaw-injury story often begins with, "I was making the last cut of the day..." Fatigue leads to errors in judgment that, in turn, lead to miscut workpieces—or worse. Also, repetitive cutting chores can lull you into carelessness, so take frequent breaks.

    Don't overreach. Any time your hands get within 6" or so of the blade, you should hear alarm bells in your head. Keep pushsticks handy and use one to complete the cut whenever your digits get within the danger zone.

    Always use the fence or miter gauge, but never both. Two cuts you should never consider: freehand cutting (with no assistance from the rip fence or miter gauge); and using both the fence and miter gauge to guide a workpiece. In both cases, the workpiece will likely bind on the blade, sending it flying back at you.

    NOTE: We should have specified this applies only to through cuts, where the cutoff piece, trapped between the fence and blade, could be ejected. It's okay to use both when making partial-depth cuts for dadoes, rabbets, or tenons.

  • Employ a feathered friend.

    The fingers of a feather board handily hold a workpiece snug against the fence so you can concentrate on feeding it at a steady pace. Mount the feather board so that the fingers end before the cutting starts, as shown, to prevent trapping the offcut and launching it across the shop.

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