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If you need to make a straight cut on a piece of wood, a table saw is a handy tool to have. It’s designed to either make long cuts with the grain of the wood, called rips, or shorter cuts against it. Those are called crosscuts.
Because of the way they are designed and built, table saws can be among the most dangerous tools in your workshop. You’ll want to exercise care when using them and employ proper safety equipment.
A table saw is just that, a table with a saw blade jutting up out of it. These saws have long pieces of metal that are parallel to the blade. These are called fences, and you adjust them to the width that you’re cutting wood. When you make your cuts, you snug your wood up against it and push it through the blade.
Because it’s just a table with a sharp blade sticking up through it, table saws also always come with an emergency stop. You’ll want to locate it before you start cutting.
Table saws are so dangerous to use that they have their own class of attorney to litigate accidents. It’s impossible to overstate how important it is to know how to use them safely.
The first step is familiarizing yourself with your table saw. Read the manual and understand how to adjust the blade properly. Make sure the safety equipment that came with yours is operational and that you know how it works. If it’s dirty, clean it off. That includes rust. Replace the blade if it’s dulled.
Second is making sure you’re safe. Don’t use a table saw if you feel fatigued. Pay close attention to your surroundings, your table saw, and your wood. If something feels off, don’t turn on your saw until you’re sure that the environment is safe.
The third is making sure the wood is safe to work with. Don’t cut warped wood or wood that is wet. Wood that is warped is more likely to kick back and injure you. Adjust the blade on your saw so it’s at least a quarter-inch above the top of the wood you’re cutting.
Finally, when you’re ready to start making cuts, have a push shoe or push stick. These are physical barriers between you and whatever you’re cutting that will spare you injury if something slips. Make sure your clothing is tight at the wrist.
Getting the most out of your table saw means knowing what cutting aids to use, and how to construct or buy them so you can make specialized cuts with a precision saw. Here are a few things you can do.
The two primary things you’ll do with a table saw are rip boards and make crosscuts. A rip is making a long cut with the grain of a piece of wood, and a crosscut is cutting across the grain. Those are usually shorter cuts intended to trim wood to the desired size.
Your goal might be no more complicated than shaping a piece of plywood into a square for a drawer bottom or taking a few inches off a 2×4 for whatever reason. These cuts are simple enough that it’s suggested your first work with a table saw be to do these things, so you can familiarize yourself with it.
Table saws allow you to adjust the angle you are cutting at. If you need to not only rip a 2×2, but do it at a 45-degree angle, you’d just adjust the angle of the blade. That adds another dimension to your saw.
If you need to make a mitered cut, an angled cut between the length of the board and its width, then you might need an aid like a box or a sled. You can either buy one yourself or build a rig or a sled that will help you make these cuts with precision.
If you have the right aids, you can make joints to join two pieces of board at an angle. Once you develop the experience and savvy in using a table saw, you might even find that it’s better to cut joints using a table saw, because they tend to be stronger than ones made with a less precise tool.
As you gain experience in using a table saw, you’ll figure out when you need cutting aids, how to use them, and how to buy or even build them.
Table saws are versatile, precision saws that you can use to make a lot of different things. At first glance, they might appear best for making straight cuts across a board or along it. After you get a little experience, you’ll figure out that while the cuts might be straight, you can utilize all kinds of aids to position your wood to get cuts at different angles.
But we can’t stress enough that table saws are potentially very dangerous tools, possibly the most dangerous in your shop. Learn your saw and make sure your operating conditions are safe. That includes making sure that you, the operator, are safe to use it.
Featured image credit: Pezibear, Pixabay