Tools make woodworking easy and accurate. Either you are a DIY individual, hobbyist, or professional; you cannot do well without tools in woodworking. With the right tools and knowledge, even beginners can achieve great results.
Woodworking tools have been around for centuries. Ongoing innovations and technological advancements have made the tools easier to use, lightweight, compact, energy-efficient, and versatile. You no longer need professionals to complete woodworking tasks for you because tools nowadays are super easy and safe to use.
Just like any other field, there are some basic and some advanced tools in woodworking. Today we will be discussing one of the primary tools that almost every woodworker, professional, DIYer, or hobbyist owns; a Table Saw. You will need a table saw to complete basic tasks, no matter how grand your project is. Without a table saw, a woodworking setup will be incomplete.
In this article, we will explain
- What is a table saw
- Table saw anatomy (parts)
- Types of Table Saw
- Common applications of a table saw
Table Saw: Basics, Types, and Applications
What is a Table Saw?
A table saw is a basic woodworking tool. It consists of a circular saw blade mounted on an arbor, driven by an electric motor. The blade protrudes through the top of the table and provides support for the material being cut. A table saw is usually used to cut wood.
In other words, a table saw is a tool used to make cross cuts, ripping, and dado cut on a workpiece. A table saw has many uses in woodworking and provides consistency and convenience. It saves time, effort and yields better results than hand cutting.
If used in the right way, a table saw can do wonders for you. No matter how much work you have, a table saw will always be up to the task, and you can cut hundreds of pieces in a short span.
History of Table Saw: Table saw’ usage can be traced back to 1777. Samuel Miller was the first to put the scattered ideas about saw in an organized form and produce a saw. Nearly a century later, W.R. & John Barnes in Rockford, Illinois, developed a mounted circular saw. It was the most primitive table saw. The table was operated using a foot peddle.
Since then, technology and innovation have changed the way a table saw operates. At present, we have electric saws which operate much faster, are super accurate, extremely consistent, energy-efficient, and lightweight, and perform 24/7 without tiring the user.
Table Saw Anatomy (Parts)
Before buying or using a table saw, it is important for you to know about table saw parts. Without prior knowledge, you will be clueless about operating a table saw and getting the most out of your tool. A table saw consists of the following parts.
Table: The table in the table saw is the area where you place the workpiece for cutting. Table saws come in different materials, but the most common choice is metal. Stainless steel or cast iron surface is frictionless and allows you to slide the wood easily. However, most DIY tables are made out of wood because it is easier to work with compared to metal at homes. Wood polish is used periodically to make the surface frictionless. Most professional and store-bought tables are made from metals.
Most of the features and basic functions of a table saw are located on the table. The table has measurements to help you guide the wood into the blade for accurate cutting. The table also contains slots for tools like rip fence and miter gauge.
Saw/Blade: It is the second most important part of a table saw. The saw is the part that does the cutting. It is mounted under the table, and the blade part of the saw extends over the table. The user can move the blade up and down to cut the wood. Some of the models also allow you to tilt the blade up to an angle of 45 degrees to make bevel cuts. A bevel cut is an angled cut relative to the face of the material. You can cut along the entire side of the workpiece or just at the end of the piece.
The common size of a saw is 10-inches. Some professional models come with 12 inches as well. A larger blade allows you to cut bigger wood pieces.
A 10-inch saw can easily handle 2x4s, but what happens when you have a 4×4 sheet; can you cut 4x4s with a 10-inch saw? Yes, you can. It may get a bit difficult for beginners, but you can do it with right guidelines.
Table saw blades need periodic sharpening depending upon the nature and frequency of your work. You can sharpen the blade manually with a tool. The best tool for sharpening a blade is a Dremel. You can follow these steps to sharpen your blade with a Dremel. Moreover, you will frequently need to replace the blade on your table saw. Every table saw owner must know how to replace blades on his table saw. It is an integral part of using and maintaining your tool.
Blade Plate: A blade plate is an area where the saw blade rises above the table. The blade plate protects the table and the blade while you cut the wood. It also provides additional support to the piece. A standard blade plate allows the user to make standard cuts. To make dado cuts, you will need a custom dado plate.
A blade plate is also known as an insert. Sometimes you need a zero clearance insert to work with small pieces. A zero clearance blade insert is a specialized blade plate with space for only the blade and no extra space on the sides. Zero clearance inserts are available in the market, but it is best to make one for your table saw as it is according to the size of your saw, and it doesn’t cost you much time and money. You can make a zero clearance insert for angled cuts and dado cuts as well.
Blade Cover: Blade cover is an important safety part of a table saw. Its purpose is to protect the user and the blade when the saw is not in use. You can lift the blade cover while cutting. It provides some additional safety against kickback while feeding the blade into the saw. A saw blade is usually transparent in color and allows you to see the cutting process.
Kickback Claws: Kickback claws keep the user safe from flying pieces during cutting. Anti-kickback claws or paws are mounted on the backside of the blade cover and hold the workpiece as it is fed through the blade. The kickback claws rise above the saw’s cutting capacity and prevent the workpiece from flying here and there.
Kickback is one of the most common safety concerns while using a table saw. When the workpiece is not secured properly on the table, the blade’s motion can cut the wood into small pieces and send it flying here and there. The flying pieces can hit the user or nearby equipment. The wood is also damaged in such a situation.
Rip Fence: The rip fence helps keep the piece stable while cutting. It is a stable and movable part that guides the piece being fed to the blade. You can adjust the rip fence left to right, and it runs parallel to the blade. When locked in its place, it allows the user to keep the wood piece straight and focus on the blade and wood.
If there is no rip fence, the cuts can get tilted, and you will end up wasting the wood sheet. Some DIY tables use a wooden rip fence. Many users use small nails to hold it down to its place after measuring the table with an inches tape according to the sheet’s size. It is also accurate, but it takes a lot of time to remove the rip fence and then attach it back again every time you have to cut with different measurements.
Rip capacity is the distance between the rip fence and the blade. It determines the maximum size of wood you can cut on a particular table saw. You can increase the rip capacity by adding additional stands with your table or installing an aftermarket fence system. Aftermarket fence systems are a great way to make your tool versatile and increase its usability.
You can also make a DIY rip fence for your table saw. The process is not difficult but involves complex cuts and attention to detail. You will need 2-3 hours, a power drill, and a carbide blade.
Another jig frequently used with a rip fence is a featherboard. It is a safety device used to apply pressure on a work piece and holds it flat against the rip fence and the blade. You can read more about using a featherboard with a table saw here.
Miter Gauge: Miter gauge allows the user to make angled cuts. The angled cuts are known as miter cuts. Miter gauge also rests along the workpiece when you feed the wood to the blade. The miter gauge is located on the left side of the saw blade, and you can slide it up and down in its slot. It allows the user to adjust the angle between 0 to 90 degrees for angled cuts.
Bevel Gauge: A bevel cut is an angled cut made relative to the face of the wood. You can make bevel cuts on edges or the entire side of the plank. The bevel gauge allows you to choose the bevel angle. It is located under the table. The gauge comes with a handle/lever for adjusting the angle and allows the user to tilt the blade.
Blade Height Adjustment Lever: The blade height adjustment lever/wheel allows you to adjust the height of the blade relative to the workpiece on the cutting board. It is usually located above or below the bevel gauge. Blade height adjustment is important as a low blade won’t cut the piece properly, and a too-high blade can cause kickback.
Riving Knife: A riving knife is a safety device that is used to prevent the work piece from entering the path of the blade from its backside. It is an integral part of the safety mechanism of the table saw and is installed at the backside of the blade. The riving knife moves relative to the blade’s position and does not interfere with dust collection and other jigs on the table.
You may need to remove the riving knife for various purposes, such as changing blades, using a zero clearance blade insert on a table saw. However, you can make space for a riving knife in a zero clearance blade plate as well.
Types of Table Saw
There are different types of table saws available in the market. Please note that the basic applications of a table saw remain the same across all the types. Different types have different ripping capacities, motor strength, and other features such as portability and price.
Let’s get to know the different types of table saws.
Benchtop: Benchtop saws are the most commonly used table saws. They are ideal for homeowners and DIYers or small-scale carpenters. Benchtop saws are also known as compact table saws and are highly portable. They have a small ripping capacity compared to other larger models. Benchtop saws are the most budget-friendly saws. They are also the smallest and lightweight.
You can find a high-quality benchtop table saw under $500, provided you know what features you want in it and how it fares compared to other table saws in the same category.
Jobsite: As the name indicates, Jobsite saws are used at a job site by contractors and carpenters. Jobsite saws are an ideal balance between portability and working capacity. They are efficient than benchtop models and are also costly. They have a more powerful motor than benchtop saws and have a large ripping capacity. Most of these saws come with a wheeled stand to make them portable. You can also fold them for easy transportation.
A portable jobsite saw usually starts around $400 and goes up to $1000. You are lucky enough to have a budget of $1000 for a portable table saw because you can find a machine that offers accuracy, speed, power, reliability, and durability at the same time.
Contractor Table Saws: Contractor table saws are heavier models designed to be installed at a shop or a factory. These saws offer high power and large ripping capacity to facilitate the cutting of large sheets. They can handle higher workloads than benchtop and jobsite models without getting heated and vibrating.
Cabinet: Cabinet table saws are designed to handle heavy-duty workloads. They are usually used at large woodworking workshops. Cabinet saws are the most powerful among table saws and have a large ripping capacity, extremely powerful motors, and big working space on the tabletop. Cabinet saws are the most expensive type of table saws.
Hybrid: Hybrid saws are a mix of cabinet saws and job site saws. You get the heavy-duty features of a cabinet saw and the versatility of job site saws. Hybrid saws are very costly and need high-level maintenance.
Mini: Mini table saws are best used for small woodworking crafting projects. They are small in size and have tiny moving parts. You cannot use them to cut large pieces.
Sliding: Sliding table saws have a sliding table and cut large sheets such as plywood, MDF, and other panels. Sliding saws are usually used in European countries and are a variation of cabinet table saws. They are also powerful and stable, like cabinet saws.
Applications of a Table Saw
A table saw may look like a simple and basic machine, but it can do wonders with wood. Let’s check out some of its common applications.
A cross-cut means cutting wood perpendicular to the grain of the wood. It is the most basic cut a beginner woodworker usually learns. You can make cross cuts on any type of saw, but table saws yield the best results and save your time.
A crosscut sled provides accurate and precise crosscuts. It also makes repeated cuts easy, quick and accurate. You can make a crosscut sled for your table saw with the help of your table saw and a couple of tools like a hand saw and a hand plane.
A miter cut is an angled cut. Miter cuts are used to make corners on a piece for attaching it to other pieces. You can also create flushed edges with a miter saw. Table saws enable you to make quick and accurate miter cuts with the help of miter gauges. Table saws make miter cuts super easy and quick.
Ripping refers to the process of cutting large wood sheets into smaller pieces for a particular project. Ripping is usually involved in a majority of woodworking tasks. The table saw’s design and setup provide the user with the best ripping platform. It has all the parts and features that facilitate ripping cuts for an amateur.
You will need special blades for ripping hardwood and softwood for your table saw. Using a purpose-built blade yields the best results and provides a splinter-free smooth cut along the surface of the blade.
You can also use a table saw to cut rabbet cuts. A rabbet cut is an advanced cut performed on a table saw and may need some training or guidance before you can try it. We suggest you don’t perform any tasks without prior knowledge as you will end up wasting wood sheets. A detailed video on how to make rabbet cuts with a table saw is given below.
A dado cut is also a complex cut. It is used to join two pieces together by making grooves. Dado cuts are usually used to provide a slot to hold drawer bottoms or door panels. It is also used in making cabinets. To make dado cuts on a table saw, you will need a dado insert.
Dado blade sets are usually sold in 6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch size. The 6 and 8 inch size is the most common. Most woodworkers use a 10-inch table saw but it doesn’t mean that you need a 10-inch dado blade with a 10-inch table saw. Dado blades are heavy compared to standard blades because they are used in sets. Heavy blades need more power and generate more momentum. Even if you fit a 10-inch dado set on a 10-inch table saw, your motor may not be able to drive it and can get overheated and may stop working at all. So, it is a practical approach to use an 8-inch dado blade set on a 10-inch table saw but the question then comes up; can you use an 8-inch dado blade on 10-inch table saw?
Yes, you can. As long as the arbor hole on the blade matches the size of the arbor nut on the saw, it is perfectly fine to use an 8-inch or a 6-inch dado blade on a 10-inch table saw. The ideal configuration will be to use a smaller dado blade then the size of your saw. You can use a 10-inch dado set on a 12 inch or 14 inch saw but bigger table saws are mostly used in factories by professionals. A homeowner or a small contractor can complete all their jobs on a 10-inch table saw.
A table saw can be used to cut tapers as well. A taper cut is made when you cut wood progressively deeper against the grain of the wood. It is used in furniture (table legs), canopy posts, and to support plywood sheets at your sheet. You need a tapering jig to make taper cuts with your table saw. Click here to read more about how to use a tapering jig on your table saw.
You may have to use your table saw for making long taper cuts. You cannot use a tapering jig to cut long tapers, such as on 48-inch sheets. You can make a DIY jig, but storing such a big jig will be an issue in itself. You can read our guide on how to cut long tapers with a table saw.
Mortise and Tenon Joints
You can use a table saw to make mortise and tenon joints. A mortise and tenon joint is one of the strongest joints in woodworking. It is used to hold timber frame buildings, chairs, tables, doors, cabinets, windows, and tool chests.
A woodworker must know how to make mortise and tenon joints on a table saw because of its effectiveness for woodworkers. They come in handy in various applications.
A French cleat is used to secure a mirror, cabinet, artwork, or any other objects to a wall. It is frequently used for hanging tools on the wall in a workshop. A table saw is regarded as the best tool for making French cleats quickly as you can easily turn the blade to 45-degrees and then make the cuts without any fuss. However, you can use other tools as well for making French cleats. Read our guide on how to make French cleats with or without a table saw?
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you cut dry wall with a table saw?
It may look like a great idea to cut drywall with a table saw because it appears like an MDF sheet. However, drywall consists of compressed gypsum particles that can crumble and get de-shaped when exposed to a fast-moving blade. You can use a razor knife and handheld saws for cutting drywall sheets without any complications.
Can you cut a laminate countertop with a table saw?
Yes. You can use a table saw to cut the laminate countertop with a table saw. However, you will need to take care of a few things to get a smooth and splinter-free finish on your pieces.
How to cut plexiglass with a table saw?
You will need a carbide blade to cut plexiglass with a table saw. Moreover, you cannot cut plexiglass thinner than ¼-inch on a table saw. To know more about how to cut plexiglass with a table saw, click here.
How to make a crown molding with a table saw?
Crown molding is a great way to enhance the aesthetic value of your room and helps hide the joints between the ceiling and wall joints. You can’t make extravagant or too much detailed crown moldings on a table saw. However, a simple DIY crown molding is easy to make with a table saw. You can also use a table saw to cut crown molding to the required sizes.
Can a track saw replace a table saw?
Yes, a track saw can replace a table saw but for only limited applications. Each tool has some advantages and disadvantages over each other. It is best to buy a tool that can be used for multiple applications.
Can I use a table saw instead of a jointer?
Yes. A table saw can be used as a jointer. A jointer is a tool used to flatten warped, bowered, or twisted boards. A jointer is not found in every woodworking setup. But you don’t need to worry, as you can use a table saw instead of a jointer, but you will need to take care of a few things while doing it.
How many watts does a table saw use?
The amount of power a table saw needs to run primarily depends on the motor size. The wattage requirements may fluctuate depending on the blade, material being cut, and some other factors. Click here to read more about a table saw’s wattage requirement.