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Table Saw Tips for Everyone Table Saw Tips for Everyone

Table Saw Tips for the Beginner or Expert Woodworker

There’s nothing better than the smell of fresh-cut lumber accompanied by the low-pitched whir of a blade and sawdust all over the place. You guessed it! We’re talking about how to use a table saw. Table saws are highly accurate and versatile, and they have many safety features included, such as blade covers and riving knives so they’re safe and easy to use—as long as you follow a few simple rules. Whether you’re a beginner or expert, review these table saw tips before you begin your next project.

10 Quick Safety Tips


First and foremost, while table saws are perfectly safe if used properly, things can go badly if safety isn’t your number one priority. Whether you're a beginner or an expert woodworker, we all need to be reminded once in a while of the 10 essential safety tips.

  1. The first tip is simple, yet so important. Read the entire instruction manual for your table saw before you use it.
  2. Use a riving knife. It is by far the most important safety feature of a table saw. It prevents the risk of a board having “kickback”, where it can get caught and go flying back at you at upwards of 100 mph. Ouch!
  3. Wear basic safety glasses and hearing protection for the safety of your eyes and ears. Wear a dust mask to protect your lungs too.
  4. Don’t wear loose-fitting clothing. Short sleeves are best, but if you’re wearing long sleeves, make sure the sleeves are fitted and the cuffs are secure.
  5. Keep long hair secured back and wear a sweatband to keep sweat out of your eyes.
  6. Have a clean work area. Ensure the floor is clear of any potential tripping hazards, and that it’s slip-proof too. You want a dry, clean, and clear floor. 
  7. Have all your supplies laid out and readily available for when you need them, so you’re not fumbling around looking for supplies while working with a table saw.
  8. Don’t rush! Make a plan for your project, follow it, and take your time.
  9. Make sure you're alert, not tired! Fatigue can lead to dangerous mistakes.
  10. Trust your instincts! If you're about to cut, and your positioning doesn’t feel stable, pause and change how you're cutting the board.

Parts of a Table Saw


Let’s look at the parts of a table saw, so you know how your machine operates. Remember to read the manual for your particular model.

  • Motor- A table saw has an electric motor that spins a blade.
  • Blade- The blade is held on to a post or arbor with a nut, with the teeth of the blade facing toward the user or the front of the table. Make sure the blade is installed correctly. Never turn the blade around in the other direction.
  • Riving Knife- The riving knife fits just behind the blade and prevents wood from touching the rear of the blade, which is what causes kickback.
  • Cranks- The blade can be adjusted to a higher or lower setting with a crank. You can also tilt the blade with another crank for bevel cuts.
  • Extension Table- Many table saws come with extension tables on either side of the blade itself.
  • Blade Guard- A blade guard comes with all table saws. It prevents you from accidentally running your hand over the blade and keeps wood from falling on the blade while you’re cutting.
  • Insert Plate- This piece fits over the blade and creates a narrower slot for the blade. It should lay flush with the surface of the table.
  • Rip Fence- This is a metal bar that aligns the wood as you cut. It's parallel to the blade.
  • Anti-Kickback Pawl- This is an optional, additional safety device that also prevents kickback.
  • Dust Port- The dust port is located on the back of the table. Many models are designed to connect directly to a shop vac.
  • Miter Slots & Gauge- The grooves on either side of the blade are the miter slots, which the miter gauge fits into. The gauge keeps your lumber stable while making crosscuts at the angle you need.

10 Tips for General Use of a Table Saw


Beyond measuring twice and cutting once, let’s look at some more tips for the general use of your table saw.

  1. Before you cut, use a square to make sure your blade is secure, but not too tight, and that it’s at a 90-degree angle to the table.
  2. A “rip cut” is made with the grain of the wood. When making a rip cut, make sure the rip fence and the saw blade are parallel. To do this, use a push stick and look at the rip fence and not the rip cut, while you are cutting. Make sure your board stays flat against the rip fence giving you a clean, even cut.  
  3. A “cross-cut” is made across or perpendicular to the wood grain. Often cross cuts involve cutting across a long piece of wood. Use a miter gauge when making cross-cuts.
  4. Always use a push stick or the miter gauge rather than making a “free-hand” cut, and ensure your wood is at a 90-degree angle to the blade.
  5. Stand to the side of the blade, rather than directly behind it, so if kickback does occur, you will not be in the path of the wood.
  6. Remember to always cut on the outside of the measurement to account for the thickness of the blade. You don’t want a slightly shorter board. Yes, 1/8th of an inch matters.
  7. Don’t reach over a moving blade.
  8. When changing the blade, unplug or remove the battery. If you need to stop for any reason, always remember to turn off your table saw when you’re not using it.
  9. If using repurposed wood, make sure there are no leftover fasteners in the wood that could cause kickback.
  10. Adjust the height of the blade to the level where the teeth clear the top of the board. In general, this is an ideal height for a blade.  

Keep these tips in mind for safety and general use, and you will be on your way to building a deer blind or deck over your patio in no time. For your next woodworking project, come see us at McCoy’s, and we can help you select a table saw and lumber to fit your needs!