If there is one single tool that every woodworking shop should be centered around, that’s definitely the table saw. The prices for this invaluable tool range dramatically, from $100 for a simple, portable model, to thousands of dollars for the expert shop saws. Most people will do the shopping on the cheaper side of that scale, getting a table saw with limited features and power.
Fortunately, that won’t hinder your work – we’re here to give you some handy tips and techniques that will assist you in getting the most out of your new tool.
#1 – Featherboard
When it’s difficult to keep your workpiece adequately aligned with the fence, you can pull out your featherboard and finally have straight and smooth cuts. A featherboard has a range of “fingers” that are capable of tightly holding the board against the fence.
These “fingers” are flexible and angled, therefore letting the user push his workpiece through while at the same time maintaining enough pressure. They can also hold the board in place in case it starts to kick back, making them a great safety measure that will save you from possible injuries.
You can make your own featherboard from a piece of wood that’s 2 feet long and knot-free. Just cut one end of it at 45 degrees and add a range of 4″ fingers at every 1/8″ to 1/4″. They need to be thin enough to be slightly flexible.
#2 – Fence on the Miter Gauge
Most miter gauges sport a narrow width, and this offers inadequate support to the person who is doing the crosscutting. To get better support, one can simply screw a wooden fence to his miter gauge.
Take a straight 1x4 or 1x3 and make it tall enough to prevent the blade from cutting it off. After that, it will be quite easy to add a stop block (for the multiple cuts) or change the angle (to utilize miter cuts). Don’t forget to always check your miter gauge’s accuracy before you start to make the cuts.
And to avoid kickbacks and binding, make sure to push the fence and the workpiece entirely past the spinning blade. Always turn off the machine before you pull the fence back and dispose of the newly cut items.
#3 – Plywood Straight Edge for the Board Trimming
We all know that the pieces of wood coming from the lumberyard aren’t exactly smooth and straight. Fortunately, cleaning up their rough edges doesn’t have to be challenging.
Straightening out a crooked board can be done by screwing it onto a straight strip of plywood, and then running it through your saw with the plywood pushed against the fence. The result is a board with a smooth and straight side.
#4 – A Long Fence for the Long Boards
Keeping a full sheet of plywood or a long board tight against the not-so-long fence can be very difficult, especially for the DIY enthusiasts who work alone. The wood can easily wander off the fence, which leads to ruined cuts and burned marks along the edge.
Fortunately, one can easily avoid this issue – just clamp a straight and long board to your fence. The longer your fence is, the easier it will be to keep the wood tightly against it.
#5 – Stable Plywood Base
The plywood is capable of widening the base and making your new machine far more stable. Additionally, one can quickly screw it down to benchtops, sawhorses, and all other places where you want to set your saw. Attaching a plywood base is a “must do” for all those that purchase a new portable saw, especially for those not intending to use the leg set.
It should be a simple 3/4″ base with a hole in its center, allowing you to screw or clamp your machine to sawhorses. It provides the operator with a broad foundation and thus adds some extra stability. It also raises the device off the ground and gives the user a comfortable working height, while the hole in the center allows the sawdust to fall down and keeps your saw as cool as possible. Adding a few holes on one side of the base will let you hang it on the hooks that you probably have on the walls of your workshop – storing it away is as simple as possible.
Cut the plywood base just a couple of inches longer and wider than your saw’s base, and then cut a hole in its center (1 square feet). After that, you’ll have to center your machine on the plywood and carefully mark the places for the mounting holes, and then drill them (1/8″). Flip the base over and add 1″ dia. holes (let them be 1/4″ deep) in order to recess the carriage bolt heads.
After that, you can puncture some holes in the center of these recesses and place the carriage bolts. Finally, you can fasten the saw to your new plywood base with nuts and washers.
#6 – The Push Sticks
When you notice that your hands are starting to get pretty close to the spinning blade, it’s probably the time to use the push sticks. These things are notched so that they can hook the board’s end, allowing you to push it to the saw while still holding it firmly. The push sticks let the table saw operator complete proper cuts while keeping his fingers away from the dangerous blade.
A wise decision would be to keep two styles of sticks at hand – one long and narrow and other broad and flat. The first one can be used for boards that are light and small, and the second one for the wide and heavy boards.
#7 – Half-Fence for Complicated Grain
Unevenly dried wood or wood with knots will usually warp badly when it’s getting ripped. If its halves are bending outward, one of the halves will push against your fence and quickly cause an uneven cut, kickback, as well as the burn marks.
If you notice this happening, you can clamp a straight 3/4″ board against the fence in a way that it ends at the center of the blade. This half-fence will give the trapped piece some room to bend, but at the same time preventing it from getting pushed back against the blade.
#8 – Simple Outfeed Support
Trying to cut the last couple of feet of a long board can be next to impossible without support on the other end or without a helper. In such cases, one can use a roller support, but those things are quite expensive – that’s where we come to a temporary outfeed support. This will prevent the boards from getting stuck while they’re being slid onto the support.
To construct one, you’ll have to clamp two 2x4s (8 feet long) to your saw table, and then cantilever them some 5 feet over the outfeed side. After that, you just have to clamp the 1/4″ plywood to the 2x4s underside.
An important thing to keep in mind here is that this can only work with the large table saws that sport iron or heavy-steel tables. It can easily cause the lighter table saws to bend or tip.
#9 – A Sliding Jig
To make a range of narrow, identical strips, one doesn’t have to move his fence for every cut or remove the blade guard. One only has to attach a strip of wood that’s thinner than the rip cut’s width to the end of 1x6 (4 feet).
With it, you’ll be able to hold your workpiece against it while pushing the jig through. The jig will keep your fingers away from the blade but also allow you to rip some pieces without the need to move the fence.
#10 – Cut-Off Block
Have you ever heard of the term “kickback“? It’s something that occurs when the user of the table saw crosscuts directly against the fence. It happens when the area of the board that’s between the blade and the fence gets pinched, allowing the blade to catch it and throw it back at the user – it’s hazardous and can leave you with a severe injury.
Fortunately, it can be prevented with a simple block. Cut and attach the block to the rip fence and then place the fence at a proper distance from your blade (the thickness of the block plus the length of your cut). You’ll have to clamp the block in a way that the piece of wood you’re working on doesn’t come into contact with it.
This crosscutting technique will prevent your workpiece from getting stuck between the spinning blade and the fence. Don’t forget to avoid cuts that bind against the blade and you won’t have to worry about getting injured.
With these tips and techniques in mind, we can guarantee you that your DIY sessions will be far less challenging and a lot more productive. Stay safe and good luck with your woodworking projects!