How to Use a Table Saw

How to Use a Table Saw

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Table saws are some of the most useful and common tools in the world of woodworking and carpentry. They can complete many types of tasks and come in handy for many things. If you have never used a table saw before, you may be a bit hesitant, a bit intimidated by this large, powerful, and dangerous machine, though.

Today, we are here to explain to you how to use a table saw in a step-by-step manner so that you can get to using your new machine safely and effectively.

How to Use a Table Saw

Let’s get right to it and talk about how to use a table saw safely and properly. We really cannot stress enough how important these following steps are, because in all reality, the table saw is one of the more dangerous types of power saws out there.

Step 1: Take Necessary Safety Precautions

First of all, before you start using a table saw, always make sure that you are wearing adequate PPE. More than anything, this means wearing safety goggles so no wooden chunks or shards injure your eyes. You may also want to wear earplugs to prevent damaging your hearing. The latter becomes all the more important the more frequently you use a table saw.

Next, always tie your hair back if it’s long. Similarly, never wear loose-fitting clothing, particularly around the sleeves. Do not wear gloves as you need to be able to feel what you are doing.

A good bit of caution is called for.

Step 2: Familiarize Yourself with Your Table Saw

If you have never used a table saw before, something you will want to do before using it is to familiarize yourself with all of the components. The most important parts or components for you to be know include the table, the fence, the fence dog, the blade, the blade insert, the blade height adjustment wheel, the blade angle adjustment lever, and the power button.

Do not start using a table saw until you know exactly what each and every single one of those components is and how they work.

Both your safety and the quality of your work depend on it.

Table Saw

Step 3: Know the Three Main Cuts a Table Saw Can Do

The other thing that you need to do before you start using a table saw is to know what types of cuts this machine can make and what they are generally used for.

The first type of cut a table saw can make is a cross cut, which is generally considered to be any cut across the grain of the wood, but realistically can be any cut across the narrow part of a board. This cut may be made at a 90-degree angle, or at other angles too.

Another type of cut that a table saw can make is a rip cut, which is the exact opposite of a cross cut. This is when you cut a board down its length.

Finally, the third type of cut a table saw can make is a dado or groove cut, which can be lengthwise or across the width. Here, the blade makes a groove or indent in the wood but does not pass all the way through it.

Step 4: Adjust the Blade Height

Now that you are familiar with table saws and their uses, it is time to start getting to the meat and potatoes of it all. First off, you will need to adjust the height of the blade to suit your task. There are two ways to go about this.

The first way is to adjust the blade height so that the blade protrudes from the workpiece minimally, no more than 1/8-inch. This is the safe way to do it because if your fingers slip, the blade doesn’t come out of the wood enough to cause very serious damage.

The other method of setting the blade height is to have the blade protrude substantially from the workpiece, by as much as a full inch or more. Although this method is absolutely more dangerous than the first method, it does produce a cleaner cut with fewer burrs and less shredding occurring.

As a beginner, we would recommend going with the first method, the safe method. Use the lever or wheel to set the blade height to the desired level.

Step 5: Adjust the Fence Relative to the Blade

If you are making rip or dado cuts, something you will need to do is to adjust the position of the fence relative to the blade. Keep in mind that there is a lever or switch that can be used to loosen and move the fence side to side (exactly how this is done will depend on the table saw in question).

The point here is that, for instance, if you are ripping a 4-inch wide board down to 2 inches, you will need to set the fence at 2 inches from the blade. This will allow for a very precise cut, or in other words, it will turn that 4-inch board into two 2-inch boards.

An important note here is that if you are making cross cuts, you may not really need to use the fence, or be able to, but if you can do so, we would recommend it, as it does provide for a more accurate cut.

Step 6: Attach the Right Blade and Insert

Something else that is really important for you to be familiar with when it comes to table saws are the blades and inserts. Of course, the blades are blades, and the inserts are where the blade passes through from the bottom of the table. Now, we aren’t going to go too in depth here, as this section qualifies for a full-length article of its own, so you may want to do some more research on this front.

That said, there are generally three types of inserts to go with, which include stock inserts, zero-clearance inserts, and dado inserts. Once you have the right one for your application, all you need to do is lift the existing insert out and replace it with the appropriate one.

Next, just like with inserts, there are a few different types of blades to go with, and which one you use will depend on the task at hand. To change the blade, first, take out the insert, then hold a piece of wood against the teeth of the blade to stop the blade from moving, then use a wrench to loosen the blade. Remove the old blade and replace it with the desired one.

Table Saw Insert and Blade

Step 7: Make Your Cut

Now that you know everything there is to know about these awesome machines, the only thing left to do is to make your cuts.

To make a cross cut, measure first, and use a marking tool to mark a line on the board where the cut will be. Then, set the miter gauge or sled in the appropriate position, and adjust the blade to the right height. Rest the end of the board against the sled or miter gauge. Turn the saw on and slide the board through the blade, making sure to keep your hands clear of the blade, and ensuring that you do not turn the saw off before the cut is complete and the wood is clear of the blade.

To make a rip cut, measure and mark the board, set the fence to the appropriate position, and adjust the blade height as needed. Just like with a cross cut, turn the saw on, pass the wood through the blade, and don’t turn the saw off until the cut is complete. Rip cuts are a bit more dangerous than cross cuts, so you may want to use a push stick for this.

Cutting with a Table Saw

The Basics of Table Saw Safety

To keep you safe, let’s go over some important safety tips, just so you don’t lose a finger or an eye:

  • Never wear gloves. You need to feel what you are doing.
  • Never wear loose-fitting clothing, particularly on your upper body or torso.
  • If you have long hair, tie it back and up to keep it out of the way.
  • Always wear safety goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Never turn the saw on or off while the blade is in contact with wood.
  • Never put your hands in line with the blade while it is in motion.
  • Never use the miter gauge and the fence at the same time.
  • Always fully retract the blade once you are done, just so there is nothing sharp exposed.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

A good piece of table saw etiquette is to always clean up after yourself, preferably after every cut. You don’t want scrap wood pieces and measuring tools in your way, or even worse, bouncing around and causing issues. Also, if you are using push blocks and push sticks, try not to saw them. Of course, it’s better to saw them than your hands. However, if you are sawing your push sticks, you either aren’t using the right one or you are using it wrong.

You might also want to learn about all the different table saw accessories that exist to make your work easier and safer.

Finally, before you start, if you are using old wood or recycled materials, make sure that there is no metal or other such materials present in the wood. Metal and regular table saw blades do not mix well at all.


There you have it, folks, everything you need to know about using a table saw properly, effectively, and safely.

Once again, remember that these are dangerous machines, so you do need to be cautious and attentive at all times.