Table Saw Cutting Techniques

Last Updated on May 2, 2023 by Barry Gray

Most woodworking-related jobs and applications revolve around a practical tool: the table saw. So, it’s one thing to have the tool (regardless of the price and performance). And it’s another thing to know table saw cutting techniques.

Why do you need that?

Well, let’s say that the technique is the thin line between finishing a project with precise cuts and having challenges halfway into your job. In other words, it’s crucial to use the correct methods when it comes to table saws—because it determines your final result.

If you’re clueless about the correct technique to use for your device, don’t worry.

In this article, I’ll show different practical methods to help you get the most out of your table saw. 

Are you ready? Then let’s dive in.

10 Table Saw Techniques

Here are ten table saw techniques that will help you use your table saw like a pro.

1. Featherboard

Do you find it challenging to keep your workpiece steady and aligned with your table saw fence? Then the featherboard is for you. Using the featherboard ensures one result: straight and smooth cuts.

How? The featherboard has a range of fingers that can hold your piece of lumber tightly against your table saw fence.

Additionally, these fingers are pretty flexible and angled. So, it allows you to maintain enough pressure while pushing your workpiece through the saw.

Also, the featherboard serves as a safety device. That is, it protects you from kickback while keeping the board flat on the table’s surface. That way, it keeps you safe from possible injuries. 

The best part is, they are easy to make. So, you can make yours by getting a piece of wood that’s knot-free and about 2 feet long. 

After that, cut one of the pieces of wood at 45 degrees. Then, make a range of 4-inch fingers—at each 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch. While you’re at it, remember to make the fingers slightly flexible. You can do this by making them thin enough.

2. Plywood Straight Edge for Board Trimming

This technique gives you the flat board of your dreams. Most times, when you get wood from the lumberyard, it’s hardly straight and smooth. Sometimes, you may even get a rough piece of raw lumber or a half-finished workpiece.

But that shouldn’t be a problem since the plywood straight edge technology allows you to clean up rough edges efficiently and in record time.

How? Well, it’s easy. All you have to do is attach your crooked board to a straight strip of plywood with a screw. 

So, to straighten out the board, you need to run it through your table saw and ensure the plywood is tight against the fence. The result? A board with smooth and straight sides and edges.

This technique is pretty easy to learn because you only need some screws and a straight strip of plywood.

3. Stable Plywood Base

If the base of your table saw is too narrow, and you need to widen it, then this technique is for you. After all, stability is vital when you’re using a table saw. 

In reality, it’s almost impossible to get accurate and clean cuts if the base of your saw is unstable. Fortunately, you can fix the issue by using a stable plywood base.

With the plywood, you can widen the base of your table saw—which increases its stability compared to the original base. Additionally, you can easily attach it to your sawhorses, benchtops, and many other places where you plan to set your saw.

Also, screwing in a plywood base increases your saw’s height which boosts your working experience.

How do you make a stable plywood base? First, get a 3/4-inch plywood base (make sure it’s a couple of inches longer and wider than your table saw’s base) and cut a 1 square feet hole in its center. The hole allows you to clamp or screw your saw to sawhorses.

Second, drill the mounting holes (1/8-inches). Then, turn the base over and make some 1-inch diameter holes for the carriage bolt heads.

Furthermore, the hole in the base’s center sends the sawdust downwards and keeps your machine as cool as possible.

4. The Fence on The Miter Gauge

The problem with most miter gauges is the sporting of a narrow width. As a result, the support it offers is often inadequate whenever you’re crosscutting. Luckily, there is a solution to this problem—which is the fence on miter gauge technique. 

This technique involves screwing a wooden fence to your miter gauge for firmer support. To do this, you can take a straight 1 x 4 or 1 x 3. 

Then, ensure that it’s tall enough to avoid being cut off by the saw blade. After that, it will be pretty easy to add a stop block for multiple cuts. Plus, you can also change the angle of the gauge to use miter cuts.

While you’re at it, ensure that you check the accuracy of your miter gauge before making any cuts.

Further, for your safety, ensure that you push the fence and the workpiece past the spinning blade entirely. That way, you’ll avoid binding and kickbacks. Additionally, it’s crucial to put off the machine before you change the position of the fence and remove your newly cut workpiece.

5. A Long Fence for LongBoards

It’s not easy to keep a longboard or a full sheet of plywood tight against a short fence, especially if you’re a seasoned DIYer that works alone.  And it’s because the wood you’re working with may move away from your fence. If this happens, it may result in terrible cuts and burn marks on the wood’s edge.

Thankfully, you can quickly fix this problem with the long fence for longboards technique. All you have to do is clamp a long and straight board to your fence. With that, you’ll get a perfect fit for your longboard.

Also, it’s vital to note that the longer your fences are, the easier it is to keep pressing the wood tightly against it for clean and precise cuts.

6. The Push Sticks

No doubt, safety is essential when using a table saw. Plus, I’ve seen cases where woodworkers had to stop applications halfway because they got dangerously close to the spinning saw blade. So, it’s ideal to use push sticks to avoid severe injuries as you work with the device.

That said, these tools have a notched design that allows you to hook the ends of the board and push it to the blade while maintaining a firm grip. With this technique, you can get complete proper cuts while keeping your hands at a safe distance away from the blade.

What kind of sticks should you use? It would help if you had two different styles of sticks. The first one can be broad and flat style—while the other stick can be long and narrow. You can use broad sticks when you’re handling wide and heavy boards.

Also, narrow sticks are ideal for running light and small boards. You can also use them together to apply more pressure to keep your board stable while making your cuts.

7. Simple Outfeed Support

Many woodworkers find it tricky to cut the last couple of feet of a longboard without a helper or support at the other end. The next best alternative is the roller support, but that option is quite expensive. So, that’s where the simple outfeed support comes in. This simple technique will prevent your longboard from getting stuck while you slide it onto the mount.

The best part is, constructing one is not rocket science. First off, you have to clamp two 8 feet long (2 x 4) pieces to your saw’s table. Second, cantilever the pieces to about 5 feet over the outfeed. Then, you can clamp the 1/4-inch plywood to the underside of the 2 x 4s.

Note that this technique only works for large table saws with support for heavy steel or iron cast tables. Lighter tables may not have the capacity to handle the weight and would bend over or tip. Thus, making the saw unstable and unusable.

So, if you need a less expensive way to complete cutting your longboards, building simple outfeed support for your table saw will do the trick.

8. Half-Fence for Complicated Grain

Pieces of lumber with knots or unevenly dried lumber almost always wrap when you’re ripping it. As a result, when the halves of the wood are bending outward, one of the halves will push against the fence and give you an uneven cut. Therefore, it results in a kickback and burn marks as well.

If you experience this while you work, the good news is: there’s an easy solution. You can start by clamping a straight board (3/4-inches) against the fence. While you’re at it, ensure that your board ends at the center of the blade.

When you do this, it creates a half fence for the complicated grain. Hence, it gives the stuck piece more space to bend. That way, it prevents a kickback when placed on the blade.

9. Cut-Off Block

Kickback is very dangerous to table saw operators. And this issue results when you use your table saw to make crosscuts directly against the fence.

You may experience a kickback if a part of your board between the fence gets a pinch from the blade. When this happens, the blade will catch the board and throw it back at you. This issue results in severe injuries.

Thankfully, there are ways you can prevent this and protect yourself. One of them is using a single block. You can start by cutting and attaching a wooden block to the rip fence. In the process, ensure that the fence is not so close to your saw.

That said, the distance should depend on the thickness of your block and the length of your cut. While you’re at it, ensure that you clamp the block correctly—so it doesn’t come in contact with the wood you’re handling.

No doubt, this cross cutting technique is sure to prevent your workpiece from getting pinched between the fence and the blade. But, it’s essential to avoid making cuts that would bind against the blade.

10. A Sliding Jig

Moving the fence or removing the blade guard for every cut can be stressful—especially when you want a range of narrow and identical strips. The good thing is you don’t have to go through that strain. All you need is a thin strip of wood that’s slimmer than the width of the rip cut till the end of 4 feet (1 x 6).

With this strip of wood, you can secure your workpiece against it while you push the jig through the saw. Plus, the jig will ensure that your fingers are far from the blade. Also, it allows you to rip wood pieces without adjusting the fence.

6 Table Saw Tips and Tricks

As a bonus, here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your table saw

Tip 1: Create A Fast Zero-Clearance Tabletop

You don’t need to make a new zero-clearance tabletop as a replacement for the throat-plate insert of your table saw. All you need to do is create a temporary one in a few seconds.

So, when you want to cut, mount a piece of hardboard (1/4-inch) on the top of your table saw. You can use cloth-backed clamps or double-face tape to mount the hardboard.

After this, hold the hardboard down with another scrap. Then, slowly raise the saw blade to cut through the hardboard for the cutting height. Finally, you can set the distance from the rip fence.

Tip 2: Don’t Have a Dado Set? Don’t Worry

If you don’t have a dado set, or you need to make a dado bigger than your set can handle, there’s a way to go about it. All you need is a double stop—a two-step stop that defines a dado, so you can use this to make wide cuts. The key to this trick is the distance between the ends of the stops. 

So, when you make the first cut by setting the stock against one stop, change the position again and put it against the second stop for the second cut. If you’re particular about an accurate jig, create a dust relief with a plywood spacer (1/4-inch) to slightly offset the base of the fixture.

Tip 3: Keep Your Blade Clean and Rust Free

Most table saws come with cast iron tabletops. And they tend to endure heavy loads. Plus, they prevent corrosion and rust in most cases. 

However, there are still some aluminum or steel tabletops on the market. Thus, you’ll have to maintain the tabletops properly to prevent rust and grime. 

So, if you’re cleaning a cast-iron tabletop, use rust protective grease. On the other hand, use only wax once a month when cleaning steel or aluminum tables.

Tip 4: Keep the Table Top Clutter-Free

Woodworking is a lot of work, and it always leaves a mess everywhere around the work area. 

So, you should always expect a lot of debris, chips, and sawdust that can quickly become obstacles on the job. Despite this challenge, you must keep your tabletop clear if you want to operate your table saw without any hindrances.

Therefore, you must remember to always clear your table after and before any job. Also, you can invest in a small vacuum cleaner to help clean up the smaller particles.

Tip 5: Opt for the Right Blade

The blade of your table saw plays a significant role. So, it’s no surprise that a bad blade can ruin your projects with terrible cuts—regardless of how well you maintained the machine or how great the table saw performs.

In summary, you should purchase the right blade (with good quality) for your table saw as it helps you get the most out of your device.

Tip 6: Find the Perfect Position

Placing your table saw on an uneven floor always ends up badly. Asides from getting poor stability, your machine could easily tip over. So, to avoid ruining your project, it’s best to find the perfect spot for your table saw and mark the location with spray paint.

That way, you can always move your table saw and take it back to the correct location without worries. Plus, it gives you a perfect footprint.

Final Words

Woodworking is a messy and dangerous job, but it’s satisfying once you get it right. And the table saw is a primary go-to for professionals and DIYers alike. That said, getting the right tool is essential. But, learning how to use it is even more critical.

So, that’s why I highlighted table saw cutting techniques and tips in this article. With this, you can rest assured that you’ll take your table saw experience to the next level while staying safe.

Well, that wraps it up!

What do you think about the techniques I mentioned? Have you tried any, or did I miss your favorite technique? Please feel free to reach out in the comments section with your suggestions.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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