Tips for using a portable table saw | Pro Construction Guide
Tips for using a portable table saw

Tips for using a portable table saw

portable table saw

Portable table saws can execute rip cuts, crosscuts and miter cuts.

Fitted with the proper blades, a portable table saw can cut its way through a range of building materials, from plywood to particle board to pressure-treated lumber, window and door trim, plastics and non-ferrous metals such as brass and aluminum.

A portable table saw can execute rip cuts, crosscuts and miter cuts, as well as make specialized cuts such as dadoes and rabbets, making them indispensable for general contractors, framers, custom carpenters, cabinet installers, and window and door installers.

But improperly operated, a table saw can just as easily slice off fingers or hurl a piece of wood across the room. That’s why it’s so important to routinely follow safety and maintenance guidelines .

Know your portable table saw

Before using a portable table saw, read the manual for your brand and model of table saw. Make its safety and operational procedures your routine.

Always inspect your saw before use. It must have a rip fence, miter gauge, blade guard, spreader (which keeps the cut from closing and reduces probability of blade-binding or kickback) and anti-kickback device.

Kickback is one of the biggest dangers of operating a table saw. It occurs when the saw blade binds in the cut and violently thrusts the workpiece back toward the operator. To help prevent this, always use the table saw’s spreader and anti-kickback device. The anti-kickback device has a row of teeth (or pawls) that are designed to grab the workpiece. For best results, periodically sharpen the pawls. Never use dull blades or cut wet materials, because both increase the probability of blade-binding and kickback. In addition, never stand directly behind the cut line.

Always use the rip fence; keep the fence parallel to the blade; never tilt the blade or saw table so that workpiece is trapped at an angle between the blade and the fence; and use the miter gauge when crosscutting.

For all through cuts (where material is severed), use the guard. Make sure that the guard returns to its normal position quickly. If not, have the guard adjusted or repaired immediately.

Use the miter guard to make crosscuts and rip fence for rip cuts. Do not use them together. Also, do not attempt to freehand cut with a table saw. This is extremely dangerous.

Plan your work, keep focused and follow these tips to using a portable table saw and you’ll avoid a trip to the emergency room.

Stay safe

  • Kickback prevention – Use a spreader and anti-kickback device. Keep anti-kickback teeth (pawls) sharp.
  • Stay guarded – For all through cuts (where material is severed), use the guard. The guard should only be removed for “non-through” cuts such as rabbets.
  • Blade position – Never start a table saw with a work piece against the blade. The blade should project only 1/8 to ¼ inch higher than the material’s thickness. Never stand directly in line with blade.
  • Proper foundation – A portable table saw must have a secure and stable stand. Don’t position the stand on sloped or soft ground or on loose gravel and stone.
  • Clean environment – Keep the saw table and area around it clear of any debris, tools or other items. When cleaning or adjusting the table saw, turn the saw off and unplug it.
  • Wear proper clothing – Avoid wearing loose clothing, gloves and jewelry. Wear goggles or safety glasses with a side shield. For periods of extended saw use, wear hearing protection. Non-slip footwear is advisable.
  • Push it and stop it – Use a push stick for ripping any stock that would cause you to put your hands within 6 inches of the blade. A push stick should be 12 inches long and have a notch at the end that fits against the piece. Stop blocks are mounted on the fence and prevent the cut-off piece from binding between blade and fence.
  • Hold it down – Use featherboards when the anti-kickback device or guard and splitter can’t be used.
  • Blade basics – Match the blade to the material being cut. Replace dull blades and those with missing teeth, as both can cause kickback. Sap and pitch buildup also increases kickback potential.
  • Examine materials – Inspect materials for warping, knots and other defects, all of which can cause kickback.
  • Large materials – A roller stand provides control for long boards. Place it at the same height and perpendicular to the work piece’s path.
  • Wide and long boards – Large work pieces require special attention. They can cause you to overreach or lose your balance. Have a helper hold the work piece or use an adjustable.


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