Tips for choosing and using a table saw | Pro Construction Guide
Table saws

Tips for choosing and using a table saw

using a table saw

With the right blade, a table saw can easily slice through wood, plywood, particle board and laminates.

When using a table saw, keep in mind that you can use it to make cross cuts, bevel cuts, miter cuts and rip cuts. You can use it to route molding and make joints — butt, finger, tongue and groove, to name a few.

Using a table saw with the appropriate blade, you can cut wood, plywood, particle board and laminates with ease.

A table saw is designed to provide smooth, accurate cuts. The cast aluminum or iron “table top” provides a level work surface. For accurate rip cuts, it has an adjustable rip fence that clamps to the table top and keeps the piece parallel to the blade.

The saw also has a miter-gauge that resembles a protractor. It can be set at angles ranging from 30 to 90 degrees and usually has two pre-set stops at 45 and 90 degrees.

Every table saw has two hand-wheel controls; one adjusts blade height and the other tilts the blade for bevel cuts (from 0 to 45 degrees). A table saw also has a removable metal plate called a throat plate with a blade slot. It sits flush with the tabletop and provides blade and arbor access.

To protect against injury when using a table saw, there is a blade guard with three important safety features: a blade shroud, a splitter and an anti-kickback device. The splitter keeps the piece from closing around the cut and binding the blade. The anti-kickback device has teeth (or prowls) to prevent a binding piece from being thrown.

Table saws come in four configurations categorized by their table size, weight, motor size and voltage requirements. For the job site, the options are a portable/bench top or a contractor table saw.

  • Portable/bench top models are the smallest and lightest. They typically weigh from 40 to 150 pounds and have a 20-inch by 32-inch tabletop. Portable models use 13- to 15-amp motors, use 10-inch blades and operate on standard 120-volt electrical service.
  • By comparison, a fixed-leg contractor table saw typically weighs 200 to 300 pounds and requires two people to move it. It has a 27-inch by 40-inch tabletop when extension wings are used. Contractor models have 1.5- to 2-horsepower motors, use 10-inch blades and operate on standard 120-volt electrical service.

Some new portable models, such as DeWalt’s DW744XRS, includes a DW744 full-size portable saw and a lightweight “rolling” table stand, which fastens to the saw. Equipped with heavy-duty wheels, the stand allows the saw to be stored and transported upright (for easy movement).

RIDGID’s TS2410LS also features a mobile stand, as well as several other contractor-friendly features, including a soft-start 15-amp motor that reduces breaker tripping and a T-slot miter-gauge for improved cross-cut accuracy. It has a rip capacity of 25 inches to the left of the blade and 12 inches to the right.

However, even the heaviest portable unit is at a disadvantage when compared to a contractor saw’s ripping capability. For example, the RIDGID 10-inch 1.5-hp TS3660 has a rip capacity of 36 inches left of the blade. The Herc-U-Lift mobile base provides portability around the worksite and it has an enclosed motor to keep sawdust and debris out, and cast-iron table extensions with a clamping surface for easy jig and featherboard clamping.

For a shop, consider a cabinet table saw or hybrid

Cabinet saws are the most powerful and provide the greatest tabletop capacity. They have enclosed motors rated from 3 to 5 horsepower, depending on the brand and model. They weigh more than 600 pounds and require 230-volt electrical service.

With all that power, they provide superior ripping capacity. For example, Delta’s model 36-L51X-BC-50 has a rip capacity to 50 inches left of the blade. The 5-hp model has a 46-inch x 27-inch table, and the work area expands to 84 inches x 27 inches with extension wings.

Tool manufacturers have introduced hybrid saws for those who want more performance than a contractor saw without the cost and weight of a cabinet saw. Hybrids feature smaller enclosed motors (1.5 to 1.75 hp), operate on a 110-volt electrical service and weigh one-third to one-half that of a cabinet saw.

However, they also have a smaller tabletop and extension surface — 54 inches x 27 inches is typical — which limits ripping capacity to 30 inches or less. Whether you work on the jobsite or in a shop, there’s a saw for you.

How to accessorize

Accessorize to improve ease of use when using a table saw. Contractor, hybrid and cabinet models can be outfitted with aftermarket accessories. Here are some to consider.

  • Ease-of-use – To control out feed from ripping long boards, select a table saw roller stand or out-feed table. To support wider boards, attach table extensions. They can be folded down when not in use. Also consider adding a T-square rip fence for increased ripping capacity.
  • Dados and routers – Dado blades are used to create interlocking joints. Two types are available—stacked and wobble. Stacked dado blades sandwich one to five chipper blades between a pair of carbon-tipped blades. Wobble blades come in single- and double-variations and have an adjustable center hub to set the cut width. Essentially, they cut the groove by “wobbling” back and forth. Molding heads turn a table saw into a router. Attach profile cutters to create specific molding shapes such as cloverleaf and drop-leaf.

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