How to use a Table Saw: Everything you need to know

If you have just bought a table saw, the first time to use it can make you feel nervous. The spinning blade is quite frightening so it’s imperative to learn how to use it properly.

The purpose of this guide is to help you maximise the use of the table saw without compromising on your safety. You will learn how to make a wide range of cuts, accurately and effortlessly.

Safety Precaution:

Before getting into details, it is important to emphasise the importance of your safety. The table saw is a dangerous tool and failure to observe the necessary precautions can lead to serious injuries. It is important to always wear safety gear like safety glasses, ear plugs, gloves, and anti-slip shoes. You should always have your full attention on the work piece and the saw to avoid unnecessary injuries.

Understanding Different Types of Cuts

The table saw can perform 3 different types of cuts, namely:

  • Cross cut: This is a cut across the grain and to be able to do that you will need to use a sled or a miter gauge with the table saw.
  • Rip Cut: To make a rip cut, you will need to go down the length of the stock. For ripping cuts, you will need to have a fence.
  • Dadoes: The dado cut is ideal for joints and this is a trench cut or a wide cut. There are special blades that will have to be used to be able to produce the dado cuts.

Besides these main cuts, the table saw can be used in making angled cuts. You need the right accessories, like the miter gauge to achieve angled cuts.

Blade Height Adjustment

There are two options when it comes to setting the blade height. The first is to have the blade slightly higher than the material that is being cut. The recommended height is about 1/8 inch and this is considered to be a safety procedure. The other option is to have the blade much higher than the top of the work piece. While this will reduce tear outs, it is quite dangerous.

Fence Adjustment

The fence is an essential accessory to use with the table saw. With its help you can accurately cut stock lengthwise. The fence mechanism has a lever on the front to control it and make the relevant adjustments. You will need to lift the lever and this allows the fence to slide, side to side. The next step will be to raise the blade so that you can measure it. In some cases, the fence may not stay square to the blade and the best way to deal with this is to measure and mark both the front and back side of the blade.

Process of Making the Cuts

The very basic cuts that you will make with the table saw are rip cuts and cross cuts.

  • Rip Cuts

In order to make rip cuts, you will need to have a fence and adjust it accordingly. The blade height also needs to be set as explained above. With that in place, you can turn the saw on and have the board against the fence. Do not use too much force when putting the board on the fence as this will make it inaccurate and the fence may also be spring loaded. You should start at low speed and smoothly, push the work piece through the blade steadily. This should be able to give you quality rip cuts. Remove the scrap wood cautiously and then turn off the saw.

  • Cross Cuts

For crosscuts, you need to have a sled or miter gauge to make the measurements and markings. One thing you need to take note of is that you cannot use the fence and the miter gauge at the same time, as this is quite dangerous and causes binding. Start by setting the desired length to be cut, using your measuring tool and then line the mark up using your eyes. Set the height of the blade accordingly.

Once all that is done, turn on the saw and ensure that the work piece is secured to the miter gauge. Push the wood through the blade in a smooth and slow manner. As soon as your work piece has been cut, you should turn off the table saw and then clear the loose materials around the blade.

Change Blades and Inserts

In learning how to change the blade and the inserts, it is important to note that there are different inserts you can use. The main ones are:

  • Standard Inserts: Ordinarily, this comes with the table saw and can be used for both cross cutting and ripping. This needs to be used for the cuts that need a lower blade angle and ensure that the waste material is large enough.
  • Zero Clearance Inserts: If you want to make vertical cross cuts or rip cuts, the zero clearance is the ideal insert. This is for the thin waste material and cannot be used in cases when the blade angle needs to be altered.
  • Wide Gap Inserts: The wide gap cuts are recommended for the use with dado blades. This is ideal for trenching cuts. When using the wide gap inserts, you need to take note of the fact that the dado blades are not very long and as such, the blade height should not be set too high. When using these inserts, set the blade height and then using your hands to spin the blade manually so as to ensure they are clear.


  • Changing the Blade

When it comes to the process of changing the blade, you should raise the blade height. This will make it easier to remove the insert. The next step is to hold a piece of scrap wood against the blade’s teeth and use a wrench to loosen the arbor. The purpose of the scrap wood is to ensure that the teeth bite in and prevent the blade from spinning. Next, remove the nut that holds the blade while being careful so that it does not drop in the dust collection port.

Take out the old blade, place the new one and tighten the nut by hand to make it snug. Do not tighten it up very much, as most table saws have an automatic mechanism to tighten the blade when it is turned on. The last bit will be to replace the insert and you can resume working.


There are some maintenance issues that you will need to carry out, so as to keep the table saw working as required. You should make it a habit to check the drive belt before you start making the cuts. The other bit is to always ensure that you have a sharp blade, as a dull one can cause serious problems. You should keep the table clean and vacuum the dust port, so as to make it effective. Check all the safety features and ensure that they are working as required. Finally, always have the right blade and accessories for the specific cuts that you are making.

Final Thoughts

By using it properly and safely, you will enjoy greater productivity and as such, the experience will be more enjoyable. Irrespective of the table saw model that you have in your home or workshop, it will only serve your purpose if you use it safely and correctly. Happy cutting!


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