9 Tips to Get the Most From Your New Table Saw
Table saws are perhaps the most multi-talented tools of the modern workshop, and the right tools and setup will let you tap into all of those talents. This guide will provide some handy tips to get you started so you can get the most from your saw. We'll talk about basics like safety gear, setting up your saw, and adding accessories to make your sawing easy and accurate.
1. Make Safety Unforgettable
Being prepared is the first step to safe operation of your saw. That means having all the safety gear you need readily at hand. You should use a push stick for any board narrower than 4" in order to keep your hands away from the blade. Keep it right on top of the fence so you'll never forget it. Our popular Magnetic Push Stick will even stick to the top of ferrous metal fences to keep it from rattling around. Be sure to leave the riving knife in place to combat kickback, and check out the Magswitch Featherboards for a simple way to keep your stock against the fence and/or the table to help prevent binding. As always, eye protection is a must, and be sure to pick up a mask or respirator for when the fine dust is flying (definitely any time you're cutting MDF). Our Ear Protection Options include many that will replace the noise with the music or podcast of your choice.
Table Saw Tip
To prevent rust and reduce friction when feeding stock through the saw, keep the surface of your cast iron table waxed or oiled. A popular spray-on treatment for saw tables is Bostik GlideCote Table & Tool Surface Sealant. Another option that's handy to keep around the shop anyway is Paste Wax. Just wipe it on, let it dry and buff it out.
2. Line Up Your Blade and Fence for Precision Cuts
Before you make your first cut, be sure to check whether the blade is aligned properly with the miter slot and fence. Check out this article and accompanying video to learn how to do it. Once that's done, you'll need to align your fence with the blade, too. To find out how, read our article about aligning your table saw fence with the blade. Once these simple adjustments are done, your saw will cut like a dream.
Table Saw Tip
Dial indicators are a nice tool to have for tuning up your machines. The Magswitch Miter Slot Dial Indicator attaches to your miter gauge bar with magnets, making even the tiniest variances easily visible. In a pinch, you can also use an ordinary combination square in the miter slot to check for parallelism with the blade.
3. Make Your Saw the Center of Your Shop
With the capability to rip and crosscut large materials, and also cut fine joinery, the table saw should command the center of your shop with plenty of clearance on all sides. Measure the infeed and outfeed clearances to be sure you have enough room for your maximum stock length to feed into and out of the saw, plus at least three additional feet of buffer. If you'll be crosscutting, be sure to leave plenty of clearance on the left and right as well. Giving your saw plenty of elbow room will allow you to use it for all of its potential uses.
4. Mobilize Your Saw to Maximize Space
For small shops and garage shops, a mobile base is an essential add-on for your table saw. It lets you wheel your saw into the middle of the shop, and then back to the wall when you need to use other machines, or to park your car. Rockler offers numerous mobile base options, many of which can be customized in size to accommodate a range of fence lengths.
5. Make Your Outfeed Supports Dual-Purpose
Adequate outfeed support and side support is essential when cutting up large panels and long stock. Thankfully, outfeed tables can also double as storage tables, assembly tables, sanding tables, router tables and more. With these tables on casters, you can assemble an amazing modular work station that centers around your table saw. We offer Ball Bearing Rollers specifically for woodworkers interested in building custom outfeed tables.
If you need to optimize space even more, check out our FREE shop-made folding outfeed table plan. Our design features a solid, low-friction top that can double as a work surface, and unlike metal options, you can easily customize it to work well with other add-ons like mobile bases and dust collection hoses. If your shop is just too small for outfeed tables, a great option is our 3-Row Ball-Bearing Stand or our combo Fliptop Roller Stand with Panel Support Attachment.
Table Saw Tip
Getting big sheets of plywood on the saw can be taxing on your back. For an amazing solution that lets you wheel whole sheets of plywood straight from the truck bed to your saw, check out the Material Mate Panel Cart and Shop Stand. Not only will it save your back, but it can also double as an outfeed table—a great dual-purpose tool for small shops.
6. Crosscut with Confidence
One of the most useful accessories for a table saw is a crosscut sled. When compared to the miter gauge included with your saw, sleds offer much better material support, less friction, incredible accuracy with miters, and the ability to add a material stop. Crosscut sleds are easy to make, but if you want to get right to work, check out the two sled offerings from Rockler: the standard-size Tablesaw Crosscut Sled and the Small Parts Sled for the bits and pieces that are impossible to cut safely on a larger sled.
7. Combine Your Router Table With Your Table Saw
With its generous infeed and outfeed clearances, the location of your table saw also happens to be perfect for your router table. Fortunately, the two don't have to compete for space. The right router table can easily be combined with your table saw to take advantage not only of the prime real estate, but also the weight and stability of the saw's cast iron top. To find out how, check out our Cast Iron Router Tables for Table Saws, which are available with Your Choice of Router Plate or With No Plate if you prefer to use an existing one or make your own.
8. Capture Dust Right Out of the Gate
If you own a contractor saw, the bulk of the sawdust is thrown below the table as the blade plows through the cut. Use our Contractor Table Saw Dust Bag to capture this dust and prevent it from being spread around the shop. For any saw, make sure you leave the blade guard in position to keep the chips out of your face, and be sure to connect a hose to the blade guard if it's an option.
Use a dust collector with at least a 4" diameter hose, and 350 to 450 CFM for the table saw alone (not including dust collection at the blade guard). Our Wall-Mount Dust Collectors, available in a 650 CFM model and a 1250 CFM model, are great for small shops where space is at a premium. We also offer a 750 CFM model that rolls on casters so you can move it from machine to machine. Also consider using a two-stage dust collector. With a system like this, the heavier chips fall into a separate container before ever reaching the dust bags. This means you won't have to empty the bags as often, and your dust collector will maintain strong suction for longer. You can build your own two-stage system with our 4" Dust Separator Components and FREE plan. Note that this kit does not include hoses or hose clamps. A popular choice for the hose is our 4" Clear Flexible Hose and our 4" Keyed Bridge Hose Clamps to hold everything in place.
To maximize suction on cabinet saws, use commonly available magnetic sheets to block up any openings in the cabinet. The curved slot for the saw tilt mechanism is a common point of leakage—cover it with a magnetic sheet and your suction will instantly improve.
9. Choose the Right Blade for the Material
Choosing the right blade for the application at hand is crucial. For a helpful guide on doing just that, check out our article How do I Choose the Right Saw Blade. You can browse our wide selection of table saw blades here. Also, taking care of your blades is the easiest and least expensive way to maximize their life. Check our our Table Saw Blade Organizer plan for a great way to keep your blades neatly sorted, and the teeth in pristine condition.
We're confident your new table saw will be everything it's cut out to be, and hope that this guide has helped you get more from it. Don't forget that we have expert staff in our stores, online and available by phone to help out if you have a question that's not answered here.