How to Use a Table Saw

Whether you are a professional woodworker or a serious DIYer, a table saw is an inseparable part of your power tool collection. However, using a table saw can seem daunting if you are a beginner. Well, fret not, we have got you covered.

So, basically, regardless of the type of cut you are making using your table saw, there are four basic steps involved, equipping the mandatory safety gear, equipping the appropriate saw blade, positioning either the rip fence or miter gauge, and finally, making the desired cut.

Our guide below takes a dig into each one of the steps mentioned above and more. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Parts of a Table Saw

How to Use a Table Saw

Before we get started with getting you up to speed with using a table saw, it’s imperative that you are familiar with the different parts that the tool entails. Here is the list of each one of these parts, along with its respective function:

  • Tabletop: Made from cast aluminum or cast steel, a tabletop is the top portion of a table saw that rests on a metal cabinet or stand. The smallest available tabletop comes in 3’X3’ size. However, most of the brands offer extensions with it.
  • Blade: Fixed in a blade-height crank, it can be raised or lowered as per your needs.
  • Blade Insert: It is a narrow insert on the tabletop where the blade goes.
  • Blade Angle Adjustment Wheel: It allows you to change the angle of the wheel.
  • Rip Fence: A guide bar, that is placed parallel to the saw blade.
  • Fence Dog: It is the lever that keeps the fence in place.
  • Miter Gauge: Used in crosscutting.
  • Blade Guards: Blade guards enclose the blade during cutting so that your hands are protected in case they get close to the blade.
  • Push Stick: It allows you to feed the material through the saw, with your fingers at a fair distance from the blade.
  • Power Button: Turns on and off the table saw.

Apart from the aforementioned, basic components of a table saw, there may be some other components depending upon your table saw, such as rollers, clamps, or vacuum attachments.

Types of Cuts Made Using a Table Saw

A table saw is commonly used to make two of the most basic cuts, namely rip cuts and crosscuts. The former cuts the material to a specific width while the latter cuts the material to a specific length.

Apart from these two cuts, by using additional equipment, like clamps, specialty cuts, such as dado cuts can also be made.

A dado cut is basically the making of a slot on a piece of wood so that another piece can fit snugly onto it.


How to Use a Table Saw

Ripping is far simpler to carry out than crosscuts. This is because of the rip fence of a table saw that only adjusts to the desired cut’s width but also helps control the material during cutting.

Step 1: Fix the Right Rip Blade

With the table saw unplugged, equip it with an appropriate rip blade, that suits the material you are cutting. Make sure that you adjust the blade such that its height is no more than ¼’’ above the material you are going to cut.

To fix the blade in the table saw, you will first need to loosen the arbor nut, using the arbor nut wrench that came with your power tool. After that, place the rip blade with its teeth facing the front of the table since it will be spinning towards you, from top to bottom.

Having done that, tighten and secure the arbor nut.

Step 2: Position the Fence

With the rip blade in place, release the locking lever and position the rip fence, such that it aligns with the desired width of the cut.

For help positioning the fence, the table saw has a ruler on the front. However, for greater precision, use a tape measure and measure the distance from the fence to the closest edge of a blade tooth. By doing so, you will be able to factor in the amount of wood that will be cut.

Step 3: Make the Cut

Plugin the table saw and place the material to-be-cut on the table, such that it aligns with the rip fence but doesn’t touch the blade as of yet.

Allow the blade to reach its full cutting speed and then, slowly but firmly guide the material along the rip fence. You can use one or both of your hands – whatever serves best to control the material and keep it flat throughout the cut.

For larger materials, you may want to use both of your hands to keep it flat, especially when you start the cut.

It is also worth mentioning that for materials that extend beyond the length of the table, you should have a helper or a table extension at your disposal.

Whatever the case, however, make sure that the material does not get lift off the table during the cut or it could result in a kickback.

Note that when making narrow rips, your fingers are likely to be pretty close to the blade. So, in that situation, you should always use a push stick as it is designed for that purpose.

Dado Cutting

As far as its setup is concerned, dad cutting is pretty much the same as ripping. So, equip a dado blade on your table saw and adjust the rip fence as mentioned above.

Having done that, pass your wooden material over the blade and create a dado. Next, move over the rip fence approximately ¼’’ from the first cut and carry out a second pass. Keep on carrying out more passes until the desired width of the dado cut is achieved.


Man using a table saw

Before you can start making crosscuts on a table saw, you should remember to use a miter gauge, as the guide, instead of a rip fence.

This is because rip fence is used for stabilizing long lengths of material whereas crosscuts are made on relatively narrower material. As a result, not enough material is available to fit along the fence so the risk of potential kickbacks is involved.

A miter gauge, on the other hand, has a guide fence and a bar, that allows you to control the crosscuts. It also has a protractor-like guide that can be adjusted by loosening a knob, choosing the desired angle, and then, retightening it.

Apart from that, you can also resort to a miter sled, instead of a miter gauge.

With that out of the way, let’s go over the steps involved in making a crosscut.

Step 1: Equip a Crosscut Blade

With the table saw unplugged, insert a crosscut blade into the blade arbor, following the guidelines given in Step 1 of the Ripping exercise.

Step 2: Adjust the Protractor Guide

When crosscutting, you can go for either mitered or straight. Adjust the protractor guide on the miter gauge accordingly.

Step 3: Make the Cut

Position the material to be cut along the front edge of the miter saw and use clamps, if needed, to secure it in place.

Turn on the table saw and allow its blade to attain the full cutting speed. Now, slide the material to-be-cut slowly along the moving blade, while practicing caution.

Finally, when the desired cut(s) is made, unplug the table saw before you pick up the cut-off parts.

Safety Considerations

Safety Gear

Now that you have a know-how of the two primary functions of a table saw, namely ripping and crosscutting, here are a few safety tips, that you can keep in mind, to reduce the chances of a kickback:

  • Always put on the appropriate safety gear, especially goggles and ear protection, and a dust mask. Avoid wearing work gloves.
  • Don’t wear jewelry or loose clothes when operating your table saw.
  • Be sure that the table saw is unplugged before you adjust or align the blade.
  • Never remove the safety guards that come with the blade.
  • Avoid reaching over the saw blade to remove or hold down the material to be cut.
  • Keep the material, that needs to be cut, completely flat against the table throughout the cutting process.
  • When cutting, stand to one side of the saw blade and don’t allow others to stand in direct line with the saw blade while it is turned on.
  • For rip cuts, always use the rip fence.
  • For crosscuts, always use the miter gauge.
  • Never turn on the table saw with the material, to-be-cut, in touch with its blade.

Which Table Saw Should I Choose?

Table Saws are usually referred to after their blade sizes. The most common one is 10’’ size, which is quite effective for carpentry and other woodworking tasks.

The 8’’ table saws are suited to small work whereas the 12’’ ones are handy for making deeper cuts into thicker materials

As for the cost of the table saws, a standard-sized version of this toolsets you back around $300.

Frequently Asked Questions

Table Saw

What Are the Dangers of a Table Saw?

  • The teeth on the table saw’s blade can cut off your fingers.
  • The rotation of the blade can turn the workpiece into a dangerous projectile, causing a kickback.
  • It ejects sawdust as well as metal fragments from the metal, embedded in the workpiece.

Can You Rip 2×4 on a Table Saw?

Yes, you can, given that you set up the rip fence correctly. Also, be sure to apply pressure in all three directions; against the rip fence, forward to push the workpiece, and downwards to keep the workpiece flat.


We sincerely hope that this guide has addressed all your queries regarding the usage of a table saw.

To reiterate, whether you are ripping, dado cutting, or crosscutting, you need to first don the required safety equipment. After that, you need to equip the right saw blade, depending upon which of the three types of cuts you are aiming for. Then, adjust either the rip fence or miter gauge and move on to the cutting process.

Liam Weissman

Hello and welcome to PowerToolGenius! My name is Liam and for the last 9 years, I have worked extensively with various power tools and accessories. I have tested hundreds of different brands and models and understand the industry extensively and have been working with tools my entire life!

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