I want to point out a few common mistakes I sometimes see people make when using a table saw. And frankly, I’ve been guilty of some of these myself, so I hope this video will be a refresher for all of us. Correcting these bad habits will help you get better, cleaner cuts and make using your saw safer.
If you are new to using a table saw, be sure to check out my video, 7 Things To Get You Started Using A Table Saw. In that video, you’ll get a rundown of safety procedures and how to make basic cuts.
1. Making crosscuts on the wrong side
When making a cut, It’s important to know the difference between your work piece and your cutoff piece and which needs support. Usually you want to provide support for the work piece, the part of the board you’ve measured and are using for your project.
An exception to this rule is when using a stop block on your rip fence to make repeated cuts on short pieces. Then you should be supporting the cutoff side.
Definitely don’t try setting up a stop block on your miter gauge for cutting multiple small pieces. Most of the board will be unsupported which can cause it to tip and it places your fingers way too close to the blade.
A better solution to all of this is to make a crosscut sled. This jig will give you cleaner, more accurate crosscuts and both sides of the wood are fully supported throughout the cut.
2. Pressing against the blade
When using your rip fence to cut a wide board, you almost always want your work piece to be the side between the blade and the fence. It can be tempting to guide the sheet from the cutoff side, but as soon as the cut is made, you are putting lateral pressure on your saw blade instead of the fence.This can cause the board to bind can lead to cuts that aren’t square. Support the work piece and keep pressure against the fence, not the blade.
3. Not providing three directions of pressure
I’m sure you already know the importance of pushing wood through your table saw using something other than your fingers. Your table saw probably came with a push stick, which is good starting point, but a lot of people use it wrong.
For starters, one push stick isn’t enough. You need two. One to push the lumber forward through the blade, and the other to keep the wood pressed downward and against the fence.
For a safe and effective cut using your rip fence, these are the three directions of pressure you need to provide on every cut: forward, downward, and inward.
To use push sticks, use the cleat on one to push the board forward and a second push stick to press down and toward the fence. Do this only on the front side of the blade. Once the board is cut you don’t want to press inwards.
An improvement would be a larger push stick that provides better downward pressure, but you still need a second push stick to press inward in order to ensure an accurate cut. You can make your own with a scrap of plywood. I’ve included a free cutting template you can download. You can find the link below.
My favorite option is the GRR-Ripper push block. I love them and honestly feel the Gripper is absolute best way to get accurate and safe cuts. Not only does the grippy stuff allow you to easily press the work piece in all three directions, but it also supports the off-cut side. It’s kind of a luxury tool, but will definitely improve your cuts and and keep you a lot safer.
4. Freehand cutting
Just don’t ever do this. Always provide support with a fence.
5. Over-tightening your nut
When you install a blade, you might really crank down the arbor nut because you don’t want the blade fly off. But then when you try to remove the blade and can’t loosen the nut. Then it breaks free all at once and your knuckles crash into the table or even the blade itself.
When installing a blade, only tighten the nut until it stops. Rest assured, that blade isn’t going anywhere. The direction of the blade is opposite the direction of the arbor threads, which makes the nut sort of self tightening.
6. Using the rip fence for crosscuts
The basic rule here is to support the long side of a board. If a board seems likely to wobble when using the rip fence, use the miter gauge instead. Anything that can can cause wood to twist opens up the possibility of a crooked cut, or worse, the danger of kickback.
So that’s my list of common table saw mistakes. I hope this is helpful and saves you a few mis-cut boards – or worse.