clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

How to Use a Table Saw

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva gives a general overview of a table saw and the best techniques to use it safely and effectively


  1. Modern table saws come with a variety of safety features to ensure safe use.
    a. Table saw guards – plastic shields that help keep the dust down and act as an additional barrier between you and the blade.
    b. Riving knife – two blades on both sides of the table saw blade. Their teeth point in the opposite direction so that if the piece of wood kicks back, the teeth will bite down and prevent them from shooting out of the table saw.

2. There are a handful of cuts that can be made with a table saw.
a. Rip cut – cuts made with the grain of the wood.
i. Before making any cuts, ensure the rip fence on the side is perfectly lined up with the blade. Do this by measuring the distance between the rip fence and one tooth on the blade on one end of the rip fence, then turn that same tooth toward the other side of the table and measure again. If you get the same number, the rip fence is perfectly lined up.
ii. Set the height of the saw blade using the crank to a height just slightly above the thickness of whatever wood is being cut.
iii. When making a rip cut, watch the rip fence on the side instead of the blade to ensure you’re making a straight cut.
b. Cross cut – cuts made against the grain of the wood.
i. Do not use the rip fence when making cross cuts. It can cause kickback, and if it does, your hand is likely to get dragged across the blade based on the way you hold the board for cross cuts.
ii. Insert the cross-cutting guide into the groove on the table saw and use that as a guide to make a cross cut.
iii. To make multiple cross cuts the same length, attach a scrap piece of wood to the rip fence and set the distance between the scrap and the blade to the desired length. That way, you can use the rip fence as a measuring guide without having the board against the rip fence.

Tom demonstrated some best practices and techniques on the M18 Fuel Table Saw w/One Key, which is manufactured by Milwaukee Tools.

Tom also mentioned the larger table saw he uses in the workshop, which is a SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw.