What do you use a table saw for and why use one in the first place are not uncommon questions in the hobbyist woodworking communities.
There are clearly a lot of mixed opinions on the table saw’s limitations when it comes to its portability, ease of use, and range of cuts.
Quick NavigationMaterialsWorking with Long BoardsCross Cuts45-Degree Miter CutsWorking in a Safer EnvironmentFINAL VERDICT
Truth be told, a table saw is a much more versatile cutting tool than people think. It’s especially good for beginners as they can experiment with a wide variety of cuts and materials for their DIY projects.
This article will show you just what range of materials a table saw can cut and also give you some tips on how to perform tricky cuts with precision, far beyond what you can do with a handheld circular saw.
Before going through the list of popular cuts that carpenters and DIYers do with a table saw, it’s important to remember that table saws can be used with a variety of materials. Aside from wood, you can shape sheet metal, aluminum, plastic, and even brass, if you have the appropriate blade for the job and enough RPM.
Why table saws are recommended for beginners is because of the increased precision. Since you don’t push the blade into the material yourself there’s far less room for error when working with tough materials. As a matter of fact, most professional carpenters would tell you that you really have to try hard to mess up cuts on a table saw.
Working with Long Boards
It’s a common misconception that table saws aren’t a good choice when working with long boards over four feet long. While it is true that most workbenches will not support them they still offer you a better starting point than other portable cutting tools.
The table saw is accurate because it greatly reduces the human error factor. It’s a fixed blade that doesn’t wobble in either direction. Just because your long board doesn’t fit on the table doesn’t mean you can’t extend it or at least raise the board at the end with whatever materials you have on hand.
So what else do you use a table saw for? Well, you always need one for accurate crosscuts on very thick pieces of wood. With a table saw you have a better chance of getting table legs, chair legs, or newel posts right the first time.
Not only is the blade stronger and bigger but you also have the appropriate setup with the table saw’s table (and any extensions). You can adjust your fence to be higher, around 2/3 of the wood’s thickness, so you’ll have better support.
Another must-have feature for crosscuts is the blade guard. This lets you do a halfway cut before you flip the piece of wood over, as it prevents the blade from going all the way through. Needless to say, it’s easier to rely on a blade guard than trying to stop or pull out a handheld saw in the middle of a cut.
45-Degree Miter Cuts
Cutting wood to create miter joints is easy with a table saw. You have more adjustability when it comes to angles and a solid table will give you more stability and accuracy. While it’s not uncommon to perform miter cuts with handheld saws, if you work with large pieces of wood or you just want the extra precision, the table saw is the way to go.
The most common miter cut is done at a 45-degree angle. In order to do this, you have to set your miter gauge to 45 degrees. Make sure your blade is raised and use a drafting square to make the adjustments. After that, you can add an extension fence to the miter gauge.
When cutting, you should have a firm hold on the board as you push it against the fence. Because of the angled cut the blade will give you more feedback.
Working in a Safer Environment
What you use a table saw for is not always about the task at hand but also about how you approach it. The safety features on table saws will always be better than anything a circular saw or jigsaw has to offer. You always have better visibility on a table saw and you can tackle different cuts from whatever angle you feel safer to do so.
A very important feature that you won’t find on any handheld saws is the flesh sensor. This automated blade shutdown feature that kicks in when it senses conductive skin in close proximity is the fastest blade stop response system. It may cost you a few blades down the road but at least you’ll get to keep all your fingers.
The table saw is a must-have tool for anyone that takes pride in their work and aims for perfect cuts. It is also a safer cutting setup than most handheld power tools because it offers superior stability and great automatic blade stop systems.
As long as you have enough room in your workshop to install a table saw, there’s little reason not to get one and use it on all your projects, whether you’re working with small pieces, long boards, thick lumber, or sheets of metal.