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Making accurate cuts on a Table Saw

by Lorenz Prem on April 18 2012 6:06 pm
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Making accurate cuts on the table saw requires little dexterity and skill, if you take the time to set it up correctly. There a few simple steps to follow in order to produce a perfect cut. Let's take a look at what's involved.

Tune your table saw

A table saw is not a zero-maintenance tool. For perfect cuts the saw must be tuned. No amount of skill can compensate for a badly tuned saw.

For a perfect cut, the blade, fence, and miter slots must be aligned correctly. If you skip this step, the saw not only becomes unpredictable, but also unsafe. A badly tuned saw will create kickback and other dangerous situations much more often than a properly tuned saw. Tuning your table saw is absolutely essential.

The wood whispererhas done a great video about tuning your table saw. Check it out, if you have not already.

Limit fence adjustments

The table saw can only be as accurate as the measurement system used. The measuring tape on the saw is only accurate within 1/32" inch. A tape measure is not much better.

The solution to this problem is to embrace it. Whenever you set the fence using a measuring tape of any kind, expect the final product to be within +/-1/32" of where you want it to be.

Although achieving the perfect width is impossible with a measuring tape, achieving perfectly matching widths is. Once the fence is set, all pieces you cut will have the same width as long as the fence remains set.

Make all cuts of pieces that need to match with the same fence setting. That way all the pieces have the same error. For example, cut all side pieces of a cabinet with the same fence setting. The front and back edge will be flush no matter how large the error in fence actually was.

Use templates for measurements

If you have to move the fence, it best to set it again using pieces of the same length you want to cut. For example, use one of the sides of the first cabinet you cut to set the fence for the sides of the second cabinet.

The error inherent to this method is much smaller than that of a tape measure.

Get a digital measurement system

If you want to all but eliminate the accuracy problem, consider purchasing a digital measuring system. These systems are accurate within +/-0.001", which is practically perfection for woodworking. A digital measurement system allows the user to freely reposition the fence without having to manage the cutting order. All matching cut not longer have to be completed at the same time.

The Wixey digital fence is such a product (Read a review). It is one of the best upgrades you can make on any table saw.

Limit work piece size

In addition to measuring correctly, the way a work piece is feed through the blade also affects accuracy. The piece must be held flush to the fence at all times. This is difficult to do with large work pieces. As a rule of thumb, accuracy goes down the larger the work piece is.

To maximize accuracy, make rough cuts to bring a full sheet down to size. Make the finish cut on the smaller piece. While this method produces more sawdust, it will also produce more accurate cuts.

Some skill is still required to complete this operation. If you have taken the previous steps, however, the technique will not take long to master.

Summary

A tuned tab saw is capable of making perfect straight cuts. Given a little foresight and good planning, even a novice can make accurate cuts on the table saw time and time again. A lot of the skills required to be successful are mental in nature; dexterity hardly ever is the the limiting factor.

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."
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