What You Need To Know About The Table Saw

A few years ago for Christmas I told my husband I wanted a TV Console or a table saw so that I could build one… Can you guess which one I got? If you guessed table saw, then you’d be correct! In this post I’m going to be teaching you what you need to know about the table saw.

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Let me start out by saying that the table saw is probably my most favorite tool. With the brad nailer coming in at a close second. The reason I love the table saw so much is that it opens up endless project possibilities. There is not a lot of limit to what this tool can do!

That being said, I want to caution you like my Dad did when I first got this saw. This saw demands a lot of respect. It’s very important that you know and follow the safety precautions in order to keep yourself safe. I say this not to scare you, but to let you know that there are things you can do to help keep you safe while using this saw! Remember it IS my favorite tool!

Just like with any tool there are different price ranges for this tool. You can get a higher end Makita (like this one) which is great quality professional grade. Or there are more affordable options like this Taklife table saw that comes with a stand

Mine’s a Craftsman and it has been easy to get to know and use. They are sold at Lowes and Sears.

What Is A Table Saw?

So Let’s start with the basics. this is a table table saw.

It’s a table that has a mounted circular saw. The saw blade can be raised or lowered and can be angled left or right to any degree up to 45 degrees.

It can cut cross cuts, rip cuts (lengthwise), beveled cuts and angled or mitered cuts.

Table saws can come with a stand or without. My table saw has a collapsible stand built on to it which makes it very easy to store and move around. This is a nice feature to have for a small workspace. I can move the saw out into the open and cut large sheets of 4’x8′ wood (with the assistance of my husband).

My table saw also has wheels which makes it mobile and easy to move around. it’s not too heavy to push or pull somewhere. And it folds up which allows me to store it out of the way while it’s not in use.

If your table saw doesn’t have a stand you can either build one, or buy one separately. There are also lots of free building plans for table saw work tables. If your table saw is fixed onto a workbench (and the top of the saw table is level with the workbench top) then while it’s not in use and the blade is at its lowest position, the saw table becomes an extension of your workbench.

What You Need To Know About The Table Saw-

Let’s get technical for a minute so that you can get to know and become comfortable with using your table saw.

Below are the standard features that come with almost every table saw. Let me help you get familiar with each one!

Blade Guard

This is the plastic piece above the blade that helps keep the wood from kicking back at you. The blade runs toward you. So any loose pieces that get near the blade or happen to get dropped above the blade should be stopped by the blade guard.

The blade guard can help lessen the wood chips and sawdust getting sent up to your face. Always wear safety glasses when using the table saw!

The blade guard also serves as a visual reminder to keep your fingers out of the way of the blade. While the blade guard doesn’t make it impossible to cut your fingers off (because they can still gut under the guard if you let them) the visual reminder is very helpful, especially when first starting out.

The blade guard is an important safety feature of the table saw. If removed you should use extreme caution while cutting.

Front Rale

The front rale of the saw has the measurements in inches. It’s where the rip fence attaches to the front of the saw.

The measurements on the saw are a great guide to get your rip fence close to where it should be. You should measure with a tape measure the distance between the blade and the rip fence to get a precise measurement.

I like to measure in the front, middle and back of the blade to make sure the rip fence is square with the blade. This ensures a square cut.

Rip Fence

The rip fence is the long metal piece that runs parallel to the blade and clamps down to the table saw top. It’s the guide that the material rests against as it runs through the saw.

Blade Adjusting Handle

The blade adjusting handle is a knob that you crank in a circle in order to raise or lower the saw blade.

Blade Height

When choosing a height for the blade it needs to be no more than 1/4″ – 1/8″ above the material you are cutting.

Bevel Locking Lever

The bevel locking lever will loosen allowing you to move the blade from 0 degrees to 45 degrees and any angle in between. This allows you to make precise beveled cuts down the length of the board.

Throat Plate

The throat plate is the removable plate that surrounds the blade (the red part of the table top in the picture). When switching the blade or removing debri from the inside of the saw, the throat plate should be removed (while the machine is unplugged).

Zero Clearance Throat Plate

There are no standard throat plates. Some have a wider gap next to the blade allowing it to be moved to an angle. Then there are some with no gaps next to the blade. These are called zero clearance throat plates.

A zero clearance throat plate has a smaller gap, or almost no gap, next to the blade. This is so the pieces being cut off don’t slip down into the gap and get thrown out at you. These throat plates are great for when you are cutting narrow pieces from your material.

Wood Work Web has a great tutorial on how to make a zero clearance throat plate.

The throat plate is a safety feature and should be used at all times.

Push Stick/Block

All table saws should come with a push stick of some sort. It’s the plastic stick that has a ridge on it that catches the edge of the board and allows you to press down to keep the board flat, and move it through the saw.

It helps to keep your hands at a safe distance from the blade.

Some are more narrow than others. I made a simple push stick with 1/4″ MDF so that I can use it on very narrow cuts.

On Off Switch

Obviously the on off switch turns the machine on and off. It’s always a good idea to check and make sure this switch is turned to off before plugging it in. (especially if you have little kids around the shop that could have flipped the switch without you knowing.)

Miter Fence/Gauge

The miter gauge, sometimes called miter fence, is a piece used to set the angle you will be making for a mitered edge. Then you set your board against the miter gauge and as you push it through, it keeps the board at the desired angle.

Usually the board is held onto the miter gauge by you holding it in place.

There are guide slots on the saw table top that the miter gauge sits in. These slots allow the gauge to run through in a straight and accurate line.

Extendable Table Top

Every table saw should have an extendable table top. It allows you to make larger guided cuts. The extensions can allow for 20″ up to 27″ cuts. Mine goes to 24″.

How to use the extension
1-clamp the rip fence at the marked measurement
2-loosen the clamps that hold the extension in place
3-the larger measurements should start to show on the extension bars once you begin to slide it out
4-stop at the desired distance
5-always measure the distance from the blade to the fence for an accurate cut
6-adjust as needed
7-close the clamps to ensure the extension will stay in place

Riving Knife

riving knife is the black piece behind the blade

The riving knife is another important safety feature. It’s the thin piece of metal that sits behind the blade. It lowers and rises along with the blade.

It’s purpose is to keep a small gap between the two pieces of board so the board doesn’t get pinched or jammed. A jammed board could get thrown back at you at high speeds or pull your hand into the blade.

Sawdust Output

On the back of the saw is where the sawdust output is. There are a few systems you can use to collect the dust. One of the more simple solutions is to hook a shop Vacuum hose up to the pipe, and turn it on before you start your table saw up.

There will still be quite a bit of sawdust at the blade that will be sent back at you. Having a dust collection, or air filtration system in your work area, such as this one, can help keep the air clean.

Using a ventilation mask is necessary while using the table saw.


Those are the basic features of the table saw. If you have one with an attached stand there are a few more features to learn but every base will be different so I’m not going to cover that here.

Make sure to read your owner’s manual and wear all of the necessary safety gear when using the table saw. Never wear gloves when using the table saw. Always wear eye protection, ear plugs and a ventilation mask when using power tools!

Become familiar with your table saw. Start out with some simple straight cuts to get the hang of it. Then move to some beginner projects. I know I h it and see the possibilities that this tool can open up for you!

Come get a behind the scenes look at my projects over on Instagram @lindseyjaneco

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To find out what the best wood for making farmhouse signs is click here!

Curious about what your miter saw is capable of? click here!

Click here for some awesome miter saw projects for beginners that you won’t want to miss. Each one comes with a tutorial!!

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