Home Improvement Woodworking

Tool School: Table Saw 101


It’s a new month, which means that it’s time for December’s tool school (if you’re new here, I host a Tool School on the first Tuesday of each month)! Today I’ll be tackling a tool that has been requested by a whole bunch of people – the table saw!  I’ll be breaking down the details in this Table Saw 101 post and then demoing the proper way to make intro cut son a table saw on Instagram (so, be sure to check it out)!

This post may contain affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy, click here.

Introduction to Table Saw 101

1. What Is A Table Saw?

A table saw is exactly what it sounds like! It consists of a moving saw blade that comes up from a table and is used for a variety of cutting needs. The exposed saw blade allows you to cut material while easily being able to control the material from above.

When used properly, a table saw can afford you many benefits in your shop! It’s amazing for breaking down larger sheet goods into manageable pieces, and also allows for repeated, accurate cuts. It’s also great for ripping varying type of lumber into different sizes and can be used to create joinery as well!

2. What Are Different Types of Table Saws?

There are several different types of table saws on the market ranging from ones that can fold up and be transported to others that are fixed in a shop and never move. Each one has it’s benefits, and we’re going to explore them below!

1. Job Site Saw

Job site saws sound exactly like what they are – saws that are intended to be brought to job sites! Job site saws are meant to be portable. They are lighter weight and can sometimes comes with bases that allow them to be folded up. My shop is really small, so I keep a job site saw in there at all times!

2. Contractor Saw

Contractor saws have powerful motors, a large saw blade, and a stable surface. They are often stationary and aren’t meant to travel like a job site saw. These are a great option for high volume home workshops when space isn’t an issue!

3. Cabinet Saw

Cabinet saws are the most heavy duty saw you can have in a shop. These are high volume saws that are meant for heavy duty, professional use.

4. What Are The Components of A Table Saw?

A table saw is made up of lots of different parts (here are a few of the basics):

Bevel & Blade Adjustment: This adjustment is usually found in the same spot and consists of a lever that controls the depth at which the blade is when you are cutting (how high or low the blade is) as well as the bevel of the blade (what angle the blade is cutting at).

Rip Fence: The fence is what the piece of wood slides against when cutting. The fence helps to guide the piece straight through the blade. This is what helps you adjust how wide your cut is.

Riving Knife: This piece sits behind the blade and helps prevent the wood from binding together after it is cut.

Blade Guard & Anti-Kickback Pawls: The blade guard is a piece that goes over the blade and protects your fingers from going near the blade. It also helps to prevent kickback with pawls that grab onto the wood if the wood starts to move back toward you after being cut.

Miter Gauge: This is a gauge that allows you to adjust the angle of your piece when cutting (this is different than the bevel, which adjusts the angle of your blade).

4. How Do I Safely Use A Table Saw?

This is an awesome question that I get regularly – and there are so many answers! First, I’d recommend checking out a table saw safety class on YouTube. I highly recommend this one! It includes lot of tips that I was taught when first using my saw, and it’s super helpful!

As for general safety rules, here are a few:

1. Keep your hands away from the blade. While your table saw will come with a push stick, my recommendation is to invest in a better stick or a block. You always want your piece to be supported when you cut, but you want to do it with your hands away from the blade.

I really like this push block, and I got my custom push stick from Pink Soul Studios!

2. Stand slightly to the side of the piece you are cutting. The video I recommended covers this really well, but body placement is important when using your saw!

3. Blade height matters! You want your blade to hover only slightly above your piece (about 1/4″). Anything more than that can get dangerous. 

4. Apply even pressure to the board you are feeding through the saw, but don’t force it. If you force the board or if there isn’t enough pressure, the piece you are cutting can kick back and hurt you.

A table saw is like any other tool – as long as you use it safely, it can be super effective and way fun!

5. What Types Of Cuts Can I Make On A Table Saw?

There are lots of different cuts that can be made on table saw.

Rip Cuts: Cutting with the grain.

Cross Cuts: Cutting against the grain. 

Beveled Cuts: Cutting your piece with an angle down the side. I used this method in my nightstand project!

Mitered Cuts: Cutting the piece with an angle across the top. I usually use my miter saw for this.

Grooves & Dados: Cutting grooves out of wood by slightly raising the blade. You can even use special blades for these as well. I did this in my recent dog bed project!

… and many more!

6. Which Table Saw Should I Get?

squaring wood without a jointer

The reality is that the table saw you need will depend on the job you do. However… if you are wondering what saw I’d recommend? Here is a list of my favorite job site saws! For cabinet and contractor saw recommendations, please visit this post!

1. Entry Level Saw: RIDGID Job Site Saw (With Stand)

2. Mid-Level Saw: DeWalt Job Site Saw

3.  Top Tier: SawStop Job Site Saw Mobile Base

I hope this post was helpful to anyone looking to learn more about table saws! If you want to see my table saw in action, stop by my Instagram page and click on the “Table Saw 101” highlight in my highlight reels! Or, check out some of the projects on my YouTube channel!

Also, don’t forget to Pin This post for later!

Until next time, friends! Happy DIY’ing!

Sam Raimondi

Sam is a full time psychologist and part time content creator from Long Island, New York.



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