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The Ultimate Table Saw Guide

Updated on October 26, 2014

The Ultimate Woodworkers Guide to Table Saws

From cabinetmakers to do-it-yourself artisans, the table saw is one of the most important tools in the woodworker's shop. Used primarily for maintaining a straight line while cutting wood, they are also capable of beveling, rabbeting, grooving, and dadoing. The table saw gets used on more projects than any other power tool in the shop.

This is the ultimate table saw guide, you will learn about the different types, as well as maintenance tips for keeping it running efficiently and accurately. You will also learn about table saw blade types and installation tips.

The Facts about Table Saw Blades

An accurate cut starts with blade installation, make sure the arbor, nut, washer and flange are free of burrs or residual buildup. Next, make sure you have the right blade for each task, blades with many teeth cut cleaner, while blades with fewer teeth cut faster.

The Two main types of table saw blades are ATB&R (Alternating Top Bevel & Raker) and ATB (Alternating Top Bevel). Tooth count ranges from 40 to 80 depending on which task you are performing.

Keeping a sharp blade on your table saw not only keeps the saw running longer it helps to minimize bad or rough-cuts in material.

Benchtop Table Saw

The benchtop table saw is the smallest type of table saw, making it is easily transported; however, it is the least powerful. Designed to sit on a workbench, some come with foldable support legs. Ripping width is restricted to around 24" due to the compact table size and ripping long material requires an out feed table. Benchtop table saws are ideal for the do-it-yourself handyman as well as professionals who cut smaller material.

Contractor Table Saw

The contractor table saw is portable but has more power than the benchtop. They are heavier and larger, often-constructed out of cast iron. A stand is attached to provide adequate working height; this often includes wheels for ease of movement around the work area. The motor, which is heavy, is on a hinge and drives the blade using a single belt.

The do-it-yourself handyman with adequate workspace often uses this style. As the name implies, contractors find this saw perfect for moving to the job site for the duration of the job. Cabinetmakers generally start off with the contractors saw due to its lower cost, eventually upgrading to a true cabinet saw. However, these saws make a great secondary saw in the cabinet shop.

Cabinet Table Saw

The cabinet table saw is the most powerful style, also making it the heaviest. They use large amounts of cast iron and steel to reduce vibration and increase accuracy. Distinguished by having a closed cabinet base, this provides improved dust collection. This style requires a dedicated 220V outlet, so moving and setting up the cabinet saw is not done often.

Cabinetmakers, or accomplished furniture makers generally use this style. Professional quality cabinet saws from the most trusted manufacturers in the business.

Maintaining Your Table Saw

Proper care of your table saw is important to its performance, dusting it off everyday, and waxing the surface are crucial to the life of the saw. Waxing the working surface not only makes pushing material into the blade easier it protects the metal from humidity and rust.

A good fence is important if you use your table saw daily, fences might fail over time causing damage to your material. If your fence fails, try to repair it immediately, or purchase a new one. A great fence can make your cuts straighter and more accurate.

Keeping your table saw clean and adjusted takes very little time so take the time to do it for best results. Check the blade alignment in relevance to the fence and the miter groove. Keep the raising gears free of caked-on pitch and resins that build up over time. Make sure the motor, belt and pulley are aligned and in good shape.


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