Project Guide

Cutting and Ripping with a Table Saw

Hold boards place featherboards - Cutting Ripping Table Saw
  • Long boards tend to move away from the fence during a cut. Hold them in place with featherboards, a board into which you've cut several fingers. Put the board in place and put the featherboard against it. Push against the board and flex the fingers so they bend slightly away from the direction of cut, and clamp the board in place.
  • Make your featherboard from a piece of wood 24-inches long and about 8-inches wide. Make a series of cuts 5 1/2 inches long and about 5/16 inch apart on the end of the board. Crosscut across the fingers, setting the miter gauge to cut along a line drawn from the corner of the board to a point 1/2 inch from the corner on the other edge.
Use push stick - Cutting Ripping Table Saw

Commercial push sticks as shown at left are fine, but you can also make your own. Lay out a 1/2-inch grid on a 2 x 6 x 14-inch block and trace this pattern. Cut a curve as shown to make the push stick easier to grip. This push stick is wider than commercial models and holds stock better. When making narrow rips, you feed the push stick right across the blade. Make at least two so you'll have one for each hand.

Use fence properly - Cutting and Ripping Table Saw
  • Don't cut pieces more than 6 inches long with the sandpaper method, outlined above. Always position the block so the stock doesn't touch the blade and the stop block at the same time. Cutting longer pieces, putting the block in the wrong place, or using the fence as a stop can cause the saw to throw the cutoff back at you violently.
  • Cutting along the grain is called ripping. The rip is made using a guide called a rip fence. Ripping is a simpler operation than crosscutting - there are no angles to set on a miter gauge - but it can bring your fingers closer to the blade. If your fingers are too close for comfort, use a push stick like the one shown below, or make your own following the pattern.
  • Most rip fences have a ruler glued to the front rail, which gives you a pretty accurate readout of the size piece you'll be cutting, but you should check for accuracy with your tape measure to be sure.
  • A roller stand will help you support long lengths of stock while ripping.
Safety tips - Cutting Ripping with Table Saw
  • If you have trouble with pieces slipping sideways a little during a cross cut, keep the piece in place by gluing a piece of 180-grit or finer sandpaper to the back of the miter gauge with some spray adhesive.
  • Never use the rip fence as a depth stop without using a stop block.
  • Never cut a piece of stock on a table saw without using a guide. Use the rip fence when ripping and the miter gauge when crosscutting. Pushing wood into the blade without the support of a guide can cause serious injury.
  • Never rip a board to make a piece less than 1 inch wide. Always make sure the board is thick enough that it won't slip under the fence when cutting. Never stand a board on edge to make a rip cut.