It is very important to remember that while using a table saw can be a rewarding and useful activity, it can also be potentially dangerous when this tool is not used correctly.
That is why it is essential to understand table saw basics and how to use a table saw safely. Like that, you can avoid common pitfalls and improve your table saw cuts, while also making your saw use safer by learning from the table saw mistakes of many others.
Some of the most common table saw mistakes include: making crosscuts on the wrong side, pressing against the blade, not providing three directions of pressure, freehand cutting, over-tightening the nut, using dull or damaged blades, and not wearing proper personal protective equipment.
To avoid these mistakes, it is essential to follow proper safety procedures and table saw techniques, as well as use the appropriate personal protective equipment when using this power tool.
In this table saw beginners article, I will discuss 10 common table saw mistakes and how to correct them to improve your cuts and make your saw use safer.
These are 10 table saw safety tips for beginners, but also the more experienced woodworkers can learn from these table saw fundamentals.
- Table Saw Mistakes #1: Making Crosscuts on the Wrong Side
- Table Saw Mistakes #2: Pressing Against the Blade
- Table Saw Mistake #3: Not Providing Three Directions of Pressure
- Table Saw Mistakes #4: Freehand Cutting
- Table Saw Mistakes #5: Over-Tightening the Nut
- Table Saw Mistakes #6: Using Dull Blades
- Table Saw Mistakes #7: Not Wearing Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Table Saw Mistakes #8: Not Maintaining the Saw
- Table Saw Mistakes #9: Not Aligning the Blade and Fence Properly
- Table Saw Mistakes #10: Not Properly Securing the Work Piece
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Table Saw Mistakes #1: Making Crosscuts on the Wrong Side
Explanation: When making a crosscut with a miter gauge on table saws, it is essential to know which side of the wood needs to be supported. Typically, you want to support the workpiece, which is the part of the board you are using for your project. However, if you are using a stop block on your rip fence to make repeated cuts on short pieces, you should be supporting the cutoff side as well.
Consequences: Supporting the wrong side of the wood during a crosscut can result in tipping over the wood and putting your fingers too close to the blade, as well as inaccurate cuts and potentially dangerous situations such as kickbacks.
Avoidance: To avoid this mistake, it is essential to understand the difference between the workpiece and the cutoff piece. To make better cuts it is also a good idea to learn to use a crosscut sled next to using a miter gauge when making crosscuts. This table saw technique provides support for both sides of the wood and results in cleaner, more accurate cuts, particularly for table saw beginners.
Table Saw Mistakes #2: Pressing Against the Blade
Explanation: When using your fence for making rip cuts to cut a long board, it is essential to apply pressure to the fence, rather than the blade.
Consequences: If you apply pressure to the saw blade instead of the fence, you risk causing the board to bind and resulting in cuts that are not square. More about the binding of the table saw can be found in my article, Why Is My Table Saw Binding? Problem Solved!
Avoidance: To avoid this commonly made mistake, make sure to support the workpiece, so it can not tip and apply pressure to the fence when using the fence. This will help ensure accurate cuts and prevent binding.
Table Saw Mistake #3: Not Providing Three Directions of Pressure
Explanation: Not using at least one, or two push sticks to provide forward, downward, and inward pressure on the wood when using a table saw to rip boards.
Consequences: This can lead to inaccurate cuts and above that potentially dangerous situations.
Avoidance: Use at least one or two push blocks or sticks or an alternative tool like the GRR-Ripper push block or a feather board to provide the necessary three directions of pressure (forward, downward, inward) for a safe and accurate cut.
Alternatively, you can use a standard push stick or make your own with a scrap of plywood using the free cutting template available in the article. This is a valuable technique for table saw beginners and those looking to improve their table saw skills and in my opinion, one of the table saw essentials.
Table Saw Mistakes #4: Freehand Cutting
Explanation: Freehand cutting is when you attempt to cut wood on a table saw without using a fence for support. This is a basic table saw safety rule that should be followed by all table saw users.
Consequences: If you do not use a fence for support, you risk making inaccurate cuts and potentially dangerous situations by binding the blade.
Avoidance: To avoid this mistake, always use a fence for support when cutting wood on a table saw. This will guide the wood through the blade, so you can make accurate cuts and prevent kickback. To know where to pladce your fence, check out my article What Side of the Table Saw Should the Fence Be on – a Clear Answer
Table Saw Mistakes #5: Over-Tightening the Nut
Explanation: When installing a blade on a table saw, it is a common mistake that people apply too much torque to the arbor nut. This is because people frequently think that by doing this the blade is secure and will not fly off during use, which is wrong.
Over-tightening the nut can make it difficult to remove the blade later and can cause injuries if the nut breaks free suddenly.
Consequences: By doing this, it is difficult to remove the blade. Like that, you can damage the arbor and there is the potential for injury.
Avoidance: To avoid this mistake, only tighten the nut until it stops, plus a little extra. You should know that the nut is self- tightening. This means that it will tighten a little further as the blade is used, so there is no need to apply excessive force when installing a table saw blade.
Table Saw Mistakes #6: Using Dull Blades
Explanation: A dull saw blade can result in poor cuts and increase the risk of kickback. More information can be found in my article, How Do I Know If My Table Saw Blade Is Dull (6 Simple Ways). Be sure to read this important information.
Consequences: When making a cut with a blade that is dull, the edge can be filled with a lot of tear out, you can have wobbly edges, and not to forget that a blade that has become dull can increase the risk of kickback.
Avoidance: Remember to regularly check the blade and sharpen or replace it to ensure clean, precise cuts. This is an essential aspect of proper table saw maintenance.
Also read my article Learn How To Clean Table Saw Blades For Best Cutting (5 Simple Steps).
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Table Saw Mistakes #7: Not Wearing Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Explanation: Many (beginner) woodworkers forget to wear safety glasses, earplugs, or other protective equipment while using a table saw.
Consequences: Potential injuries to the eyes from flying wood chips and sawdust, hearing damage from the loud noise of the saw, and other injuries caused by flying debris from the blade or the saw itself.
Avoidance: make sure to wear proper PPE, including safety glasses, a dust mask or proper dust extraction, and earplugs, every time you use the saw. Be sure to read my in depth article about PPE for woodworking here.
Table Saw Mistakes #8: Not Maintaining the Saw
Explanation: neglecting to properly clean, lubricate, and replace worn parts on the table saw. This is an often forgotten step by many woodworkers, be it table saw beginners or more experienced table saw users.
Consequences: Not maintaining the table saw properly will reduce performance, increase the risk of accidents or injuries, and shorten the lifespan of the saw
Avoidance: following the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning and lubricating the saw and replacing worn parts, regularly cleaning the saw and surrounding area to remove sawdust and debris, and ensuring that all parts are functioning properly. For good table saw maintenance, check out my in depth guide, Best Table Saw Lubricating Guide (An Oft-Forgotten Step)
Table Saw Mistakes #9: Not Aligning the Blade and Fence Properly
Explanation: what table saw users often forget is to check and adjust the alignment of the blade and fence on this powerful tool. This means that the blade and fence are not parallel to each other.
Consequences: This can lead to inaccurate cuts and an increased risk of kickback because the wood is pinched between the blade and the fence. That is why in most cases it is better to use a blade guard or riving knife.
Avoidance: regularly check and adjust the alignment of the blade and fence to ensure they are properly aligned and perpendicular/parallel to each other. You can do this with a simple combination square and measure the distance between the miter slots and the blade or fence. To help you with this, I have 3 tips for you in my article How to Square a Table Saw Fence – 3 Proven Ways for Accuracy.
Table Saw Mistakes #10: Not Properly Securing the Work Piece
Explanation: A lot of table saw users often forget to properly secure the workpiece before making a cut, certainly when using a crosscut sled.
Consequences: A workpiece that is not clamped properly can shift, resulting in table saw accidents or injuries and damaged workpieces, so you can throw away expensive wood.
Avoidance: use a clamp or hold-down device to hold the workpiece in place and ensure it is firmly secured before starting the saw. Do this especially when you want to cut smaller pieces on a table saw.
In conclusion, there are several common mistakes that (beginner) woodworkers make when using a table saw like making crosscuts on the wrong side, pressing against the blade, not providing three directions of pressure, freehand cutting, over-tightening the nut, using dull or damaged blades, and not wearing proper personal protective equipment. Other mistakes to avoid include not aligning the blade and fence properly, and not properly securing the workpiece.
Remember to always follow proper safety procedures and use the appropriate personal protective equipment when using a table saw or other power tools. By following the tips and table saw cutting techniques discussed in this article, you can improve the quality of your cuts, learn about the table saw dangers, and avoid common table saw mistakes. More table saw tips can be found in my main article, 5 Basic Table Saw Tips You Shouldn’t Ignore.
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