Introduction To The Table Saw – Beginners Guide

Introduction to the table saw - beginners guide

Using a table saw for the first time can feel a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. While the table saw can be a dangerous and powerful piece of equipment, knowing how to use it safely and correctly can be one of the most important skills for any woodworker.

With that in mind, we have put together some handy table saw tips to get you started and well on your way to becoming a table saw expert.

Table Saw Tips

A table saw is one of the most diverse cutting tools in any workshop, it is able to handle a huge number of jobs and materials. This is great but it also means that there is a significant amount to learn.

Getting started doesn’t need to be difficult, you simply need to make sure that you first understand the basics and then you can move on to making your first cut. With that in mind, let’s start by answering some of the most common beginner table saw questions.

Can I Use A Table Saw Without A Guard?

The table saw is an incredibly powerful piece of equipment, and when it is used properly, your workshop table saw will be one of your most invaluable tools. You will notice that it comes with a guard and this is there for your safety.

There may be times that you need to remove this guard, for example, when you use a dado blade. It would be extremely difficult, impossible even, to complete a cut but this should be the only time you omit using the guard.

In all other instances, the guard is there for your safety and it is important in helping to prevent kickback.

Can I Use A Table Saw Without A Stand?

You may often see videos of people using their table saws without a stand but this is not something that we would ever recommend. There are many reasons for this and you will likely notice that the instruction manual warns against using the table saw on the floor.

There are three main reasons that you need a stand with your table saw;

  • The saws motor will get hot as it is being used, this is fine as long as there is good airflow. Without a stand, sufficient airflow is not possible.
  • Not using a stand may cause excess dust to accumulate which can be dangerous as well as massively inconvenient.
  • A table saw needs a sturdy base to operate safely. If it is not secured, there is a risk of it moving in the middle of a cut and this poses a serious risk of injury. Furthermore, if you experience kickback, this can be significantly more devastating when not using a stand.

In addition to this, you will likely find the machine much more challenging to handle when not using it on a stand and this does nothing for your safety.

Table Saw Basics

As you get to grips with your new tool, you will likely spend quite a bit of time researching, and this will lead you to have many questions. So, before you get to cutting, let’s have a look at some of the basic table saw knowledge you will need to have.

Changing The Height

There are articles littering the internet about the proper height for a table saw blade and this can quickly leave even the most experienced users feeling confused. As a rule of thumb, you will find that you have fewer problems with tear-out and kickback when setting the blade at a lower height. But this may need to be changed depending on the materials and cut you are doing, but this requires a post all of its own.

The problem that beginners often have is that they struggle to use the table saw height adjustment mechanism. If you find that the blade is tricky to move, there is likely an easy fix.

More often than not, a build-up of sawdust may be the culprit for a stiff blade and removing this from the mechanisms may help.

Failing that, the mechanisms might need a little extra lubrication. It is important not to use a grease-based product as this could cause further sawdust build-up. The best things to use are silicone-based products.

How To Change A Table Saw Blade

Over time, you will need to replace your table saw blades as they will inevitably wear. Furthermore, if you are cutting different materials, you may need more than one blade. It is, therefore, important to be aware of how to safely and correctly change the table saw blade.

First things first, you should look at your instruction manual as this will give you the details for that specific table saw, but as a guide, you can follow these steps.

  • Be sure to turn off the power and unplug the connection.
  • Next, take off the throat plate and blade guard.
  • In order to remove the blade easily, you should bring it up to its maximum height.
  • Your table saw blade is secured with an arbour nut and this will need to be loosened before you can proceed. Most modern table saws will come with wrenches that are designed just for this job. However, if you do not have these, you can substitute them with other types of wrenches or a Blade-Loc.
  • When you have loosened the but, you can then turn it with your fingers until it comes away entirely.
  • The blade will then simply come away from the base and a new one can be inserted.
  • Be sure to fully replace and tighten the arbour nut and replace the guard and throat plate before operating the machine.

What Is A Table Saw Sled?

A table saw sled is a large piece of equipment that can be placed on the table saw, secured in the mitre gauge slots. It is typically made from woods like oak or maple but they can be made from metal or plastic.

The purpose of these accessories is to make cutting crosscuts much safer. They do this by keeping the wood secure as you cut, preventing it from moving around on the table.

What Is Rip Cutting And Cross-Cutting?

You will often hear table saw users talking about rip cutting and cross-cutting. These may sound like complex woodworking processes if you are a beginner but in reality, they are merely fancy terms for the direction in which the wood is cut.

Rip cutting refers to making a cut along the grain of the wood and is typically used to make longer cuts. Conversely, a cross-cut is where the operator uses the saw to cut across the grain.

A cross-cut is more easily achieved with smaller teeth whereas a rip cut is typically done using blades with larger, wider teeth.

Using A Table Saw

We mentioned earlier that a table saw is one of the most versatile types of cutting tool. This means that you will need to learn how to use it in a variety of ways. Considering this, let’s explore some of the most common uses of the table saw and how to approach them.

How To Cut Plexiglass On A Table Saw

Cutting plexiglass is a lot different from cutting wood but it is one of the many materials that a table saw will make light work of; provided you approach the job correctly.

Primarily, your main concern should be the blade. The blade that you use to cut wood will not work for plexiglass. There are blades that are designed with this purpose in mind and you should make use of them to get the best cut and avoid damaging the material.

You want to avoid the plexiglass sheet overheating and one of the best table saw tips comes in the form of spraying water on the material where the cut is being made.

Furthermore, you should always cut this material at a slower speed than you would when cutting wood. This will prevent it from cracking since plexiglass is far more delicate than wood.

How To Cut A Taper On A Table Saw

Cutting tapered parts, on furniture legs, for example, requires the right approach and you should always start by marking out your cut line with a pencil.

You will benefit from using a fine blade as this will give you the cleanest and most precise cut.

You will also need a table saw jig which is an add on that keeps the material secure, stops your hands from making contact with the blade and allows you to set the correct angle.

For intricate work like this, it is always advisable to use a push stick rather than your hand for moving the wood along the blade.

How To Cut Angles On A Table Saw

One of the benefits of using a table saw is that you are able to cut at an angle, which is something that many other cutting tools cannot do.

In a similar way to making a tapered cut, you will first need to mark out your cut line to avoid going off-course. If you are doing this on the saw, be sure to unplug it to avoid accidents.

To effectively cut at an angle, you will need to adjust the height of the blade. In most cases, a height of ¼ inch will work best.

Depending on the type of cut you are doing, you might need either a jig (for rip cuts) or a drafting triangle (for cross-cuts.) You will use a drafting triangle along with a mitre gauge to set the correct angle for cutting. This can be a little tricky and may take a few adjustments to get it just right, unless you are cutting at a right angle, in which case, you can simply place your triangle next to the mitre gauge without needing to move it at all. When using a taper jig, you will need to open this up to the correct angle.

Once your angle is set, you should fix the wood to a fence; this serves two purposes, protecting your fingers and preventing the wood from sliding around as you cut it.


Learning to use a table saw will open up a whole new world of ways that you can cut various types of material. However, it is vital that before you start cutting, you learn the basics. This will enable you to cut safely and effectively.

Our table saw tips for beginners give you everything you need to know to get started, now all you need to do is hone your skills so that you can move on to more advanced projects.

Introduction To The Table Saw – Beginners Guide

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