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If you're an avid woodworker, you likely understand the importance of having the right tools for the job. One of the most essential tools for any woodworker is the table saw. But what is a table saw exactly? In this article, we'll explore the basics of this tool, including its uses, types, safety features, and more.

A table saw is a powerful woodworking tool that can make precise cuts through wood and other materials with ease. This tool is a must-have for any woodworker, whether you're a professional or a hobbyist. In this article, we'll take a closer look at what a table saw is and how to use it safely.

What is a table saw?

A table saw, also known as a sawbench, is a woodworking tool that consists of a circular saw blade mounted on an arbor and driven by an electric motor. The blade protrudes through the surface of a table, providing a flat and stable work surface for cutting wood, metal, and other materials.

The anatomy of a table saw

A table saw consists of several key components, including:

Table: The flat surface where the material is placed for cutting. Blade: The circular saw blade that protrudes through the table for cutting. Arbor: The mechanism that holds the blade in place and rotates it. Motor: The electric motor that powers the saw. Rip fence: A guide that keeps the material in place and parallel to the blade for straight cuts. Miter gauge: A guide that allows for angled cuts. Bevel and height adjustment: Controls that allow for adjusting the angle and height of the blade for different cuts. Dust collection system: A mechanism that collects sawdust and other debris for easy cleanup.

Types of table saws

There are four main types of table saws: benchtop, contractor, cabinet, and hybrid.

Benchtop table saws

Benchtop table saws are portable and lightweight, making them ideal for small woodworking projects or jobsites with limited space. They typically have smaller motors and are less powerful than other types of table saws.

Contractor table saws

Contractor table saws are larger and more powerful than benchtop saws, making them suitable for mid-size woodworking projects. They are also portable, but not as lightweight as benchtop saws.

Cabinet table saws

Cabinet table saws are the largest and most powerful type of table saw. They are designed for professional woodworkers and can handle heavy-duty projects with ease. They are not portable and require a dedicated workspace.

Hybrid table saws

Hybrid table saws combine the best features of cabinet and contractor saws, offering a good balance of power and portability. They are suitable for both professional and hobbyist woodworkers

Features of a table saw

Table saws come with various features that can make the cutting process easier and more efficient. Here are some common features to look for:

Rip fence

A rip fence is a guide that runs parallel to the blade and keeps the material in place for straight cuts. It's essential for accuracy and precision when cutting long pieces of wood.

Miter gauge

A miter gauge is a guide that allows for angled cuts. It's particularly useful for making precise cuts for things like picture frames and crown molding.

Bevel and height adjustment

Most table saws come with controls that allow for adjusting the angle and height of the blade for different cuts. Bevel adjustments allow for angled cuts, while height adjustments control the depth of the cut.

Dust collection system

Sawdust and debris can be a significant issue when working with a table saw. Many table saws come with a dust collection system that collects sawdust and other debris for easy cleanup.

Safety features

Table saws can be dangerous if not used properly, so it's important to look for models with built-in safety features like blade guards, anti-kickback pawls, and riving knives. These features help to prevent accidents and keep you safe while using the saw.

How to Use a Table Saw Safely

Before using a table saw, it is important to understand the potential risks involved and take appropriate safety precautions. Here are some tips on how to use a table saw safely:

Wear safety gear: Always wear eye protection, hearing protection, and a dust mask when using a table saw. If you are making long cuts, wear gloves to protect your hands.

Use a push stick: A push stick is a safety tool used to push the material through the blade while keeping your hands a safe distance away. Always use a push stick when cutting narrow pieces of material or when your hands are too close to the blade.

Keep your hands away from the blade: Never reach over the blade or near the blade guard. Always keep your hands at least six inches away from the blade.

Avoid loose clothing and jewelry: Loose clothing and jewelry can get caught in the blade and cause serious injury. Wear fitted clothing and remove any jewelry before using the saw.

Turn off the saw before making adjustments: Before making any adjustments to the blade or fence, turn off the saw and wait for the blade to come to a complete stop.

Proper Setup

Proper setup of the table saw is important for both safety and accuracy. Here are some tips on how to set up a table saw properly:

Check the blade alignment: The blade should be parallel to the miter slot and the fence. Use a dial indicator or a combination square to check the alignment.

Adjust the blade height: The blade height should be set so that it protrudes about 1/8 inch above the surface of the material you are cutting.

Adjust the fence: The fence should be parallel to the blade and adjusted to the correct distance from the blade for the cut you are making.

Check the blade guard and splitter: The blade guard and splitter are safety devices that help prevent kickback. Make sure they are properly installed and adjusted.

Basic Cuts

There are four basic cuts that can be made with a table saw:

Rip cut: A rip cut is made with the grain of the wood and is used to cut a board to width.

Crosscut: A crosscut is made across the grain of the wood and is used to cut a board to length.

Bevel cut: A bevel cut is made at an angle to the face of the board.

Compound cut: A compound cut is a combination of a bevel cut and a miter cut.

Advanced Cuts

In addition to the basic cuts, there are many advanced cuts that can be made with a table saw, including:

Dado cut: A dado cut is a groove cut across the grain of the wood that is used to create a slot for a joint. Rabbet cut: A rabbet cut is similar to a dado cut, but it is cut along the edge of the board and is used to create a recess for another board to fit into.

Taper cut: A taper cut is made by angling the fence or the blade to create a wedge-shaped cut.

Cove cut: A cove cut is made by tilting the blade and using a special cove-cutting blade to create a concave profile along the edge of the board.

Molding cut: A molding cut is made by using a special molding head cutter to create decorative moldings or profiles along the edge of the board.

Maintaining a Table Saw

Proper maintenance of a table saw is important to ensure its longevity and safe operation. Here are some tips on how to maintain a table saw:

Cleaning and lubrication: Regular cleaning and lubrication of the moving parts is important to prevent rust and wear.

Sharpening blades: The saw blade should be sharpened regularly to maintain its cutting performance.

Replacing parts: Worn or damaged parts, such as belts or bearings, should be replaced promptly to prevent further damage to the saw.


A table saw is a versatile and powerful tool that can be used to make a variety of cuts in wood and other materials. However, it can also be dangerous if not used properly. Always take appropriate safety precautions and follow the manufacturer's instructions for use and maintenance.


Q: Can I use a table saw to cut metal?

A: No, a table saw is not designed to cut metal. Use a metal-cutting saw or a circular saw with a metal-cutting blade instead.

Q: How often should I lubricate my table saw?

A: It depends on how often you use it. As a general rule, lubricate the moving parts every six months or after every 50 hours of use.

Q: How do I know when to replace the saw blade?

A: A dull blade will produce poor-quality cuts and may burn the wood. Replace the blade when it becomes dull or damaged.

Q: What should I do if the saw blade binds or stalls during a cut?

A: Stop the saw immediately and unplug it. Check the blade for damage or dullness, and adjust the blade height or fence if necessary.