How to Use a Table Saw | Ask This Old House

How to Use a Table Saw | Ask This Old House

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva gives a general overview of a table saw and the best techniques to use it safely and effectively.
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Cost: $500

Skill Level: Moderate to Advanced

Steps:
1. Modern table saws come with a variety of safety features to ensure safe use.
a. Table saw guards – plastic shields that help keep the dust down and act as an additional barrier between you and the blade.
b. Riving knife – two blades on both sides of table saw blade. Their teeth point in the opposite direction so that if the piece of wood kicks back, the teeth will bite down and prevent them from shooting out of the table saw.
2. There are a handful of cuts that can be made with a table saw.
a. Rip cut – cuts made with the grain of the wood.
i. Before making any cuts, ensure the rip fence on the side is perfectly lined up with the blade. Do this by measuring the distance between the rip fence and one tooth on the blade on one end of the rip fence, then turn that same tooth towards the other side of the table and measure again. If you get the same number, the rip fence is perfectly lined up.
ii. Set the height of the saw blade using the crank to a height just slightly above the thickness of whatever wood is being cut.
iii. When making a rip cut, watch the rip fence on the side instead of the blade to ensure you’re making a straight cut.
b. Cross cut – cuts made against the grain of the wood.
i. Do not use the rip fence when making cross cuts. It can cause kickback, and if it does, your hand is likely to get dragged across the blade based on the way you hold the board for cross cuts.
ii. Insert the cross cutting guide into the groove on the table saw and use that as a guide to make a cross cut.
iii. To make multiple cross cuts the same length, attach a scrap piece of wood to the rip fence and set the distance between the scrap and the blade to the desired length. That way, you can use the rip fence as a measuring guide without having the board against the rip fence.

Resources:
Tom demonstrated some best practices and techniques on the M18 Fuel Table Saw w/One Key [https://amzn.to/2Q61zw4], which is manufactured by Milwaukee Tools [https://amzn.to/2HoNLKt].

Tom also mentioned the larger table saw he uses in the workshop, which is a SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw [https://amzn.to/2YzuwDz].

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Homeowners have a virtual truckload of questions for us on smaller projects, and we’re ready to answer. Ask This Old House solves the steady stream of home improvement problems faced by our viewers—and we make house calls! Ask This Old House features some familiar faces from This Old House, including Kevin O’Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook.

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How to Use a Table Saw | Ask This Old House
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50 Comments

  1. Ty Crawford on June 22, 2022 at 9:26 pm

    I’m just so very pleased to see an old Missouri vanity plate on the wall. Our current design isnt nearly as cool as that old design

  2. sweetest_caroline_ on June 22, 2022 at 9:26 pm

    Almost enough knowledge for a beginner turning the tablesaw on for the first time. This is great info though and thank you

  3. BigDaddy B on June 22, 2022 at 9:27 pm

    Sleds are a great accessory to a table saw for safe cuts as well!

  4. House scrapper on June 22, 2022 at 9:29 pm

    I have that really enjoy This Old House show for years now that I have a new 10 inch table saw the show is still helping me out with my tools. Thanks This Old House.

  5. sleepingtiger on June 22, 2022 at 9:29 pm

    what if the blade has a bend?

  6. D C on June 22, 2022 at 9:32 pm

    Good for TOH to show such a great how-to on what is kinda a minefield!! 👌 Just got a table saw for a big project and this was good basics. I’ve read that you should also use a pusher whenever you can and not reach across the blade 🤔

  7. Mike the Catman on June 22, 2022 at 9:35 pm

    40 years old and just got my first table saw. Saw my dad lose his thumb print to one when I was a teen. Glad the videos are around to learn before use.

  8. Mixwell1983 on June 22, 2022 at 9:35 pm

    Since most material is 2x or thinner I suggest changing your 10" to a 7 1/4" regular 24t framing blade for a circ saw. Thinner kerf and less strain. There are videos about it on youtube. I had a 12" table saw and went to a 10" blade and it is way smoother. You lose a little height but again it’ll do 2x material easy and blades are cheaper. Kind of off topic but interesting concept.

    Here’s a video from Bob Chase on it.

    https://youtu.be/lVO7BkA6CN4

  9. R H on June 22, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    thanks for this video, I needed these tips!

  10. Daniel Dunham on June 22, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    With all due respect. Keeping one foot under the saw is the most important thing to remember. People make this mistake all the time.

  11. forhometools on June 22, 2022 at 9:38 pm
  12. Merlinshabbit on June 22, 2022 at 9:38 pm

    Just got a Kolbot saw from Lowe’s and first time user. Thanks for the vid . But I’m still going to ask my father in law, who used one , to give some advice .

  13. J Raglob on June 22, 2022 at 9:39 pm

    I have been using a table saw for many years. I feel it is always good to review the safety issues associated with table saws just to have them fresh in my head. I have several friends with Very Bad table saw accident "scars". Thanks for a visual reminder. I was always taught to "belly up to the off side of the table saw when doing a rip cut" for some extra measure of safety. Again, thanks for the video and keep them coming.

  14. Teddy Peters on June 22, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    Who the hell is this old guy talking? He doesn’t know much about wood working that’s for sure

  15. FX P on June 22, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    I saw someone lose a finger in a shop using the table saw. When he came back out for a time, eventually admitted he wasn’t paying attention doing repetitive work. I learned from that when using a table saw you have to keep your mind on the saw and don’t let it wander or stop for a break, if you feel tired. Saws are unforgiving and like they say about motorcycles any accident is serious. All this happened when I was a kid working after school, best safety lesson that stayed with me every time I use one.

  16. P B on June 22, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    Nice tips , thanks.

  17. K S on June 22, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    Can there be kick back with riving knife and blade guard both in place?

  18. Vish T on June 22, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    Thank you great advice 🙂

  19. blackdog850 on June 22, 2022 at 9:47 pm

    For me…great review of table saw safety! I probably always eyeballed that 1/4 to 1/2 inch, but good to review. My problem was crosscut safety. I use push sticks, but I had a small piece of wood rocket back at me, but I had stood to the side of the blade, so it missed me. Later, talking to friends I realized I wasn’t making a crosscut correctly…not using the miter guide…having the material on the fence. Made the adjustment and feel more comfortable and I’ll make a crosscut sled soon. I just wasn’t getting enough shop time to review these things, but as I get more projects I review my safety steps before I begin. I really don’t want a table saw cut…for me or anyone in my shop! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  20. DTS Reviews on June 22, 2022 at 9:48 pm

    Boy let me tell you, Online Woodshop Class is quite the doozy.

  21. Sgt.StevenPG72 on June 22, 2022 at 9:49 pm

    I don’t recommend battery operated table saws, especially for any 2X cuts i returned an $800 saw after a week, it’s just not strong enough, there’s nothing like electrical current saws to do the best work

  22. fofana aicha on June 22, 2022 at 9:49 pm

    *Just completed a big trim project on my house **MyBest.Tools** Performed very well. Also appreciate how easy it is to move, set up and store with the integrated stand. No more cutting wood on my knees.*

  23. boon ang on June 22, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    Just got a table saw and the best tip from Tom was the use of a small block at the starting point to give clearance from the fence to the saw blade when doing cross cuts.
    Thank you Tom.

  24. Mark D on June 22, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    I was a professionally trained commercial cabinet maker for years. It surprises me just how many diy videos there are out there that make me cringe when watching them use power equipment. It makes me wonder just how many accidents happen based on some of these diy’ers videos. I just want to reach out and slap them for putting others at risk of injury because of their ignorance and stupidity….

  25. 2pugman on June 22, 2022 at 9:53 pm

    After 25 years of running my table saw I made a mistake and lost some meat. I was lucky. It took me a month before I could go back to the basement again.

  26. justin woods on June 22, 2022 at 9:54 pm

    I saw a kid in wood shop in 7th grade cut his finger on the band saw we were making a band saw box and that teacher was a joke we had a good one but the partner quit then he took that then we got a sub and he slept most days in class now I’m in 10th grade and a year ago I got my first shop in the base isn’t I’m so cluttered

  27. Marty McFly on June 22, 2022 at 9:56 pm

    On the next episode of This Old House: "How to Use a Crescent Wrench"

  28. justgivemethetruth on June 22, 2022 at 9:56 pm

    5:46 – Having just watched another table-saw safety video, I think the advice on cross-cuts is incomplete, because as StumpyNubs’ channel said, the diagonal of a square board is much greater than the side, meaning that if the board twists enough after the crosscut it can rub against the blade and fly up or back.

  29. R Kerby on June 22, 2022 at 9:59 pm

    Well done! I am a newer and fairly good Woodworker whom just received a Tablesaw for Christmas. I am inspired by your tips to make myself a safer table saw user.

  30. CD ROD on June 22, 2022 at 9:59 pm

    I didnt know about not using the fence for those cuts,extremely useful information to keep all your fingers safe and in one piece.

  31. justin woods on June 22, 2022 at 9:59 pm

    I never really use mine I use my miter more than anything if you talking about stationary power hand tools is another level

  32. steveman1982 on June 22, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    About to use my tablesaw for the first time… Good thing I went to have a look at YT first 😀

  33. Hank Hill zero videos and zero subscribers on June 22, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    Wow this Tablesaw have way more features than mine mine does not have finger guides near the saw and kick back teeth basically just a electric motor belt going to the saw blade it has now on and off switch just plug it in when you want to use it it seems kind of scary to use it now

  34. VCR Time Machine on June 22, 2022 at 10:02 pm

    The problem with the safety guards and the gripping "blades" on the back end is that you CANNOT lower the blade down to a low enough height for some of the thinner boards.

  35. Big Zeus on June 22, 2022 at 10:02 pm

    Funny how they have shield and kickback device while filing this, but in the field he doesn’t use either. (Proof is on other videos)

  36. Kristen Gee on June 22, 2022 at 10:02 pm

    “Use the blade guard” doesn’t use it in the end grain cutting board video 🤣 lmfao safety guy

  37. falfas55bgas on June 22, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    C’mon Tommy, be honest, do you really have a guard on your shop saw?? I still have all my fingers.

  38. ᗩᗪOᒪᖴ ᗷᒪ on June 22, 2022 at 10:06 pm

    Aka

  39. forhometools on June 22, 2022 at 10:06 pm
  40. justin woods on June 22, 2022 at 10:09 pm

    I’ve seen a kick back in wood shop last year in 9th grade before corona they were cutting straps for are cutting boards and all we heard was a big clunk and I looked and seen the strip go acrossrd the room

  41. larry moore on June 22, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks for this very helpful information and cutting tips.

  42. Dino Martino on June 22, 2022 at 10:11 pm

    FIRST MOVE – put your SAFETY GLASSES ON before you ever hit the switch, if you don’t like wearing them leave them on the table when you are done cutting ?

  43. Geo Man Tips on June 22, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    Right

  44. Joe Smitty on June 22, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    Ooooooohhhhh..Thats how.

  45. Stephen Angela on June 22, 2022 at 10:19 pm

    Got all my know how from Paul Timberman’s workshop as I type this with my last finger.

  46. justin woods on June 22, 2022 at 10:19 pm

    My table saw is kick back proof from factory it’s a harbor freight one so it’s like a circular saw and you can do rough cuts with circular saw and they basically out one upside down so my table saw doesn’t kick back but I don’t really use my table saw or circular saw much

  47. Mike on June 22, 2022 at 10:19 pm

    A couple important things that weren’t discussed in the video. One, keep your hands a minimum of 6" away from the blade at all times by always using a push stick or block to feed material through the blade. Two, given job site saws are small and light by design, make sure to fasten them securely to something to keep them from moving around while you’re feeding stock through them. A saw that can move around during use ups the chances of kickback big time, and also makes getting accurate cuts difficult. Clamp the saw down to a larger table or buy a dedicated saw base to go with it.

  48. Mike on June 22, 2022 at 10:22 pm

    I know its recommended to use a guard on a saw, but in everyday practice, you’ll be hard pressed to find a guard on any job site saw. They’re just way too big a pain to deal with. And the Powermatic cabinet saw I’ve had in my workshop for over 20 years has never had a guard on it. Riving knife yes. Guard no. Manufacturers spend far too little R&D trying to design a guard that doesn’t completely torment users, so most guards get removed and discarded almost as soon as saws are set up. Saw safety is a mindset, and is usually insured through common sense and good practices, not via a flimsy piece of plastic and steel that torments the user every time they turn on their saw.

  49. elvsrbad2 on June 22, 2022 at 10:23 pm

    I cut my hand on a tablesaw a decade ago and still can’t get myself to use one again. Be careful everyone

  50. Patrick M. Parisou on June 22, 2022 at 10:24 pm

    Or….you can do what every other real professional does which is add/subtract a saw blade width, which is 1/8” by the way, and go from there. If you’re worried about wobble, you shouldn’t be using a tablesaw in the first damned place! Get this hack off your channel..!

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