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How to Rip Wood on a Table Saw

No matter how hard you try to run away from it, there are simply some home renovation tasks that simply require the use of a table saw. Nothing else will do the job but a tool that has the ability to rip through the wood.

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Ripping wood means to cut a long board lengthwise and a good example can be traced to when building a door or window frame. You will need to cut off a half an inch or so from the wood lengthwise to produce the perfect makeshift of two by fours that you require for your construction work.

Doing any of these tasks with a circular or hand saw is often laborious and sometimes, just plain impossible. This is where you need to get a table saw to do the job.

The truth is that the table saw is probably one of the most costly tools that you will ever purchase and it is one that any professional woodworker who is worth his salt can’t do without. But sometimes, we might be in the market looking for a table saw but we really don’t know what the options are. Here are some types of table saws available based on categories.

Types of Table Saws

Cabinet Saws. This is the largest and heaviest built with a heavy cast iron to a smooth surface. The motor that powers this type of table saws are enclosed beneath the table while the trunnions are heavy duty and precise. They often come with a 3HP to the 5HP motor while the entire saw with its wings can weigh as much as 600 pounds.

Contractor’s SawsContractor’s Saws are a more portable option designed to be used on site by the contractor. They are way lighter compared to the Cabinets. Made from aluminum, the motor is mounted on the outside and the trunnions are lighter. What you’ll notice about these table saws are the range sizes of its motors – ranging from 1-3/4 horsepower. With tools like the contractor’s saws, you should only purchase if you have more concern with portability than power.

Hybrid Saws. This is a combination of the first two saws above with more features of the cabinet saws to the contractor’s but these features vary based on manufacturer. Some hybrids have a cast iron main saw table and heavy trunnions while others don’t.

In order to rip wood on a table saw, you need to do the following:

  1. Loosen the gate

This is the metal guide that is parallel to the saw blade. You don’t have to remove it, you just have to adjust it a bit.

  1. Mark your board

Use your tape to measure and mark the exact midpoint of the width of the board with a pencil. You don’t need to draw a line all the way down the length of the saw. This is one of the advantages of using table saws. You can simply adjust the gate to the measurement that you want.

  1. Set the Gate

Set the marked end of the board on the top of the table saw. Adjust the wood so that the teeth of the saw are touching your pencil mark. Once this is done, move the wood to the left slightly so that you won’t mistakenly cut the area that you marked. The goal is to preserve the area you marked.

  1. Make the board level

If you’re lucky to have a table saw set into an actual table, this step can be skipped as it’s’ already been done for you. But if your table saw is stand-alone, you will require the surface on both sides of the table that is on the level with the top of the saw. It’s not a rule per se especially when ripping through wood less than four feet long but for longer boards, we advise you follow through as they will see-saw as you feed them through.

  1. Wood through the Saw

At this stage, you need to bring out your safety glasses and check for the saw’s safety guard to be sure it’s down, then flip on the power switch. Some people prefer to use a glove at this stage, but it’s not a rule. Push the wood through the saw slowly but be steady as you do it to get precise cuts. If you slow down or stop, you will notch big grooves out of your wood, destroying your nice straight line. You must keep the wood moving. When the wood is about halfway through, concentrate more on the wood coming out of the saw rather than on the feed end.

One alternative to try out is to use the ballet move where you remain on the “feed” and continue pushing. The downside to this is that as you approach the end of your cut, your hands could get closer to the saw blade and you might need one of the table saw accessories that we spoke about in an earlier post. In specific details, you will need a push stick – which is an extendable stick to around two feet long which allows you to force the board through that last foot or so. This is how you can do things that your hands wouldn’t do because they are dangerous for your hands.

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