Let me put it this way.
Your Table Saw is (or at least it should be) the heart of your wood shop.
Maybe you don’t realize that just yet.
But as you learn more and build more, you’ll find out soon enough.
The number of things you will do, and the things you can do, all on your table saw, will most likely make it the central, most important tool in your shop.
That’s why it’s the one tool I actually spent some real money on.
It’s the one tool I went all in for.
It’s the reason I decided to run 220v to my garage.
It’s what I make most of my jigs for.
And it’s what I use the most for any project, without exception.
Am I saying you have to have a high dollar table saw to do any good?
No way, not even a little bit!
I went years using a contractor grade 1.5hp Craftsman table saw.
It even had the aluminum table, which is not ideal, but that’s life.
And with the cheaper saw, I still was able to learn many cuts and joinery techniques.
And I was able to build some really nice furniture projects with it.
Yes, you really can build a wood shop around a table saw.
While I also recommend a router and a drill press, the table saw still should come first.
For a larger, complete list of tools, including essential hand tools you might consider, read my tool list here.
But as for the bigger investments, the stationary (or bench top) power tools, your table saw is a great start and can handle many projects.
“OK Adam I get it. The Table Saw is great. What do I do with it now?”
Step 1 – Get The Table Saw Ready For Use
Tune your table saw.
Get the throat plate nice and level with the table.
Build you a zero-clearance throat plate. These come in handy for many types of cuts.
Invest in a decent combination blade. You can read more about table saw blades here.
Get your splitter (or riving knife) set just right so it’s perfectly in line with the blade.
The idea is you want to learn your table saw, and everything about it. Become a master of this tool.
Respect it every step of the way, which leads into the next section…
Step 2 – Learn How To Safely Make Cuts
Here’s a quick video you can watch on the basics of table saw safety.
The main things you need to understand are the following:
Never make a cut that leaves a loose piece of wood between the fence and the blade. The cut-off should be supported with either your hand, or a push stick.
Never use the fence when crosscutting, that’s what sleds and your miter gauge are for.
Use a splitter or riving knife to greatly reduce the chance of kickback.
With narrow boards, use push sticks, blocks, and shoes for pushing your work piece through the cut. Use one in your right hand for downward pressure on the board, and another in your left to keep rightward pressure on the board.
Step 3 – We All Love This Part – Jigs!
If you have a table saw, you need table saw jigs and sleds.
That’s one of my favorite parts of woodworking – designing, building and using jigs and sleds to make consistent, accurate cutting easy.
For starters, you’ll need to make a crosscut sled. You can make these pretty elaborate, like this one.
They can come with miter attachments, stop blocks, dovetailing attachments, and more.
Or you can build a simple and basic one, like this sled here.
Part of this process you’ll need to learn is squaring up the fence. The fence is the board at the back of the sled that you rest the work piece against.
The fence needs to be as close to a perfect 90 degrees to the blade as you can get it.
So in my table saw sled build-guide, I walk you through this squaring process.
You might also want to make a miter sled for cutting 45s.
Even if you don’t plan on making 45 degree cuts for furniture that often, you still need to be able to make picture frames, right?
I mean, every woodworker makes their own picture frames. It’s kind of a perk of having a wood shop.
Now with these 2 sleds, you can build all kinds of furniture and small projects.
But what about working with rough cut wood?
For that I recommend a straight-edge jig. Watch me use mine here.
I don’t have plans yet for this sled, but when I do I’ll update this page.
Other useful projects that upgrade your table saw:
- Box joint jig
- Dovetail jig
- Tapering jig
- Spline jig
- Tenoning jig
- Vertical cut fence
- Sacrificial fence
- Feather boards
- Thin-rip jig
- Various push blocks and push sticks
You don’t need all of those starting out. Some will become worthwhile if and when you’re on a project that requires a specific type of cut or joint.
So as a beginner, you need to really work through the steps I’ve laid out on this page.
Spend some time tuning your saw to make it cut as accurately as possible. You should be sure that you have everything squared up and working great before you take on projects.
Get a grasp of table saw safety. You need to be confident that every cut you make is being done right.
If you’re skiddish and unsure about a cut, then you probably didn’t think through that cut prior to starting. Slow down and Stay SAFE!
Then start building your jigs and sleds for the table saw. These projects will not only get you accustomed to making cuts using your saw, they are also fun to build, plus they make your future projects much more accurate and enjoyable.
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