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Woodworking: Using your Table Saw - Ripping

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 1

The first step in using any table saw is safety. I have been using a table saw for over 50 years, and still have all of my fingers and no major scars, so either I'm doing it right, or I've been very lucky (or a little of both!).

Several Items are important for safety. Eye protection is first on my list; Second on my list is the use of sound protection, as table saws are very loud and prolonged use can cause harm to your hearing; and Third on my list is the use of extensions, whether attached to the saw or freestanding. Long stock must have something to rest on after passing the end of the saw table. For large sheet work, a table is suggested.

Cutting to Width – Ripping

Ripping stock is simply using your saw to size your wood as needed. Cutting with the grain, the board is placed tightly against the fence. The left hand presses both down, and in, holding the stock flat and against the fence. The right hand holds the board level and pushes it through the blade. When the left hand comes within 6 inches of the blade it's time to remove the hand and the right hand then must do the remainder of the work.

For ripping long boards, you may want to cut them down to the lengths that you will be using, either with a Chop-Saw or by hand. In any event, you must keep the stock moving to avoid blade burns or side to side unintentional movement. To rip large sheets of plywood or particle board, you should have a second person. If that is not possible, you must have an extension table large enough to handle the entire sheet.

Using your left hand to guide and put downward pressure on the sheet, push the sheet against the fence. Use your right hand to push the sheet into the blade. Sometimes your hips can be of help to move the sheet along. When you reach the last couple of feet to be cut, both hands can be used to both push and guide the sheet through to the finish of the cut. Push the board completely through the blade, shut off the saw, and walk around the saw to get the cut piece. Never bring the cut piece back over the blade area.

In order to rip narrow pieces, and keep all of your fingers, the use of a push stick is required. The push stick takes the place of your hand when the material gets too close to the blade. A simple push stick can be made by notching a piece of scrap at the angle you are comfortable with. The notch should be slightly smaller than the stock so it doesn't drag on the table and alter your cut. It is suggested that you practice a couple of times to get used to the action required to complete the cut with the push stick before tackling your project.

A push stick is also used when cutting small pieces so that the smaller cut piece does not shoot back or jump out of the saw blades.

Safely ripping wood on your table saw is not difficult, and once you have experience you will find that there are many other projects that can be done on your saw. Be safe and have fun.


Stock = any wood material

Ripping = Sizing your stock to width with a table saw

Extensions= An item that makes the bed of the table saw longer to support your stock



Mar 22, 2011 3:35pm
I really needed this help! Your directions are right on and my project is now perfect. Thanks!
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