Table Saw Parts and Functions

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Last updated on July 6th, 2020 at 09:03 am

A table saw, also known as a sawbench or bench saw is a power tool for producing high quality and accurate cuts. It is one of the most coveted wood cutting tools that any woodworker desires to have in his or her workshop. One of the simplest definitions of a table saw is simply a mirror-smooth table with a circular saw assembly mounted underneath and a miter gauge on the top surface. The circular saw blade protrudes vertically through a slot at the center of the table, allowing you to make cuts by sliding workpieces through it. The miter gauge assembly, on the other hand, rotates horizontally relative to the table surface to set the angle of cut of the workpiece.

A table saw has many additional features and parts to complement its primary purpose. These extra features make it one of the best tools for making accurate cuts on wood and other workpieces in your woodshop or jobsite. To understand even better, this article looks at all the parts of a table saw and functions. By the time you are done reading, you will be able to identify various table saw parts and at least differentiate their uses. Moreover, the understanding of the parts of a table saw will help you make a good buying decision.

Basic Table Saw Parts

These are parts that any bench saw worth your money must have.

1. Tablesaw table

This is where the table saw gets its name. It is the work surface and also the part where most of the basic functions and features of a table saw are located. Most tables are made from cast iron or heavy duty steel. The table should be flat, extremely smooth, and durable. A good table surface should be made of aluminum and must have a non-friction coating.

Extension wings from either sides, left or right help in increasing the surface area of the table saw so as to help support wider materials. The materials used to construct the extensions depend on the size of the table saw. In heavy duty table saws the extensions are usually made of cast iron while on smaller table saws they are made of lighter stamped steel or the lighter style of cast iron. The disadvantage of lighter table extensions is increased vibrations during operation due to their less mass. Heavier extensions decrease the vibrations and this helps in making the saw stay in calibration.

2. Table saw base

This is the part that houses the working parts of the table saw. This includes the arbor assembly, the trunnions, the sector gears, and at times the motor. Some bases in table saws are ‘cabinet’ types that extend all the way to the floor. Others are ‘open base’- have an open metal box that surrounds the internal working parts of the saw. Open bases have legs that extend from the bottom of the base to the base of the floor.

3. Saw blade

It is the part that does all the cutting. It is a circular saw, with a size ranging from 10-12 inches. The saw blade is usually mounted on an arbor. There are different types of blades that are available depending on the cutting task in question. The major difference is the number of teeth as well as the shape. For instance, a rip cut blade has fewer teeth and larger gullets between teeth than a cross cut blade. You cannot interchange these two types of blades, otherwise you will end up with a bad quality cut and you might also damage the blade. Therefore, you should always ensure that the table saw has the right type of blade before you start cutting. You should also ensure that the cutting blade is sharp enough so that you can get clean cuts with minimal effort.

For more details about keeping the saw blade sharp, check out: how to tell if a circular blade needs sharpening or replacement.

Circular saw blades also differ in the design of their teeth.  Blades that are carbide tipped are more durable. Also, take note and care of the teeth of the blade. More teeth on a blade give quality and smoother cuts.

The mounting arbor gives the saw blade a proper placement and angle while at the same time keeping the saw firm and steady.  Depending on the task in question, the saw can be moved up and down to expose more blade or less blade depending on the task. The saw can also be tilted to one side so as to make bevel cuts, usually up to 45 degrees.

4. Rip Fence

The rip fence is used to guide the work piece when you are making a rip cut. It ensures your safety and the accuracy of the cut you want to make. The rip fence runs parallel to the blade ensuring that the workpiece is straight hence more accuracy. You can adjust the rip fence to the left or to the right. The distance from the blade to the rip fence is called the rip capacity and indicates the size of a work piece that can be properly placed within the sawing area. You should not, however, use a rip fence as a stop block when making crosscuts. Doing so can result in violent kickbacks.

5. Miter gauge

miter gauge assembly for table saw

Every table saw comes with a miter gauge. This table saw part is essential for making accurate angle cuts and cross cuts. In other words, a miter gauge is used to set the angle of miter cuts on a table saw.  It sits on the top of the table and has a fence against which workpieces are placed. The miter gauge fence lets you set the angle of cut for your workpiece. In its default position, the miter gauge points to 0 degrees, which sets the workpiece perpendicular to the cutting blade. If you want to change the angle of cut, all you need is to set the angle on the miter gauge. This will in turn set the miter fence to the desired angle so that you will achieve the desired angle of cut on your workpiece. You can adjust the miter gauge horizontally from 0-90 degrees.

A good miter gauge assembly should slide back and forth easily and  must be steady and well supported. To achieve this setting, the miter gauge is usually attached to a guide that fits into the groove on the table saw. The groove is parallel to the saw blade to ensure that the miter gauge also slides parallel up and down. Another feature of the miter gauge is a pivoting angle guide. It makes it possible to make compound cuts.

6. Miter gauge slots

The miter gauge slots on the table saw are the grooves on the surface of the table that run parallel to the saw blade. These grooves serve three main purposes. One, they help to set the miter gauge fence to a fixed angle. The miter bar fits into the grooves snugly allowing you to pivot the miter gauge to the desired angle. Two, the slots allow you to slide the miter gauge assembly back and forth in a straight line while maintaining the angle of the miter fence. Three, the miter gauge slots help in the alignment of the circular saw blade. They also allow you to slide your table saw sled back and forth in parallel to the saw blade. You can also use the slot to align the rip fence.

7. Blade plate/ throat plate

A blade plate covers the wide area around the slot. It has a thin slot through which the blade raises and lowers. When you want to change the saw blade or a riving knife or splitter, you take out the blade plate first. The throat plate is easy to remove and put back on, allowing you to change the saw and its assembly easily from the top.

8. Table saw blade guard/cover

A table saw blade guard protects the blade and the user during cutting operations. It is usually pivoted on the splitter or riving knife. When making cuts, the stock pushes the blade cover up to expose the spinning blade. The cover blade guard then sits on the stock to provide protection as you feed the stock through. The side of the blade guard blocks your fingers from the side of the blade while the top prevents material from falling onto the cutting blade. A blade guard also prevents the fence from coming into contact with the blade especially when making very thin cuts. That is why it is also referred to as a fence guard.

Most blade covers are made of transparent material to allow you to see the cut as you push the stock. So, removing the guard to see the cut is not an excuse to cut without a blade guard. However, there are some instances when it may be impossible to use a blade guard such as when making dado cuts or other non-through cuts.

9. Anti-kickback claws

When using a table saw, an accident can occur whereby the spinning saw blade may cause the stock to fly violently back at you. This is known as kickback. The table saw kickbacks are very dangerous and may cause serious bodily injuries or damage to nearby equipment. This is why table saws come equipped with a pair of kickback claws. Also known as kickback pawls, this safety table saw part is usually mounted on the rear side of the blade cover onto the splitter knife. Their angled spikes rest on the workpiece allowing you to slide feed the stock smoothly forward. However, in the event of a kickback, the teeth of the anti-kickback claws grab the stock down to prevent it from accidentally flying back at you. This is a very important safety part of a table saw.

10. Push stick

A push stick makes it safe to push the workpiece during the cutting process as opposed to pushing using hands, which is obviously dangerous. A good push stick should have a good grip to push the stock without sliding over. Moreover, you must also use the push stick safely to avoid causing a violent kickback scenario. For example, you should place the push stick at the center so that you can feed the stock to the cutting saw evenly and straight. You should also use the push stick only when the edge of the workpiece is one the board. Otherwise, you may twist the workpiece upwards resulting in dangerous kickback.

11. Dust shroud

A dust shroud ensures that your tablesaw workspace is always neat and clean. It is usually plastic and covers the underside of the table saw. This part of the dust collection system directs the collected dust to an outlet port at the back of the table. . Not all table saws have dust shrouds, nevertheless.

12. Bevel angle gauge

When making bevel cuts it is important to have a mechanism that will show you the angle that you need to set your blade. Bevel angle gauges are located below the table and perpendicular to the saw cage. The bevel angle gauge has a handle for making adjustments to the bevel angle.

13. Blade height adjustment lever

This handle is located above or below the bevel angle adjustment and is usually in the form of a hand crank. Adjusting the crank causes the blade to rise up to match the required cutting height of the work piece in place. When the height is too low, there is a possibility that the work piece will not be cut all the way through. When the height is too high, the cut may not be clean and there are chances of kickback happening.

14. Stand

A stand is required for table saws that are mounted on a bench. Collapsible stands are used in table saws that are geared towards being more portable which table saws that are not meant to be moved from place to place will have heavy duty stands that are bolted/clamped to the saw.

15. Motor, Trunnions and Arbor assembly

These are the most essential mechanical parts of a table saw and the choice of each of these components plays a vital part in the durability of a table saw as well as the capacity of the table saw. The induction motor is the most common motor in table saws apart from the jobsite and bench top models. Some table saws have the Totally Enclosed Fan Cooled (TEFC) induction motor. The advantage of TEFC induction motor is –the motor is sealed and hence safe from dust and other contaminants.

The arbor assembly- consists of the arbor and the sector gear. The arbor holds the blade while the sector gear is used to raise and lower the blade. The trunnions, both the front and rear, are what hold the motor and arbor assembly in place with the help of the yoke (the yoke is what joins the front and rear trunnions). Trunnions play a vital role in absorbing vibrations from the motor and blade hence fewer disturbances on the workpiece. Trunnions also hold the blade and rip fence in alignment and the miter. The wider the trunnion of a table saw the more the stable is the arbor assembly.

16. Riving knife

A riving knife is the most important safety part of a table saw. It is a curved steel plate attached to the saw arbor at a fixed gap with the blade. A riving knife prevents the stock from pinching back and causing kickback. The advantage of a riving knife over a splitter is that its gap remains constant even as you lower or raise saw blade. This ensures that whenever the workpiece tries to pinch at the back of the blade at whatever height, it does not come into contact with the blade teeth. Instead, the workpiece strikes the riving knife hence preventing violent kickback from happening.

Advanced Table Saw Parts

17. Table saw sled/crosscut sled

Although your table saw comes with a miter gauge and a rip fence for making accurate crosscuts and angle cuts, sometimes they might not be very effective on large workpieces. For instance, a miter gauge fence is too small to handle long, wide, and heavy workpieces. Furthermore, as workpieces become bigger and heavier, the friction increases affecting how they slide on the table saw surface. This might cause misalignment to occur. In some cases, if you do not have a good grip, a stock can easily slip out of alignment resulting in an inaccurate cut. This is where a table saw crosscut sled comes in.

A cross-cut sled is simply a table saw jig with runners that slide in the miter slots of a table saw. The device eliminates the contact of stock with the table saw., ensuring that workpieces remain aligned during a cut. Sleds also make it safer to work on small pieces. Moreover, it is easier and quicker to make repeated cuts with sleds. You might want to get one for your table saw or make one.

How to make a crosscut sled

Types of Table Saws

Table saws have a general basic design and autonomy but have varying sizes. These are the common types of table saws.

  • Benchtop table saw

    Also referred to as compact table saws. These are the smallest types of table saws and very portable. They can be mounted on a benchtop. However, most benchtop table saws have a collapsible stand on which you can mount them if you do not have a working bench.

  • Jobsite table saw

    These one are larger than the benchtop models. They incorporate a larger capacity and are also portable. As their name suggests, they are meant to be taken to a job site and back. Most have collapsible stands and also tires/wheels for movement purposes.

  • Contractor table saw

    Also known as open-stand saws are heavier and larger. They have greater rip capacities, larger saws and more powerful motors and have little vibrations making them suitable for a workshop setting.

  • cabinet table saw

    These are large and heavy, not portable from one place to another. They provide huge rip capacities, very powerful saws with strong rip fences. The chances of kickback happening are minimal. Most of them are made from heavy cast iron and steel to minimize vibrations thus improving accuracy.

  • Hybrid table saw

    These are a mix of cabinet table saws and jobsite table saws. They incorporate the design of the cabinet table saw hence better stability and the low weight of the hybrid is due to its jobsite nature.

  • Mini and micro table saw

    These have a blade diameter of 4-5 inches and below for the micro table saws. They are mostly used in crafting models.

Top Table Saw Uses

A table saw is one of the most useful woodworking power tools. You can use it to make dozens of different cuts for your woodworking projects. It is actually one of the most desired power tools by woodworking enthusiasts and professionals. Some of the best uses for a table saw include:

  • Making crosscuts with a table saw

    Table saws are known for making accurate cross cuts. Cross cuts are cuts you make on a stock by slicing across its grain. A table saw is good for crosscutting both large and small workpieces. Cutting across the grain important when you want to make straight edges of your stock or when you want to chop smaller pieces. Normally, you will use a miter guide and its fence to slide workpieces smoothly through the cutting blade However, if you want to make more accurate cross cuts quickly, you will need a cross cut sled. Cross cut sleds also increase safety by minimizing the chances of table saw kickbacks.

  • Using a table saw to make miter cuts

    A miter cut is a cut you make when you feed a workpiece at an angle to the cutting blade. You use a miter guage to set the angle of a miter cut. One of the most common miter angles is a 45 degree cut. Professional woodworkers use a miter sled to make quick angled cuts. Miter cuts are useful for making miter joints such as those on picture frames.

  • Table saw rip cuts

    Rip cuts are cuts made along the grain of stock. On a table saw, you use the rip fence to set the rip capacity and to guide stock on a parallel path to the blade. Rip cuts are common when you want to slice lumber such as when you want to make 2 x 4s from a 4 x 4.

  • Cutting bevels

    Bevel cuts are cuts made on the edge of stock by slanting the blade at an angle. Unlike miter cuts whereby you slant the workpiece, bevel cuts require you to slide the saw. A table saw has a bevel angle lever and gauge that let you set the saw blade angle between 0 and 45 degrees. Bevel cuts are most useful for giving workpieces a decorative finish on the edges.

  • Table saw rabbet cuts

    Rabbet joints are cuts made along the edge or at the end of a workpiece that accepts a mating piece. You can also refer to the as the non-through cuts on the edge or end of a workpiece. You make rabbet cuts using a dado set or more setup. Rabbet joints are useful when building shelves.

  • Dado Cuts/joints

    Dado cuts are flat-bottomed grooves on a piece of wood or workpiece. You can make dado cuts either in a crosscut or rip configuration. Dado joints make some of the strongest woodworking joints. To make them you need a dado blade.

  • Compound Cuts

    A compound cut is a cut that combines both a miter cut and a bevel cut. You can set the angles of a table saw’s miter gauge and bevel gauge to make compound cuts. You can use compound angles to build decorative wood for the ceiling.

Julius

Julius is an electrical engineer by profession who used to work at a solar microgrid firm as an O&M supervisor. While there, he realized that having the right tools for the trade is equal to getting the job half done. That's when he started this blog to talk about tools.

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