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A table saw right out of the box has everything you need to start cutting workpieces. However, to get the most out of it, you need some extra accessories and jigs. These table saw addons are easy to build but you can still get the ready-made ones. In this post, I will discuss the 5 must-have table saw accessories and jigs that will increase your productivity and safety on the saw. Moreover, these extra custom accessories will also improve the quality of cuts coming from your table saw and the speed at which you make them. Let’s get started!
1. Crosscut sled
Although a table saw comes with a miter gauge and a rip fence for helping you set the workpiece for accurate crosscuts, sometimes you need an extra accessory to cut some workpieces more effectively. For instance, a miter gauge fence is too small to handle long, wide, and heavy workpieces. Moreover, as workpieces become bigger and heavier, the friction between them and the tabletop increases, resulting in more resistance. This may lead to workpiece misalignment that may introduce inaccuracies in your cuts. In some cases, if you do not have a good grip on the stock, it can easily slip out of alignment resulting in an inaccurate cut as well. This is where a table saw crosscut sled comes in handy.
What is a table saw crosscut sled?
A cross-cut sled of a table saw is simply a table saw jig for making all types of square or straight crosscuts. It has a base with a slot at the center where the saw blade protrudes and a fence both on the front and rear. The front fence must be perpendicular to the blade but the rear does not have to be perfectly orthogonal. Underneath the sled base is two runners that must fit snugly in the miter slots of the table saw. The runners allow the table sled to slide smoothly back and forth on the surface. You can make runners for your sled from a variety of material but the best crosscut sled runners are either hardwood, maple, or plastic. These runners will not expand or contract easily when the humidity in the shop changes.
When a table sled runner expands, it stops fitting in the miter groove of the table saw and you have to sand it down to fit. On the other hand, when the runner contracts, the sled starts to wobble, introducing errors in your cuts. So, you need to be very careful when choosing the material for the runners to avoid these problems. Similarly, you need to choose carefully the material for the base of your crosscut sled. Ideally, the base should be strong enough to support the stock and soft enough for the blade. A hardwood base, for example, will increase the wear and tear of the saw blade. A very soft base, on the other hand, will bend inwards due to the pressure of the stock and may pinch the blade.
So, the best material for the base of a table saw sled is baltic birch plywood or MDF because they are neither too hard nor too soft.
Why use a crosscut sled?
A crosscut jig or sled is important because it eliminates the contact of your workpiece with the table saw. As a result, you do not have to worry about the smoothness of the surface of the stock when cutting. The sled takes care of that. Also, the jig ensures that your workpiece remains stationary during the cut. In other words, instead of the workpiece moving, you move the sled. This keeps the workpiece aligned perfectly all the time.
Table saw sleds are perfect jigs for making any kind of straight crosscut on small and large stocks. They also make it easier and quicker for you to make accurate repeated cuts all the time. You can build a cross-cut sled for your table saw or buy one. The video below will show you step by step how to make crosscut sled using plywood. However, if you wish to buy a ready-made sled, I would recommend the Rockler tablesaw crosscut sled. This jig brings accuracy in the miters and crosscuts you make on workpieces of different sizes. The only caveat is that your table saw must have standard miter grooves for the runners on this sled to fit.
Video: How to make a table saw crosscut sled
2. Zero clearance throat plate
A table saw throat plate is the removable cover at the center of the tablesaw surface with a slot at the center through which the table saw blade protrudes. This plate makes it easy to access the blade arbor for blade changes. Typically, stock table saw throat plates have wide slots to accommodate different types of blades. Unfortunately, these wide slots do not support your workpiece at the bottom right next to the blade. As a result, nasty tear outs may occur affecting the cut quality. To solve this problem, you use a custom zero clearance throat plate or insert.
What is a zero clearance throat plate?
A zero clearance throat plate is simply a table saw insert plate with a slot just as wide as the blade’s kerf. It leaves no gap on both sides of the blade thereby providing support to the fibers on the underside of your workpiece. A zero clearance insert is one of the most used table saw accessories for reducing tear-outs and splintering on your cuts. It also prevents cutoffs resulting from cutting thin strips from jamming in between the blade and the throat plate or going down into the saw. This improves the safety of your table saw. Also, the narrow gap of the custom insert prevents the accumulation of sawdust underneath.
Types of table saw inserts
You can make as many zero clearance plates for your table saw as the types of your table saw blades. But the most useful custom zero clearance inserts are dado throat plate, thin kerf throat plate, bevel cuts throat plate, ordinary throat plate, and a regular throat plate with a splitter. The insert with a splitter performs two tasks. It supports the bottom of the workpiece so that you end up with clean cuts with minimal tear outs and keeps the kerf of the workpiece open to prevent kickback.
Material for making zero clearance throat plate
You can make zero clearance inserts for your table saw from a variety of materials. One of the materials is phenolic. It is a type of synthetic material that is sleek, hard, and long-lasting. Other materials include good quality plywood, ordinary medium-density fiberboards (MDFs), plexiglass, lexan, polypropylene, or stable hardwood plate. The bottom line is to use a material that will last long without contracting to introduce play.
Alternatively, because building a perfect custom throat plate is not easy, you can opt for a shop-made throat plate. This option, however, requires you to get the exact measurements of your table saw throat opening to avoid acquiring the wrong fit. It is also worth noting that a zero clearance insert only protects your cut quality and not your fingers, and this is what takes us to the third item in our list of most useful table saw accessories.
3. Table saw push stick
A push stick is one of the safety tablesaw accessories. You use it to push the stock through the spinning blade instead of using your hand directly. It keeps your hand from the blade. A good push stick sits on top of your workpiece to hold it down while pushing it forward. It should be stout and long enough to exert the downward force effectively to prevent kickback.
Most tablesaws ship with a pushstick but they are hardly built to prevent kick backs. Custom made pushsticks are the best because they are long and tall hence effective at pushing the stock safely through the cut.
When ripcutting on a tablesaw, it is safer and more effective to push a piece forward and sideways. The forward pressure feeds the stock slowly through the blade while the lateral pressure just before the blade keeps it tight against the fence. You can use two push sticks to do this or get a microjig gripper.
What is a micro jig gripper
A micro jig gripper is an advanced push block system from Micro Jig Inc. It allows you to put pressure on the stock both in the forward direction and sideways against the fence. Grr-ripper is one of the best table saw accessories for controlling small workpieces on a table saw safely. A microjig gripper is better than a push stick because it gives you a good grip on a workpiece while protecting your hands. It helps prevent the wandering movement of a workpiece past the saw blade to prevent kickback. Unfortunately, a microjig is more expensive and more complex to build than a pushstick or pushblock. So, if you have a tight budget, the best alternative for a micro jig system is to use a feather board and a push stick or push block simultaneously.
4. Table saw feather board
A feather board is tablesaw accessory that provides lateral pressure on a workpiece. It pushes stock against the tablesaw fence to prevent the wandering movement that may introduce inaccuracy to your work or increase the risk for kick backs. You use it to push the stock against the fence instead of using a micro jig gripper or another pushstick.
You must place the featherbaord before the blade because lateral pressure past the blade can cause the blade to bind up or bog down the saw. Sometimes it can also result in a nasty kickback.
5. Miter sled
A miter sled is simply table saw sled for making angled cuts. It looks very similar to the crosscut sled except that its fence is at 45 degrees to the saw blade. A miter sled is more effective for making accurate repeated angle cuts. It is one of the table saw accessories for eliminating tearouts from your cuts because of the zero clearance gap it provides for the blade.
Building a miter sled is very simple but you can also get ready made angle sleds. Some are even hybrid, allowing you to make both angled cuts and straight crosscuts.