The saw is perfect, the blade is new, and every other thing is well aligned, but still, the saw is not cutting as it should. Have you ever felt that way? People always blame their saw for cuts that are not clean enough or are not square. What if I say that, it is not the saw, it’s just the user’s inappropriate ways of using the saw?
Yes, you are reading it right. In most cases, the saw is not the one to blame for. There are some tricks and habits one needs to learn and use to get a perfect cut from a perfect saw. You must have noticed that, when you look for answers to why the saw is not cutting properly, most articles are suggesting to troubleshoot to fix the saw blade. No one talks about the practices a pro woodworker follows to get clean cuts. These are the things that we are discussing here. If you are not following these, then you can’t make clean cuts no matter whose saw you are using.
How to Tell Your Saw is not Cutting Properly
Are you unsure about the accuracy of your table saw? Do an accuracy check before doing any project with it. It is just a safe rain check to keep your resources well utilized. To do this accuracy check you will need a set square, a ¾ plywood board, and of course your table saw.
- The first step is to make a square out of your plywood board. It is quite simple. Set the rip fence at a certain place and run the four sides of the plywood on the blade, supported by the fence. Now you have a perfect square-shaped board.
- Secondly, you need a flat surface to check the right sides of the square board. Usually, the top surface for a table saw is the best place to do this test. Place the square board on the flat surface vertically and place the combination square by its side. Now close the gap between these two and check for any gap. Do this test for all 4 sides of the board. If there is one side found with no gap at all, then the bad side and the perpendicular side touching the square is forming a perfect 90 degrees. Mark the edge touching the set square.
- Now, set the marked edge to the fence and cut the board at any size. You need to test this cut now. Set both cut-out pieces on a flat surface. Is it a perfect square without any gap? Then reverse one board and test the same edges again. Is there any gap in between the cuts? No? Then your saw is perfectly fine. If there is a tiny gap detectable then the cut is not entirely accurate.
Reasons for Table Saw not Cutting Properly
This part is for users who already know how to take care of their table saw. Meaning, if the saw is well-aligned and well-tuned, but the cuts are not accurate every time, then there must be user error. So, this write-up is all about the errors we make while using the saw and making imperfect cuts.
1. Cutting Without Any Support
The last thing one should do is, cut any wooden piece without any support and still expect it to be a perfect square. Many people do this to short and thin pieces to make smaller parts and so on. But still, to make a square cut there must be support needed like a miter gauge or rip fence. These features are meant to make the cuts square.
2. Poor Support on Crosscuts
When you use thin and long pieces and want to make crosscuts. Where do you put support? Of course, the side that you are going to use on a project and leave the side that you don’t need. Say, you supported the long side using a miter gauge and left a 2-inch area to cut off without any support. What happens, in this case, is, your supported side moves nicely but the unsupported part stops at a point. The result is a cut with pointed imperfections on the corners. If you make this mistake countless times, you will get the same result every time.
The solution for this mistake is to use a stop block for thin stocks that need to be cut into large pieces, the stop block on the cut-off side will support the cut-off part and the miter gauge will support the rest of the part of the stock. All you have to do is move both parts simultaneously to get a clean cut. And the cut will be perfect every time.
But a stop block is useless when you need small bits of a thin stock to use. As the cut-off parts will be very small, a stop block will not be usable. You can’t use your finger as a support as it can cause injury. The best practice here will be using a crosscut sled. You can make it at home on your own by following the tutorial.
A cross-cut sled has an opening on the sides and a small slip in the middle to run the blade through. No matter how long or wide the board is or how small or repeated cuts you need. This sled will support both sides all along the cutting process, leaving clean cutting edges every time.
3. Applying Pressure on the Blade
We do this while cutting a thin part from a wide board. What we do is, put the working piece in between the rip fence and the blade, place support with the miter gauge and press the board against the blade. What happens here is, it binds up with the blade and makes a nasty cutting edge.
To eliminate this, use a gripper push block. This block will press the working side to the rip fence and let the blade cut at its own pace. So there will be no bind up build-up and no nasty cut to fix.
4. Not Applying Multi-Directional Pressure on Work Piece
When you need a workpiece of more than 6 inches thick, you simply put it on the left side of the blade, right? Because the space between the blade and the fence is just too narrow for that. Well, there is no wrong with it, in fact, it is technically okay. But the actual mistake is when you run the board on the blade pressing it against the fence. Again, this practice causes bind-ups.
What you should do instead is, use push blocks and press the board in three directions: toward the fence, toward the table, and forward to cut it. The push blocks you get with the table saw are given to use for these types of cuts. But using those for large boards and applying three-directional pressure is not so easy.
For that, I suggest making a DIY push block that is great to apply two-directional pressure. This push-block will be a little bit different and more detailed than the free ones. Here is a template of the DIY push-block. However, when the large boards get three directional pressure on the workpiece and the off piece as well, it will make a square cut effortlessly.
5. Over-Cranking the Blade Nut
We don’t ever over-crank any nut with other tools and equipment we use every day, but we do over-tighten the saw blade nut purposely. We think that this blade will jump off towards our face if the nut is not tightened enough. What it does, as a result, is make the nut jammed. So, when we try to loosen it up for next time, it won’t turn or come as a broken piece.
Your saw blade already turns in the opposite direction of the nut threads. So, it automatically tightens. Only tightening the nut to the point when it stops turning is enough. Over-tightening the saw blade nut can ruin the blade’s performance.
6. Using Only Rip Fence Support for Crosscut
While making crosscuts supporting your board with the fence is not the right thing to do. The board will still wobble to its length. It actually needs support for its length. In fact, in every board or cut, the most support is needed for the long side, not the short one. It is the key to any cut you make with any board.
However, put the miter gauge to some use and use it to support the length of your board while making crosscuts. The cut will be perfect and clean squares.
Is the Table Saw Fence Adjusted Correctly?
Yes, it is important to make sure that the table saw fence is adjusted correctly. This ensures that the cut will be straight and accurate. It is important to check the fence alignment before each use and make adjustments as needed.
Other Reasons May Involve
Now we will talk about the errors of the saw itself for making bad cuts. These are very common and you probably already have dealt with them.
- Wrapped or worn-out blade
- Overly loose or tight nut
- Poorly aligned blade to the table
- Poorly aligned rip fence
Safety Guidelines for Table Saw
1. Read the Owner’s Manual: You should always read the owner’s manual before operating any machinery. This will give you an understanding of how the machine works and what safety protocols you need to follow.
2. Wear Personal Protective Equipment: Wear proper personal protective equipment such as eye protection, ear protection, and a dust mask when using a table saw.
3. Keep the Table Saw Clean: Make sure to keep the table saw clean and free of debris so you don’t have anything that could get in the way of the blade.
4. Check the Blade and Fences: Before every use, make sure to check the blade and fences for any signs of damage or wear.
5. Use the Right Blades: Always use the correct blades for the materials you are cutting so that you don’t damage the saw or create a dangerous situation.
6. Use Push Sticks and Feather Boards: Always use push sticks and feather boards to help keep your hands away from the blade and prevent kickback.
7. Unplug the Saw When Not in Use: Make sure to unplug the saw when it’s not in use to prevent accidental start-ups
Now you know what kind of user error and tool errors are reasons for improper cuts on your precious workpieces. Also, we have talked about tips on how to fix user errors as well.
I recommend always performing the accuracy test before actually starting your project. Also, maintaining the tips we have shared here is important while perfect square cuts are essential. To minimize tool errors taking care of your table saw is mandatory.
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About This Writer
Hi, I am Eric Devin and I am a professional interior architect. Since childhood, I've always enjoyed DIY projects! And, I have loved to solve simple household problems using essential tools and equipment. I have also acquired a lot of information about basic household tools settings by working with contractors.