for Cold Climate Housing and much more

Table Saw Basics

Welcome to Table Saw Basics -- a one hour course on using a table saw accurately and safely -- a good starting point for table saw beginners, some interesting jigs for experienced woodworkers.

The series of videos that are listed on the left were deemed by Popular Woodworking to be the most complete video on the subject in its day -- and table saws haven't changed much since then.   We have fancier guides and guards available today but essentially it is the same machine.

Oh yes I look much younger in these videos than most of you remember.  This course was recorded a long time ago just as I was transitioning from a shop bound cabinet maker to the Home Improvement problem solver that you have known for over 40 years on TV and the web. This course was originally produced as a one hour video course.  Here for the web I have broken it up into very small clips -- allowing you to use the video list on the left to follow through the whole course, or jump directly to the part you want to see.

Some of the jigs shown in this video are now available as store bought items, like the feather boards, but many of these jigs are tools that cabinet makers make for themselves to this day.  Breaking this course up into small video clips allows you to go straight to what you want to watch -- or watch them all in sequence for the full course. 

This course was all done on a large industrial saw, but with the exception of the overhead guard on this machine, there is no real difference between this saw and all the others you can purchase at renovation centres.  Things are explained without dimensions so that you can build all the tools and jigs to fit your particular machine. What may surprise you is to learn that even on table saws there are some basic line-up and adjustments that can make your machine work better -- and the blade is not the starting point for lining things up -- but you'll see that in detail in the videos.

Don't forget that there are blogs at the bottom of each video for you to share your reactions, even improvements on these techniques.  When it becomes warranted I will modify the videos to deal with your suggestions, maybe even include some video from your shop as we all work together to share our own Learning Curves.  One such blogger suggestion was that I explain why I was often not using the safety guard or safety glasses.  In the origninal VHS video, at the begining there was a long note about removing the guard often so the camera could see what is happening.  That got lost in breaking the single video into pieces so I have now gone back and added that note where relevant throughout the clips.  As for the safety glasses, I think I was doing so much explaining and so little cutting and I wasn't yet really used to a camera that I simply left that out.  Again see my safety notes now added to the video clips.

One reality is that often the blade guard or specific jigs gives you a significant amount of eye protection, but you should wear safety glasses whenever the blade is moving.  I am happy to say that in today's shops safety such as this has become a daily standard in most shops including my own, not the case when I spent the whole day in the shop back in the 1970's.  You do see me wearing safety glasses in the Miter Saw videos, produced 30 years after this table saw video.


Learning Curve 93

Add A Comment

  Your Comments

Showing 6 comments

Viewing from newest to oldest – Reverse
Ken Hartzell on March 27, 2017 22:41

Hi Jon,
I happen to have a vhs tape that came with a set of Time Life woodworking books I bought 25 or so years ago. You have about a 5 minute part on the tape that introduces new woodworkers to table saw Jigs. The video is exceptionally well produced. Perhaps use your part on your website. Just a thought. Big fan.
Thanks, Ken in Kansas

Dan H. on February 25, 2017 17:34

What is the brand name on the saw you are using in these videos? I have inherited a saw that looks very much like that saw, only my saw has no manufacturer label on it.

We shot that a very long time ago in an industrial shop class in BC. I believe it was a Delta industrial saw. - jon

Jon on December 23, 2010 14:31

Hello Domenic,

Theoritically, if the fence is straight and the wood against the fence is straight and  the wood never leaves the fence, it will cut a piece an even width.  This is true even when the blade is not perfectly parallel to the fence -- the cut will be rought, but the two edges parallel.   When the blade and the fence are not parallel, you might have to force things to get a good cut.  When the blade opens away from the fence on the back side, the piece of wood tends to follow the blade, moving away from the fence.  When the piece is far enough past the blade to push it back into the fence, you have just created a fat bulge in the middle. 

The first three videos in the line-up and adjustment section listed on the left will show you how to get things all working together.

Domenic on December 20, 2010 19:48

Hi JohnI have a problem with my table saw. As I cut my piece say 6 inches wide, I notice the top measures 6 inches the bottom 6 inches but the center is 1/16 off. Is it the way I am pushing the lumber through. I am not sure. Do you have any suggestions.ThanksDom

Jon on August 07, 2010 19:52

You are right Mike.  Since the basic information is good we are working on modifying the images rather than throwing them out.  Part of the problem was that this was originally produced as a one hour VHS -- where there was a long speech on safety in the front -- things like "guard removed for the camera" and the like. When it got broken up into small segments -- all of that got lost.

But you are right, there is definitely a lack of use of safety glasses.  We are going to grind through each and every segment with technology that we didn't have when this was originally produced -- and work to make the safety message loud and clear. 

There always remains the reality that some cuts with a table saw just cannot have guards, so push sticks and a bit of alertness is required. 


Mike Post on July 29, 2010 22:54

Jon, where are your safety glasses? The video's have great information, but you are doing some things in the video that make me cringe (safety wise).

Add A Comment

I encourage you to help develop the topic of this page by sharing your advice/comments/wisdom/personal experience/etc on this specific subject through the form below. Although I have developed most of this site with the encyclopedic concept of research and verification of information—I cannot vouch for anything contained in the comments below, but I may pick up, develop and include ideas put forward here into the primary entries. Please sign your name so we know who to give credit to. Your picture will show up next to your comment, here and elsewhere, if you sign up with Gravatar - jon

Please note that comments now need to be approved before appearing on the site to combat spam problems.
Sorry for the delay!