I have yet to meet the woodworker who did not enjoy using their table saw. It provides you with the ability to make precise cuts, but you will need to maintain it with occasional tune-ups.
Like any other power tool in your shop, the table saw can lose accuracy as components shift or wear. The following are important tips to help you tune up your table saw. Let’s take the fear out of this critical maintenance step and get the most out of your time in the shop.
When Should A Table Saw Alignment Be Performed?
Experienced woodworkers that have spent time with their power tools will know when their table saw needs to be tuned up. It will begin to take longer to make cuts, or it will feel or sound different through those cuts. The results can also indicate problems, as you notice drifts off of the cutline or damaged edges and final cuts out of alignment.
If you are new to power tools or woodworking, it may be difficult to tell when you should perform a tune-up. I have used the following guidelines during my woodworking journey, and doing so has kept my hobby fun, productive, and safe.
When you first get the table saw or upgrade accessories
It would be best to perform a tune-up when you first bring your table saw home from the store. If you need to do this with a new power tool, it will be more critical to tune up a used table saw that arrives at your shop.
You will also need to perform a tune-up before using new table saw accessories like fences, miter gauges, or jigs. I can also recommend checking alignment when you install a new saw blade for the first time.
If you perform these procedures at the start, you will discover potential issues with damaged components. You can also address problems with incompatible upgrades before you start working. It can save you from frustration and might save a finger or two as well!
Anytime you notice the table saw blade struggling through a cut
If your table saw is not cutting lumber effectively, it is best to check the saw blade first. The saw blade could be dirty or have dull teeth. You can also check its alignment.
Alignment problems can extend to the fence, miter gauge, or your favorite table saw jig also. Check the positions of the throat plate, blade guard, and riving knives so that they will not shift the timber as you cut it.
If you begin to notice alignment problems on the workpiece
The table saw is the workhorse of many shops because of its accuracy. If you are finding errors with your cuts, it is time to perform a tune-up.
Table saw blade alignment is something that you need to check regularly, as you will likely change out saw blades often. It needs to be aligned parallel to the miter slots on your tabletop. The saw blade should also be perpendicular to the table’s surface.
Alignment issues can also creep into your cut from the fence, miter gauge, or table saw jig. Check these accessories to make sure they are not producing errors.
Finally, do not overlook the tabletop or spindle between the electric motor and saw blade. If these are slightly off, the degree of the offset will transfer to your cuts.
Scheduled maintenance or upkeep
Each of the guidelines above requires a tune-up once you notice an issue. Being proactive is better, so scheduled maintenance can prevent problems from happening in the first place.
The timeframe for these tune-ups is different for each table saw user. Casual hobbyists or DIYers may want to perform this annually, while most owners tune up their power tools every three months or so. If your table saw operates in professional settings or busy home workshops, you can schedule a tune-up each month.
Before You Run A Tune-Up
Keep safety your first priority
It can not be stressed enough; the table saw can be a dangerous power tool if you do not practice safety first when using it. The rotating saw blade has the reach to cut through your hand completely. Serious woodshop injuries can reduce your ability to enjoy the hobby if they do not make you quit outright.
You will find that the first step to safety with a table saw is turning the power off when you perform any adjustments or when it is not in use. Unplug the table saw from the wall outlet (or disengage the battery if you are using a cordless model). You can make this process easier (which makes it more likely you will do it) by using an outlet controlled by a wall switch that cuts power to the wall socket.
Manufacturers include additional safety features on all new table saws. Safety covers prevent accidental start-ups, and lockout tabs on the power switch prevent electric motor engagement. If your table saw has these types of devices, use them.
Blade guards have been standard on table saw products for years, and they have helped reduce serious table saw injuries. Do not operate your table saw without the blade guard unless necessary, including when you perform a tune-up.
Do not overlook your safety equipment while performing maintenance. Wear eye, ear, and respiratory equipment as you tune up your table saw. Also, make sure that this gear is working as it should.
Cleaning is the first step to a proper tune-up
You might not need to perform an elaborate tune-up; the table saw might need to be cleaned. Debris and grime can put components out of alignment or damage surfaces. Clean your table saw thoroughly before making any other adjustments.
Make sure that there is no rust on your table saw or accessories. If there is, remove it. That will eliminate the interference of smooth motion and can expose more damage to your table saw.
Remove wood chips and dust. It will allow blades, knobs, and levers to move freely. Getting rid of these materials will also improve functions in alignment and heat buildup.
Clean off any grime deposits so that accessories and controls move smoothly. The grime can affect alignment in miter tracks and on the saw blade. You should see clean metal everywhere on your table saw.
Gather the tools that you will need beforehand
All of us would prefer to be making cuts with our table saws and not tuning them up. Organizing yourself before a maintenance session eliminates frustration and saves you time, so gathering the tools you need is a good idea.
Cleaning supplies will include containers to soak items in, sponges and brushes, and the chemicals used. Prepare the cleaning solutions before you remove items, and have clean water handy to remove the cleaners when you finish. Do not forget towels to dry off the metal so that it does not become damaged.
Many table saws come with wrenches to remove the saw blade. You can also gather up any screwdrivers or wrenches needed for bolt and screw adjustments.
One or more squares, as well as an angle gauge, can help to make any alignment adjustments quick and easy.
Make sure you keep some scrap wood around. It will allow you to test your cuts during a tune-up. You might also consider gathering up a tune-up “kit” with all of the tools you need to perform table saw maintenance.
What Needs To Be Aligned?
1. Table extension flatness in relation to the table top
A handy component of many table saw designs is the table extensions. These wings offer added support surfaces for larger workpieces, such as sheet goods. If they are not flat, they can create beveled cuts, however.
Use a level or square that you know is flat to check alignment. If you can rock the device as it rests on the wing and the tabletop, you need to adjust it flat.
2. Throatplate to table top flatness
The throatplate is a critical piece of safety equipment, but if it stands above the tabletop on your saw, it can cause your workpiece to go out of alignment during the cut.
Place a straight edge perpendicular to the miter slots on the tabletop. Run the device across the table and the throatplate. If the plate is higher than the tabletop, it will catch.
Adjust the throatplate so that it is even with the tabletop or just under it.
3. Assess the condition of the blade
If the saw blade is in poor condition, it will affect your work. Begin by making sure the saw blade is clean. Grime and pitch can build up on the teeth or sides of the blade.
Next, make sure that the saw blade’s teeth are sharp and aligned.
Finally, check the saw blade for wobble. You can do this by watching the saw blade as it slows down.
Replace dull or damaged blades.
4. Blade parallel to the miter slot
A crooked saw blade will cut at an angle. That can make it difficult to make clean cuts and will bind the workpiece, causing kickbacks.
Extend the saw blade to its highest point and place a front tooth near the tabletop. Insert a combination square into the slot and extend it so that the tip touches the tooth.
Rotate the blade so that the tooth is now tabletop level at the back of the saw blade. If it is not aligned, the square will make contact before the tooth or not at all.
Adjust the blade so that contact is the same at the front and back of the saw blade.
5. Inspect 90 and 45 degree bevel stops
A valuable feature of table saws is the bevel adjustments on the saw blade. The two most used angles are 90 and 45-degrees, so checking both points will keep you aligned no matter what you set the saw blade.
Attach an angle gauge to your saw blade and adjust it to 90 and 45-degrees. The angles should match on both the table saw indicator and the angle gauge. Run tests on scrap wood to verify accuracy.
6. Riving knife/splitter alignment with the blade
The riving knife or splitter attachment are safety components that help to prevent kickbacks. They can cause alignment issues or even increase potential kickbacks if they are out of position, though.
Placing a straight edge across the saw blade and riving knife/splitter at the same time will indicate alignment for that side. Check both sides, and make adjustments if needed.
7. Rip fence alignment
The rip fence is one of the most used accessories on a table saw, and any misalignments here will transfer to your workpiece.
Use a straight edge that is at least as long as the fence, if not longer. Stand it in the miter slot, along the wall nearest the rip fence. Push the rip fence to the straight edge and look down the length of each.
Adjust the fence so that it makes contact along its entire length.
Tune In and Tune Up
A tune-up will correct problems that arise with your table saw’s performance. It can also prevent problems in the first place.
The table saw is a favorite among woodworkers for a reason, so make sure yours is running its best!