How To Rip Cut Using a Table Saw,
Cabinet Saw or Contractor Saw
Rip cutting is a popular wood cutting method in which a workpiece is cut with or along its grain. While this is a common and generally clean wood cutting technique, rip cutting still requires a few particular steps. Firstly, we’ll lay down the most basic basics. All rip cuts must be performed with a rip saw blade and a rip fence. The ripping bade ensures smooth, accurate cuts and the rip fence helps support and guide each workpiece as it passes through the saw. As with all through cuts, you should also use your blade guard while rip cutting and although the miter gauge is required for some techniques (like cross cutting workpieces), it should not be used while making rip cuts.
Through Rip Cuts
Before beginning each rip cut, make sure your table saw’s motor is off and that the saw blade has completely stopped spinning. Next, set the blade to the required tilt angle and adjust the blade’s elevation to approximately 1/8-inch above the workpiece. After the blade has been properly adjusted, position the rip fence for your rip width and lock it into place.
NOTE: Keep in mind that serious injuries may occur when ripping operations are attempted freehand or improperly: if you are unsure about the functionality or mechanics of your rip fence, please refer to its manual. It will be rich with facts, tips, instructions or any other info you might be searching for (with regard to your rip fence, at least).
Next, position your workpiece so that the grain faces the saw blade head-on and runs parallel to the rip fence. Ensure the workpiece is flat against the table top and flush against the side of the fence. Engage the saw and, using both hands, smoothly, steadily push the workpiece towards the blade. When pushing a workpiece through the blade, you must always maintain at least 6-inches (in every direction) between your hands and the saw blade. Any closer is simply too close.
To avoid positioning your hands too close to a spinning blade, there are a few other positions or methods you can employ. First, if your hand that is furthest from the fence approaches the 6-inch zone, you may either remove that hand entirely and continue the cut with one hand, or you may reposition this hand near your other hand for added support. If both of your hands approach the 6-inch zone, remove both hands and use a push stick (this is often included with your table saw). If your specific cut requires that the rip fence be positioned too close to the blade to use a push stick (this might occur where board lengths are very narrow), you may use an auxiliary fence and push block to make the cut.
NOTE: At the end of this article you will also find instructions for constructing and using a push stick, auxiliary fence and push block.
Continue pushing your workpiece toward the rear of the saw until it clears the blade. Disengage the saw and wait until the blade has come to a complete stop before retrieving the cut-off portion of your workpiece. When rip cutting workpieces that are longer than approximately 4-feet, use rollers, an out-feed table or a similar support system to keep your workpiece from falling off the back of the table.
Non-Through Rip Cuts
When making non-through rip cuts, or cuts that don’t extend through an entire workpiece, the rip cutting process is slightly different. Though most of the above instructions still apply, for non-through cuts, you must remove the blade guard and spreader, and install a riving knife (for Dado cuts, the riving knife is not necessary). Additionally, one or more featherboards should be employed to hold-down the workpiece and to help prevent kickback. Do not use the miter gauge when cutting with featherboards. Clamp the featherboard to the rip fence or to an extender board that is similarly clamped to the rip fence. Additional featherboards may be clamped to the top of the table and against the left side of the workpiece to keep the board snug. Though featherboards can be purchased for this purpose, for instructions on making your own, please see the so titled section at the end of this article.
After securely positing your blade, fence, featherboards and any etceteras that might be required for your specific cut, begin and finish the cut as outlined above. Here, however, stop pushing the workpiece when you have reached the end of your cut-line (rather than the end of your workpiece).
How to Make a Push Stick
A push stick is a very useful safety tool that is relatively simple to construct. Given a good hunk of sturdy and non-conductive material (like a wood scrap or simple plywood), you can build one with only a few cuts and measurements. Begin with a scrap or board that is about a 1/2-inch to 3/4-inches thick and about 9-inches by 16-inches. The push stick itself should be the thickness of that scrap, about 4-inches wide at its middle and widest point, and about 15-inches in total length. Altogether, the shape of the thing should generally resemble a butcher knife with a notch taken from its point. This notch, of course, is designed to grab and better hold a workpieces it pushes. The first 8-inches (the tool’s business end) should begin with a squared notch that is about 1-1/2-inches long (horizontal when the tool is poised to work) and about a 1/2-inch wide (vertical). Both ends of the notch should taper upwards (on about a 1/2-inch slope) until the shape (which would be the blade portion of our butcher knife comparison) has about 4-inches between its top and bottom. The top of the push stick should continue this slope while the bottom of the puss stick should indent about 1-inch, losing enough width to form a comfortable, functional handle. Typically, the handle is about 7-inches long and tapers from about 2-1/2 to 1-1/2-inches wide. The push stick should then culminate at a 1-1/2-inch round forming the butt of the handle. Draw this shape and cut it out of your material. Smooth any rough edges and drill a through hole near the end of the handle allowing you to store the stick on a nail or peg board when not in use.
How to Make an Auxiliary Fence
To make an auxiliary fence, you will need a 3/4-inch thick piece of plywood that is approximately 6-inches by 27-inches, and a 1/2-inch thick piece that is approximately 9-inches by 27-inches. From the 3/4-inch plywood, cut piece A, a rectangular piece that is 2-inches by 24-inches. From the 1/2-inch plywood, cut piece B, a rectangular piece that is 5-1/2-inches by 24-inches. Position a 24-inch length of piece A atop a 24-inch length piece B (forming a right angle) and join them using wood glue and counter-sunk wood screws.
How to Make a Push Block
To make a push block you will need to measure, draw and cut three separate pieces (A, B and C) from two different pieces of plywood. This will require a piece of 3/4-inch plywood that is about 9-inches by 7-inches and a piece of 1/2-inch plywood that is about 8-inches by 9-inches. From the 3/4-inch section, cut piece A, a ‘C’ shaped piece that will become the handle of your push block. The length or “grip” portion of this piece should be 9-inches long and 1-1/2-inches wide. The legs, so to speak, of the handle should be 3-1/2-inches (5-inches total when including the grip section) by 2-inches wide (this renders the underside of the grip 5-inches long. You may choose to round the corners of the grip, but do leave the bottoms of the legs flat and square.
Additionally, although for functionality’s sake cutting-out the handle makes a much more effective push block, you may also choose to leave this a piece complete allowing it to simply be a hump about 5-inches high and 9-inches long.
From the 1/2-inch plywood, you will cut pieces B and C. Piece B will be a simple rectangular shape with a notch in one corner. Cut a piece that is 5-1/4-inches by 9-inches. Cut a 1/2-inch by 7-inch notch from one of the 9-inch lengths leaving one side of the piece now 4-3/4-inches (rather than 5-1/4-inches). From the scrap of that notch (or from the remaining 1/2-inch plywood, cut piece C, a small 1/2-inch by 2-inch rectangular shape. Using wood glue and counter-sunk wood screws, attach piece A (long-wise) to the center of piece B (also long wise) so that piece A, the handle, protrudes upright from piece B and the two form a contraption quite like an iron (yes, an iron; like the iron you’d use to iron your t-shirts). Lastly, using wood glue only, attach piece C to the bottom of the 2-inch hangover on piece B so that its 2-inch length sits flush with piece B’s 2-inch jut.
Rip Cutting With an Auxiliary Fence and Push Block
While following the same rip cutting steps outlined above, to use an auxiliary fence in conjunction with your rip fence, place the auxiliary fence flat on the saw table (piece B down) and about 2-inches back from the front edge of the table. Position and clamp the fence (piece A) against the left side of the rip fence. Next, position and lock the rip fence so that the space between the blade and the left edge of the auxiliary fence is identical to the width you need to cut. Using the auxiliary fence as a guide, slide the workpiece through the saw. If your hands approach the 6-inch zone, use the push block to complete the cut.
How to Make a Featherboard
When building a featherboard, high quality wood without knots or other such weaknesses must be used. A typical featherboard should begin with a 24-inch by 7-1/4-inch rectangle of high quality, 3/4-inch wood. For simplicity’s sake, we will label the corners of the board 1, 2, 3, and 4 moving 0in a clockwise rotation. Next, from corner 3, make a 60-degree through cut towards corner 2. This cut will clip-off corner 1 creating a new, obtuse corner 1, it will give the board a dog-ear kind of shape, and will render the distance between corners 1 and 2 about 4-1/2-inches shorter, or, 19-1/2-inches in total length; this shorter end will now be referred to as Side A. The longer, still 24-inch end, will be referred to as Side B. From obtuse corner 1, measure 4-inches towards corner 2 and mark that spot on your board. From that spot, draw a straight line down from Side A to Side B. That line should stop about 8-1/5-inches from the (now acute) corner 3. Using that straight line as your stopping point, cut small leaf cuts into the dog ear toward your straight line. The leaf cuts, which are most easily made with a bandsaw, can also be cut with your table saw. They should remove strips of material 1/8-inch in width between 1/4-inch sections of board. This feathering technique is where the apparatus gets its name. The leaf cuts should taper in length from about 4-inches (at side A) to 8.5-inches (at side B).