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The Sharp Cut | Table Saw Basics
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Basic Table Saw Features

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable when it comes to most power tools, but it took me a long time to “crack” table saws. There are so many things you need to consider it’s insane! And I am just talking about the basics. If you want to look at non-standard features things get even more complicated.

Instead of having you scavenge the internet for what seems like forever in order to get the information you’re after, I decided to compile this guide which explains most table saw basics. I’m not going into things like rip fence and saw blades because they require more attention (and are therefore discussed in separate articles elsewhere on this website), here we’ll discuss the more basic stuff. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what you can expect to be included in the price on most models of table saw out there.

On/Off Switch

The on/off switchThese days, table saws come with an on/off switch that allows for easy access should the situation call for it. Usually these switches are located at the front of the saw, and preferably the off button should be large enough to be operated using your entire hand (protected of course), elbow, or even your knee. The easier it is to switch the table saw off, the better.

I would also recommend you to look for switches that have a “sunk” or plastic cover which prevent you from turning the saw on accidentally. If you have kids running around the shop, consider a saw that comes with the ability to add a padlock. Actually, this comes in useful even if you don’t have kids who are likely to gain access to your workshop.

Another option to think about is the magnetic switch. You can read more about this on my page about safety features, but in short this will prevent the motor from dangerous automatic restarts after power interruptions. A magnetic switch is more common on cabinet saws, but you may want to consider an upgrade on your contractor as well.

Table Inserts

throat plateTable inserts, or throat plates as they are usually called are nothing more than thin pieces of metal or wood, mounted around the blade and leveled with the surface of the table. This prevents small pieces of wood from falling inside the arbor.

Table Extensions

extensionsIt’s pretty easy to conclude that a larger table surface allows for the manipulation of bigger sheets of material and larger rip capacity. A lot of table saws have extensions located on the right of the saw which allow you to rip through large boards, or even 4 x 8 sheets.

Elevation and Tilt Wheels

elevations and tilt hand wheelThe blade elevation hand wheel is usually located on the front of the saw and allows you to control the height of the blade, which effectively controls the depth of cut. In the case of 10-inch blades, the blade should be exposed around 3-5/8 inches at its maximum height which is sufficient to cut through a 4 x 4 in a single pass.

The blade tilt hand wheel is located on the side of the saw and allows you to tilt the blade up to 45 degrees away from the fence. The hand wheel which allows you to adjust the tilt of the saw blade is usually located on the left or right side of the unit depending on which way the arbor is made to tilt.

Portable table saws usually don’t give you as much control as professional cabinet saws though, and they often combine elevation and tilt adjustment in one wheel.

Dust Collection

dust collection portHaving sawdust all over your workshop and work surface is not only annoying, but it can make your job more difficult. It’s much easier to work with wood if the table of the saw is smooth and clean. For this purpose most table saws have dust collection ports which can be attached to a vacuum. You may also come across saws that have a cloth pouch which you can attach to the saw so it collects all the dust in one “tidy” place.

Accessory Storage

onboard storage spaceAnother handy thing to have on your table saw is some onboard storage space which allows you to store all the necessary tools and accessories you might need while operating a saw. Some units can even store fences, miter gauges, blades, and plenty of other stuff.


I’ve kept this information relatively short and sweet, and you may have noticed I have neglected to mention some features which can be considered essential. However, fear not because I have plenty of other articles on my website designed to help you out with any question there might be in this respect.
Of course, the best thing is you don’t have to revert back to your main search engine because it’s all here for you!