Making rip cuts or cuts with the grain is probably the only reason why you have a table saw in your shop. In this article, we will start with the fundamentals and then throw in some tips so that you can easily understand how to rip longboards on a table saw.
Before I get to the main steps, let’s talk about the blade first. We all know what a rip blade looks like. It features Flat Top Grind or FTG teeth. This means all the tops are ground flat.
This is considered as the ideal blade for cutting with the grain, aka making rip cuts. If you are a seasoned woodworker, you probably have one or two lying around. This blade is used for fast rips and thick stock and for other specific purposes.
However, there is a catch. Most of you have what is called a general-purpose or combination blade. There are a lot of differences between both of these blades. You don’t want to use a combination blade. Why?
This is because a combination blade has some teeth that are pointed on the top to help you cut across the grain and some that are flat across the top to help you cut with the grain.
For this reason, you don’t have to switch back and forth between rip blades and crosscut blades. With that cleared out, let’s jump right in and start with the cutting process.
Rip Cutting Long Boards On Table Saw
Before you start cutting, you have to make sure the area around the saw is clear. Some folks neglect this, especially if they keep their saw in a garage or a shed, which isn’t a dedicated workshop space.
They think they will just make one quick cut, and everything will be fine. And that is how people get seriously hurt. That being said, let’s prepare ourselves to cut long boards on a table saw.
Ripping is the most likely table-saw operation to cause kickback. You want your feet planted firmly on the floor with space to walk around. Make sure there are no obstructions or distractions on or around the saw.
You also want enough room behind the saw to complete the cut without your board hitting something. Keep outfeed support at the end of the cut so that it doesn’t flip up. To prevent kickback, you can install a riving knife or a splitter.
Keep your push block within reach, and make sure to wear safety glasses. Also, make sure to wear hearing protection. The longboard that you want to rip cut should be free of cups and wraps. The edge against the fence should be nice and straight.
As you begin to make the rip cut, your hands have a separate job. Your right hand’s job is to feed the stock through the blade with smooth, even motion. Your left hand’s job is to hold the stock against the fence as the board slips past your fingers.
Your eyes also have a specific job, and it’s not what some of you may think. New woodworkers tend to watch the blade, but the blade will do its job without you watching. Instead, what you should be paying attention to is the fence.
Following Proper Techniques
Make sure no gap appears between the fence and the board. If you don’t keep the workpiece tight against the fence through the whole cut, you are going to get scorching blade marks and even a crooked edge.
Now, hold on a second. I know what you are thinking. If you don’t look at the blade, how will you keep your fingers safe? Well, your right hand is going to come into view well before it comes near the blade. As for your left hand, it is going to remain stationary; it never moves toward the blade at all.
One good practice is to hook your thumb over the front edge of the saw top so that you can feel where it is, and you know it is not drifting towards the blade.
Seriously, keeping your eyes on the fence instead of the blade will help you to avoid most of the problems people have with rip cuts.
Making The Cut
As you proceed to rip longboards on the table saw, feed the wood evenly as you can and let the blade do the work. If you want to cut faster, it’s not a good idea to overfeed the workpiece.
The blade can only handle so much, and you may stall the saw or more likely end up with a rough cut with lots of blade marks. If you want faster cuts, you should install a blade with fewer teeth because of the fewer the teeth, the wider the gullets in between the teeth.
More gullets mean the blade can efficiently clear the dust from the kerf and the faster it will cut. This is why a combination blade isn’t preferred to make rip cuts because it takes longer.
As you reach the end of a rip cut, you should use your push block. As a general rule, if you can spread your fingers out and touch the blade with your thumb and the fence with your pinky, you should be using a push block.
However, don’t engage it until the end of the workpiece is on top of the saw. If you do it too early, especially with shorter boards, you might flip the workpiece back up off the top of the saw.
So, wait until the end and when the workpiece is fully supported, then use your push block to finish the cut. The cut is not finished until you push the longboard safely past the blade.
Sometimes you will want to cut thin strips of wood on your table saw—for example, a quarter-inch cut. The easiest way to do that is to set your fence a quarter inch from the blade and make the cut like any other rip.
In that case, you could use a wooden push block like this and let the blade cut right into the bottom. This way, you can safely clear the strip to pass the blade at the end of the cut.
But if you need a strip that is narrower than a quarter inch, this method can get a little tricky. This is because narrow strips are more likely to get caught between the blade and the fence and shoot back at you.
If that is what you are aiming for, let the strip fall at the other side of the blade. But this also presents a problem when you need several strips of exactly the same width because with each strip you cut away, your workpiece gets narrower. To fix this, use a feather board.
If you follow all the rules shown in this article, you can easily rip longboards on table saw without any errors. If you do face any, there are a bunch of troubleshooting videos online that should help you figure out where you are doing wrong.