5 Reasons Why Your Table Saw Is Not Cutting Straight
You can literally go weeks or even months without realizing you have a table saw that isn’t cutting perfectly straight. I know because it has happened to me. You end up finding out when you have a cut to make that really matters, like a piece of furniture or probably just anything that requires a nice, straight line.
What are the main reasons a table saw is not cutting straight? There are many reasons a table saw may not cut straight. The most common reasons include you are inexperienced and using poor form; the saw’s blade has been warped; the blade is not securely tightened; the blade is not square to the tabletop; and the saw’s rip fence is not perfectly parallel to the blade.
So, now my question to you is, do you need help getting your table saw to cut straight? Of course you do or you wouldn’t still be reading this article! Sometimes, it’s because you don’t know how to check to see if your saw blade is cutting straight and other times, you just become complacent and overlook the importance of maintaining our power tools. I am now going to go over 5 simple things you can do to determine whether (or not) your table saw is cutting straight.
Let’s get started!
Here are the issues we will look at below;
- Poor form
- Blade alignment (not square)
- Warped blade
- Loose Blade Holding Nut
- Misaligned fence
Using Poor Form
If you are new to woodworking or just never learned the basics, then it could be something as simple as using poor form when cutting. When pushing wood through a table saw blade, there are a couple things to watch out for that will not only give you a nicer cut but keep you safe, as the wood will be less likely to kick back, causing harm to you.
- Keep the wood flat on the table. It’s easy to not realize you are lifting the front end of the wood keeping it up off the table. Or possibly, you are pushing down on the wood and the back end is lifting as it hits the blade. This can cause your cuts to look like crap. Do your best to keep the wood laying flat on the tabletop. Use a push stick to keep your hands safe and to guide the wood through the blade.
- Keep the wood pushed flush up against the side of the fence. This is one that I forget occasionally when I cam cutting large pieces of plywood. It is easy to let the wood drift and pull away from the fence. Always make sure you have the wood pressed against the fence as you push it through the blade.
As simple as these two points seem, it does take practice to get used to how it should feel as you cut wood on a table saw. If you are new to the hobby, I would recommend spending an hour just cutting random pieces of wood slowly and safely just to get a feel for the movement.
The Blade Is Not Properly Aligned
Firstly, you must make sure your Miter slot is parallel to both the blade and the fence. It is critical to stay inline. To square up your blade, you will only need a framing square.
What you are checking for here is that when you raise the blade upwards above the top of the table that there is a 90-degree angle between the raised blade and the table. It’s that simple, yet how often do you check your blade to see if it is square?
Table saws can be adjusted so the blade tilts. Often times, even if you haven’t loosened the handle on the tilting apparatus, it can loosen up and move slightly especially on older saws.
Check the markings that show the angle and make sure it is set to 0 degrees. Once that is done, take your carpenters square and check for a 90 degree angle between the blade and top of the table.
Not surprisingly, you might find the saw blade isn’t at 90 degrees even though the motor arbor angle is set to 0. If you find this to be your situation, always go with the 90 degrees at the blade and table top and then mark on the degree display on the front of the table as to where the real 0 degree mark should be. Use a permanent marker for this.
With a lot of use, you will find that what is marked on your saw does not hold to be true. Tools get old and parts loosen up. That is why regular maintenance is a good thing to get into. Even if you just checked one tool a weekend.
You usually work with a wide variety of types of wood in a typical woodworking shop. Some lumber is soft whereas others are hard. You also have rough cuts and fine cuts to make. If you don’t have the right saw blade for the type of wood and job, you could end up with a warped blade. Once that happens, it’s off to the hardware store for a new blade. Let’s look at what might cause this to happen.
- After cutting relatively hard material, your table saw blade may end up having a bent edge. Also, the blade may lose some of the so-called teeth, especially if you are not using a proper blade.
- As mentioned previously, make sure the wood is pressed against the fence and flat on the table. As important as that is, if you are careless and ramming the wood too hard, you might end up bending it by how you push the wood through the blade. You might have a tendency you are not even aware of and push a certain way every time that eventually starts to warp the blade. If you end up with warped blades but have no idea what caused it, this could likely be the reason.
Once you find out a blade is warped, get rid of it. A warped blade not only ruins your projects but can potentially cause you harm.
Loose Blade Holding Nut
The blade of your table saw is locked in place by a nut. It can either be just right, too loose or too tight. If a nut is over-tightened, then your saw blade may stop spinning and cutting too.
That is one of the most prevalent situations where a saw stops cutting mid-cut. To be clear, an over-tightened nut of the saw blade is not the main cause that leads to an uneven cut.
It is a loosened nut that is the main reason for a trembling edge. Also, a vibrating table saw blade cannot result in a straight cut.
The blade holding nuts can be loosened after spinning for a long period of time. This is a common scenario and why regular maintenance is a must in your woodworking shop.
Follow the steps below to solve the loose blade holding nut issue.
First, of course, find the wrench that came with your saw or a pair of channel grips( or something similar). Some saws have a lock to stop the blade from moving when you are loosening or tightening. If yours doesn’t, you will need a screwdriver or something to lay on the table under the teeth of the blade to stop it from turning while you tighten the nut.
- Make sure the table saw is unplugged.
- Lift the plate off the table that surrounds the blade. It’s the piece where the saw blade pops up. This makes it much easier to get at the nut, unless you have easy access from the underside.
- Secure the blade so it doesn’t turn.
- Using your wrench, try tightening the blade making sure it is sitting in the location it should be. If it slid off a bit, reposition before tightening.
- Make sure that you do not over-tighten the nut.
That’s pretty much it! Just replace the plate onto the table and you should be good to go. I always check that the blade is sitting at 90 degrees from the table after tightening, it takes 10 seconds and is good to check.
Your table saw fence is one of the most significant accessories that assist carpenters in their goal to get straight cuts. After inspecting a blade and an arbor nut, you may still have a difficult time cutting a flawless straight line with your saw.
A misaligned fence that you are using may be the cause of bad cuts. It does not just produce an uneven cut, but also, as you may know, can cause saw kickback. If the rip fence is not perfectly parallel to the blade, it puts pressure on the saw blade, and you aren’t going to win that battle. The blade will grab the wood and fling it across the workshop, hopefully (but not necessarily) without anyone getting hurt!
To prevent a dangerous saw kickback, make sure to align the fence to your table saw miter slot or the front and back of the blade. Its always best to check two points of reference.
Follow the steps right below to solve the misaligned fence issue.
- Slide the fence into its slot and then lock one end of it.
- Next, place the other end carefully so that your fence remains at a 180-degree to the blade tip.
- Measure from the miter slot or the blade in two locations front and back to make sure they equal the same distance.
That’s all there is to it! Simple, right. Unfortunately, over time rip fences become a bit slack and might not tighten properly causing them to be able to be moved even when you think you have it secured. If this starts to happen, it’s time to see if you can locate a new rip fence. We have a store in my area that deals with used tools and building materials and is a great place to find these sorts of things.
To sum thing up here, I should also point out that the reason a table isn’t cutting straight could possibly be more than one of the points talked about above. It is a good idea to check all of the suggestions above, not only for issues you are having with cutting but to provide regular maintenance on your power tools.
I know we are all guilty of leaving these things until there an issue. It’s a dangerous game to play, however, with very powerful and tools. Be safe and good luck!