Is it You or the Saw? Why Does my Table Saw Not Cut Straight?


When you start to cut things on your table saw, you will eventually start noticing that the cuts are not always straight. As you move the blade, change it for different blade shapes and sizes, or even changing the angles, you may wonder how exactly you will get the blade back to being perfectly straight. 

To straighten the blade, you need to use either a water level or the built-in measurement system of your table saw. When you have moved the guide to odd positions, you can move it back to being entirely straight by moving it to read zero on your table saw measurement tool. 

There are many other ways to change the angle of your blade, sometimes changing the angle of the guide, which will allow you to cut several pieces of wood at different angles. Knowing what can be changed and how to check how straight your cuts are has been a challenge faced by many first-time woodworkers.

Here is everything you need to know about why a table saw may not be cutting straight anymore. 

How to check the saw is straight?

There are two ways to check whether your saw is actively cutting at an angle or not in a straight line. Most people only realize that they have forgotten to straighten their blade after doing odd, angled cuts at other times when they accidentally cut a new piece of wood. However, it is best practice to check your blade’s angles and guide before cutting any new piece of wood. 

Doing this will save you a lot of time and prevent you from cutting wood into pieces that you can no longer use for anything else. 

Water level

Many woodworking shops will have water levels to help in angled cuts and ensuring that parts that are being built are perfectly straight. Many table saws no longer have accurate ways of checking whether or not the saw is at an angle, requiring that you use an external tool to adjust the angle.

Using a water level, you can easily ensure that the blade is straight by holding the water level against the blade. However, this technique cannot be used to change the angle from anything but straight. 

Right angle ruler

The most used tool in any workshop is the right-angle ruler; this is a perfectly shaped ruler to be at a 90-degree angle, allowing you to measure and create parts that are perfectly right-angled easily. When using it to straighten a table saw, the process is quite easy and could save you quite a bit of time.

Place the ruler flat on the table and twisting the blade until it becomes flush against the side of the ruler. This will make the blade perfectly straight and allow you to make the perfect cut every single time. 

Degree measurer

Not recommended to be used to make your blade perfectly straight, a degree measurer is what you use to cut different angles with your table saw. Allowing you to make two pieces to meet up perfectly or just to cut odd-angled edges. 

Because degree measurers are harder to use to align blades for anything other than angles, no one uses them to make their blades straight again. Reading the perfect zero level using a degree measurer can be quite difficult as you need to align it with the blade’s center. 

What can cause a crooked guide?

While the blade itself can be angled at different degrees, the guide you use can sometimes be angled. This allows the blade to stay perfectly straight, but the wood will be at the desired angle.

However, this sometimes means that you need larger guides as you are cutting the pieces of wood. Usually, this only happens when you need to cut oddly shaped wooden shapes or have wood that you need to be cut at specific angles that cannot use only a straight guide. 

Many people like to create sleds that they use on their table saws; these sleds mean that you only ever have to change the blade’s angle and never the guide. 

Cutting square vs cutting straight

When you start changing and fixing the blade angles you use, you will quickly encounter two different ways of saying how you are cutting your pieces. Cutting a straight line is always relatively easy; make sure the piece is flat on the table surface

Cutting square means that the cut you have made is perfectly at 90 degrees, allowing you to align edges on each other at perfect angles. Many basic projects will have you cutting in straight and square lines, with which you can build anything from shelves to cupboards. 

How does an angled cut happen?

All table saws will allow you to change the angle of the blade you are cutting with; using a winding wheel on the side of the table, you can easily change how the blade is angled. Often, people aren’t aware of what all the wheels and handles on the side of their tools do.

Angled cuts are perfect for more experienced woodworkers to create hidden joins or more complicated projects. 

What are the most common causes of angled cuts?

If you have everything perfectly aligned and are still getting longer or shorter cuts in your wood that are not perfectly straight, there may be other problems. Some of the most common problems usually lie with something being old, worn out, built wrongly, or not mounted properly.

Many times, when someone affixes their first table saw blade, they make small mistakes and cause the blade to be slightly skewed. This means that even if you have everything set up perfectly, the cuts you are making will be warped or skewed slightly. 

When the blade is perfect many people have random changes caused by the guides or sleds they use on their table saws. This will mean that the cuts you make will be skewed and slightly off-center as you continue to cut your pieces. The pressure will cause this you apply as you work with your wood. 

The last and most common danger that few woodworkers consider is the age of their tools, many times using the same table saws their parents used. This means that the clamps and other screws that you use to fasten the sleds and blades have been worn out and will no longer be able to keep the angles that you need them to keep.

Conclusion

Knowing why your cuts are always angled or incorrect is a simple requirement to measure everything you should. Checking the blade, affixing the guide, or just using a few scrap materials to see at what angle you are cutting will always help you create the best possible pieces using only a bit of measuring. 

Just be sure that the piece of wood you are cutting is perfectly flat on your table!

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