As anyone familiar with woodworking knows, a woodshop is not complete unless it includes a table saw. Table saws are capable of making long and incredibly accurate cuts when used in conjunction with a fence. But this leads us to the question, are table saw fences universal?
Table saw fences are not universal. Although they may all appear similar, different companies tend to design them with slight variances, making them incompatible with certain saws. Always check your particular saw’s requirements to determine if a specific fence can be accommodated.
This article will first provide an overview of how table saws work, what they are used for, and the different types of saws that may be substituted. Next, we will explore the table saw fences in particular: mainly how they operate and their utility. Lastly, we will briefly touch on safety tips to keep in mind whenever using power saws.
How Table Saws Work
As the name implies, table saws resemble a table in that they have four legs and a flat top. In addition to this, table saws feature a circular blade, half of which protrudes out of the center of the table’s top.
To use a table saw, the blade must be in the on position allowing it to spin rapidly, and the wood or item you intend to cut must be slowly guided by hand through the spinning blade to complete the cut.
Table saws are extremely versatile in their ability when compared to other saws. Their simplistic design makes them able to accommodate extremely awkward and unorthodox cuts.
The blade of a table saw is also adjustable, meaning it can be raised or lowered to increase or decrease the cut’s depth, depending on the need.
What Are Table Saws Used For?
Table saws can be used to cut just about anything, and for this reason, they are viewed by many as the quintessential must-have saw. Table saws are particularly advantageous for cutting large pieces of construction material, such as big sheets of drywall or plywood, which would otherwise be too big for most other saws to handle.
The most common use for table saws is for cutting:
- 2×4, 4×4, 4×8
- Lengthwise cuts
- Angular cuts
- Drywall sheets
- Wood and tile flooring
When it comes to table saws, there is very little which they can not cut. Of all the standard saws, the table saw is, without a doubt, the most brute-force in nature.
How a Table Saw Fence Works
A table saw fence, sometimes referred to as a guard, is a wall/straight edge fitted to the top of the table saw and adjustable. When the fence is attached, it forms a 90° angle between the table and fence and runs perpendicular to the table itself.
The purpose of a fence is two-fold:
- First, the fence provides a stable guide to slide the wood piece along while cutting to cut it in a perfectly straight line.
- The second thing that a table saw fence does is to increase user safety. It does this by eliminating the need to put your fingers and hands excessively close to the saw blade to guide the material.
If you are looking for a fence to go along with your table saw, consider checking out the PowerTec Rip Fence. (Check the Current Price on Amazon Here)
Are Table Saw Fences Necessary?
Fences are not always necessary, nor are they still possible to use. In some instances, the size of the material you are cutting will exceed the entire table’s size, rendering the use of a fence impossible.
In this case, some saws will feature extendable table arms, which help to stabilize your piece as it is cut.
While fences are not entirely necessary, the difference in the straightness of the cuts you can make with them is substantial in place vs. without it.
Table Saw Fences Are Not All Created Equally
If you’re going to shop around for a fence for your table saw, you may have noticed that many of them look similar, but do not be deceived.
Admittedly, many fences are standardly sized and will be accommodatable by most saws, but this is by no means true for all table saw fences. This is why it is always advisable to stay within your brand and not attempt to cross-fit a random guard you have picked up from a third party seller.
Fences that are incompatible may be either too large or too small to clamp onto the rail of your table saw, rendering them useless.
Never attempt to use a loose, wobbly, crooked fence, or unsuited to your saw in any way. Failure to use a properly fitting guard will increase the likelihood of a serious accident or injury occurring. Don’t take the risk.
Similar Types of Saws
Although table saws are an immediate go-to for making most cuts, some other saws may be more specific to perform certain tasks due to their ease of access and are more favorable than a table saw.
Here we will briefly name each one, describe their design structure, and explain which tasks they are best suited for:
A skill saw is a handheld circular saw, which features a blade identical to that of a table saw. Because however, a skill saw is operated free-handedly; it is not ideal for making precise cuts.
A skill saw’s main benefit is that it can rip through pretty much anything very quickly, so if accuracy is not of great importance, a skill saw is incredibly convenient.
A miter saw is another circular bladed saw, but instead of being handheld or protruded from a table, a miter saw blade is fixed to an arm that moves directly up and down.
Miter saws can make angled cuts and have a built-in fence, granting accuracy and safety for the user.
The main drawback of a miter saw is that it cannot handle large surface cuts and is best used for smaller pieces such as baseboard and 2×4.
Safety Precautions When Using a Table Saw
When using any saw, safety is crucial—but table saws can be particularly dangerous.
- When using a table saw, never put your fingers closer than six inches to the blade at any time. Most table saws indicate the “danger zone” by way of a red circle surrounding the blade. Never go within this.
- If cutting a very large piece of material, such as a full-sized plywood sheet, have another person help hold it as you guide it through.
- Always make sure your work area is organized, clean, and clear of any tripping hazards before you begin working with any power tool.
- Never make any cut without proper safety eyewear. Safety glasses are essential for protecting your eyes from permanent damage.
In this article, we set out to determine whether or not table saw fences are universal. We first looked at how table saws function and operate and the need for a fence. From there, we examined how the table saw fences attach to the rail of the table.
Finally, we concluded that while many table saw fences are standardized and will work on most different saws, they are certainly not universal.
Different companies may design their rails and fences in slightly different ways, making them unsuitable for table saws from other brand names.
In closing, always research the specs of your table saw before committing to a fence which may not fit; and most importantly, always put your safety and the safety of others first and foremost.