Why is My Table Saw Not Cutting Smoothly?

There is nothing worse than a bad cut- especially when you have invested in a high-quality piece of wood that you have visions of turning into a beautiful woodworking masterpiece. It is infuriating, so you have to find the issue’s source- especially if it is your table saw’s fault.

There can be many different reasons for your table saw not cutting smoothly, including that your blade is not clean, sharp, well-aligned, or upgraded. To check, be sure to clean the blade of debris, sharpen it, and make sure it lays flat. If these cannot be achieved, consider upgrading your blade.

If your blade is causing tear-out and nasty looking edges, you do not need to scrap the whole thing. More than likely, you are dealing with an issue that is quick to fix and will get you back on your smooth cutting feet in a matter of minutes. Continue reading to understand a few common problems that could be plaguing your blade and how to correct them.

3 Issues to Check if Your Table Saw is Not Cutting Smoothly

It can be a process of elimination when determining why your table saw is not cutting smoothly. As frustrating as it might be, rest assured that there are a few main causes that you can check rather simply.

Three of the main ways to check your table saw blade if it is not cutting smoothly include the following:

  1. Pay Attention to the Blade
  2. Look at the Blade Alignment
  3. Straighten the Fence

Let’s take a closer look.

Pay Attention to the Blade

The first main component to check your table saw if it is not cutting smoothly is to pay attention to the blade. This can have quite a few components to pay attention to, so it is a step you will not want to skip.

Before you do anything, you want to go straight to the blade. Many assume that when tear-out and chipping start to occur that it means their blade needs to head to the trash.

However, this isn’t so. Most of the time, your blade is just fine and needs a bit of tune-up. Trust me, this is no big deal and will end up saving you a good chunk of change in the long run. Before going out and buying a new blade, try a few of these tricks to see any improvement.

  • Clean Your Blade. If you are working in an area with materials that put off a lot of material when being sawed through, your blade has likely accumulated some of that gunk. Even if you are not often working with materials like wood, your saw blade will pick up different debris and resins that will build up over time.

For your blade, this is bad news. Think of it as you would scissors filled with glue. In this case, your scissors cannot cut clean when they are dirty, and following this analogy, neither will your saw.

A dull blade is an ineffective blade, and it will tear up any project you are working on. To clean your blade and get it back to its original shape, all you need to do is give it a good scrub down.

Do not use the random cleaner you have under your sink, but try and purchase either a blade cleaner or an all-purpose cleaner that is non-toxic and designed to degrease. (This link has some good examples on AmazonOpens in a new tab.) Soak your blade, scrub it up, and it should be good as new.

  • Sharpen Your Blade. Now that your blade is as brilliant as a center-cut diamond check and see if the teeth look a bit dull. If they do, you are on your way to a sharpening adventure.

If your blade is dull, it is obviously going to tear rather than cut clean through the workpieces you are feeding it with. A dull blade doesn’t mean a bad blade, so take the time to really get that bad boy sharp and see how much better it is when it comes to performance.

To sharpen a saw blade, first, remove the blade from the saw. Clamp the blade between two clamps on your workbench and mark the tooth you plan to start with. Now you want to start filing the teeth.

To do so, grab a diamond file and place it below the edge of the first tooth. Use a slow and steady motion that hits the flat part of the metal’s thickness and then slowly move the file over the tooth’s top flat part. Repeat over and over until you’ve reached the first tooth. 

  • Make Sure the Blade is Flat. You are probably thinking, “The blade is flat already. That is how it’s made….” Hear me out, though. After a lot of use, your blade may start to perform the dreaded “wobble.”

No, this is not an acceptable dance move for your saw. When a blade wobbles, it creates a nasty cut, typically at the very end of your job. So you have gone through and are almost finished with a workpiece only to look down right at the very end and see that chipping and tear-out are all along the end.

Disastrous. If you suspect your blade is not flat, give it a little test in a piece of scrap wood. Fire up your saw and run the scrap piece through. Once the blade begins to slow down at the point where you want it to stop, pay close attention to its movements.

Sadly, if the blade begins to wobble at the stopping point, it likely needs to be replaced. This is much less common than having a dirty or dull blade, so be sure to have a sure diagnosis before replacing a blade.

Look at the Blade Alignment

The second main component to check if your table saw is not cutting smoothly is to look at the blade alignment.

If your blade is already clean, sharp, and flat, you will want to check on your blade’s alignment. What is big here is making sure that the blade is nice and parallel to the miter slots within your saw. This will take a little measuring, but for a workman (or workwoman!) yourself, this should be one of your easier measuring jobs.

First, you want to raise the blade as high as it can go. Reach for the stars with this part, don’t be shy. Once it is raised, pick a carbide tooth on the blade and rotate it until the carbide is level with the table where the blade is closest to the front of the saw.

Measure from the carbide to a miter slot and mark down the distance. After this, rotate the blade to the very rear of the saw using the same chosen carbide and measure that distance. If the distances are the same, you do not have an alignment issue. If they are not, adjust the motor until they are.

Straighten the Fence

The third main component to check if your table saw is not cutting smoothly is to straighten your table’s fence.

No, do not go running out to your front yard for this. Hang tight in your work spot. There is a fence on your saw that helps to keep things from getting out of line – kind of like the bouncer of your saw. If your fence is not straight, it will cause you some serious issues when it comes to clean and straight cuts.

Take a framing square and a piece of paper to feel for inconsistency. Press the paper against the fence and put your framing square against it. You should not wiggle the paper from this, and if you can, then your fence needs to be adjusted.

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