16 Table Saw Upgrades Beginners Don’t Know

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The table saw has become the most versatile and useful power tool in the modern woodworker’s workshop. What had once been developed as a tool for ripping boards and cutting sheets of plywood down to size, has become a versatile work center, able to do much more. 

If there is one stationary power tool you’ve got to have in your workshop, it’s definitely this tool. However, turning a table saw into the most useful tool in your workshop will require a few upgrades. 

You may have seen videos on YouTube, talking about table saw upgrades. The table saw they’re starting with probably cost $1,500 or more, and the upgrades they’re suggesting are a few hundred dollars apiece. These fancy table saws and gadgets can make a dent in your bank account, but that should not be the case for simply upgrading your saw. 

In this guide, I’ll be using Evolution Rave 5-S, which retails for $499 and pretty much all of the upgrades I’m going to discuss are things you can either make yourself or buy for a very reasonable price! Let’s dive into them.

1. Change the Blade

The very first upgrade that any table saw needs is a new blade. Manufacturers usually ship their table saws with rather inexpensive, 24-tooth carbide blades. While they will cut, they won’t cut as well as how the saw is capable of.

Rich showing the table saw blade

The included blade is for ripping, which means it’s not all that good for crosscutting or any of the other cuts you might want to make with your table saw.

If you’ll be changing the blade on your table saw regularly to match the types of cuts you’re going to make, the best blade to have for general use is a combination blade. These types of blades generally have 48 or 52 teeth. The smaller teeth don’t clear chips as well for fast ripping, but will give a much smoother cut for crosscut work.

Once you install the blade, the first thing you want to do is rip a board with it to check how clean a cut it makes. What you’re looking for is tooth marks on the edge of the cut, left behind by the blade. This will tell you a lot about how straight it is cutting and whether there is any wobble in the blade.

2. Blade Stabilizers

If there are a lot of tooth marks visible on the edge that are ripping that board, there’s a good chance that your blade is wobbling a bit. Use something stable for comparison, like the riving knife, then turn the blade by hand, and look to see if the blade stays aligned with your visual reference or not. 

Rich showing a blade stabilizer

If it wobbles, then you should install some blade stabilizers. These are large washers (about 4” in diameter), that go on both sides of the blade, helping to hold it steady.

Blade stabilizers vary extensively in price, but can be purchased for under $20. The more expensive ones tend to be thicker and may even be tapered. Some are larger than four inches in diameter, but that will cut down the maximum depth of cut for the saw.

3. Set the Fence to the Blade

Besides the blade, the most critical part of any table saw is the fence. A good fence is essential to making straight cuts. But to make those cuts, the fence has to be parallel to the blade. That’s usually set in the factory, but it may not have been set correctly or have shifted due to the box being dropped during transport.

To set the fence to the blade, run the blade up all the way and then slide the fence over next to the blade. It should make equal contact with the teeth at the front of the blade and the teeth at the back. If it doesn’t, the fence needs to be adjusted. 

All fences have two bolts or screws on top (they might be hidden in holes) at the front end, where it meets up with the crossbar. Loosening those two bolts allows the fence’s angle to be adjusted. Tighten it well, so it can’t slip, then check it again against the blade.

4. Check the Fence Against the Miter Gauge Slot

Table saws generally have two miter gauge slots in them, intended for use with the mite gauge for making crosscuts and miter cuts. These will be parallel to each other, but they also need to be parallel to the fence. Check to see if they are by running the fence up next to one of them and visually comparing.

If your table saw has a ¾” miter gauge slot, you can make it easier to check this alignment by putting a strip of off-cut wood from a 1 x 4 in the slot, allowing it to stick up above the table. Just as the fence should have made contact with both the front and back of the saw blade, it should also make contact with both the front and back of this strip.

Rich checking the fence against the miter gauge slot

If your fence and miter slot are not parallel, that means that the blade and miter slot aren’t parallel either. The owner’s manual for the saw probably doesn’t show where they are, but there are mounting bolts for the saw’s carriage (holding the motor, blade, and tilt mechanism). 

Finding those and loosening them should allow you to adjust the angle of the blade, making it parallel to the miter gauge slot. Overall, this is largely a trial-and-error job, where you might have to move the carriage slightly a few times, trying to get it right.

5. Set the Scale

Almost all table saws have a scale on the front edge, which is used to set the fence’s position, relative to the blade. Part of the fence rides along this scale, with a vernier allowing the blade’s position to be measured. However, this is adjustable and probably isn’t accurately set from the factory. Even if it was, changing blades might set it off.

Measure the distance from the blade’s tooth, to the fence and compare that to what the scale says. The clear plastic that the vernier line is drawn on will generally be adjustable, allowing you to move it from side to side, adjusting the scale more accurately. 

If you can’t move it enough, check underneath and look for the bolts that hold the scale to the edge of the table. Those holes are usually slotted, allowing for an additional range of adjustment.

Rich setting the scale on the table saw

6. Make an Auxiliary Fence

It is never good when the blade and the fence meet, usually leaving permanent damage on the fence. There are several different operations that can cause this, such as cutting thin strips of wood or cutting a rabbet at the edge of a board. To help prevent this, add an auxiliary wood fence, over the factory fence.

An auxiliary fence can be made of any type of wood, as long as it is straight, with a smooth edge or surface for the wood to ride against. If you have a small table saw with a short fence, you can attach a longer auxiliary fence, giving you a longer bearing edge for making rip cuts. 

Holes can be drilled through the factory fence, allowing the auxiliary fence to be bolted on (the fence is largely hollow) or it can be held in place by clamps.

Another thing that can be done with a shorter auxiliary fence is that it can be used as a stop block to set cutoff length if you’re cutting a number of pieces to the same length. Just make sure that this shorter fence stops before reaching the blade.

This way, the board you are cutting isn’t making contact with the fence, the miter gauge, and the blade, all at the same time. That can cause the wood to get pinched between the fence and the blade, resulting in kickback.

Auxiliary fence on a table saw

7. Wax Your Table

Probably the easiest and cheapest upgrade you can make to your table saw is to wax the table. This can be done with any paste wax, applying it in circular motions with a rag or applicator, then removing the excess by rubbing it with a clean rag, also in circular motions.

Waxing the table will help protect it from rusting, as well as reduce the amount of friction between the table and any boards you are cutting. This just makes it easier to cut, with less force required. 

This can help with safety as well, as many accidents happen because of trying to force something through when it is sticking.

8. Outfeed Table or Workbench

An outfeed table can be extremely useful when cutting longer boards or larger sections of plywood. People do this in a couple of different ways: either as a separate table or a workbench for portable contractor saws. First, it can be a separate table which the table saw can sit up against.

Second, in the case of portable contractor saws, it can be a workbench that the table saw can sit into, which increases the overall size of the saw’s table, especially to the left of the blade and behind it. In either case, the table must be level with or slightly lower than the table saw’s table.

Rich showing the real estate of his table saw

I use my main workbench for this. The table saw sits a little higher than the workbench, allowing wood coming out of the saw to span the distance between the two, and then land on the table saw. If I need to make a lot of cuts, in which I need the workbench to act as an outfeed table, I have the option of moving my table saw closer.

This is the one project on this list that cost more than $100.00. How much more will depend on just how fancy an outfeed table or workbench you decide to build.

9. Dust Collection

The more woodworking you do, the more sawdust you’re going to create. This can reach a point where keeping your workshop clean is next to impossible, as it is with mine. The biggest thing you can do to combat this is to have a dust collection system attached to your power tools, assuming you have room for one. 

Although the table saw isn’t the biggest dust creator, it’s the power tool that’s used the most in the shop. Therefore, it makes up for its relatively low sawdust output with the massive volume it can produce.

My table saw came equipped with a built-in dust collection system. This means that the blade is shrouded from the underside, with a port for collecting sawdust, as well as having a dust collection port on the blade guard. 

Rich showing his table saw's dust collection system

Unfortunately, that upper dust collection port doesn’t do me much good, as my blade guard is often removed because it gets in the way of the cuts I am making.

If your saw doesn’t come equipped for dust collection, simply close off the bottom of the cabinet, and install a dust collection port. If this doesn’t work, you should be able to connect a shop vac to this, capturing a large portion of the dust.

10. Zero Clearance Throat Insert

All table saws have a throat plate around the blade. This is a necessary part so that the blade can be changed. Even so, it breaks up the table and can cause problems. One problem is that the extra space around the blade is a good slot for narrow strips of wood to fall through. 

Another is that on some saws, the throat plate sits slightly lower than the table, making it difficult to use some types of jigs, such as a tenoning jig.

The solution is to replace the throat plate with a zero-clearance throat plate. Some manufacturers offer these as an accessory for their table saws and some enterprising after-market entrepreneurs offer them as well. They vary in how well they are made. But you can bypass all that and make your own.

Rich showing how to use a zero clearance throat insert on a table saw

I made one for my table saw, which wasn’t exactly easy, out of ¼” thick lauan plywood. Since my table saw is a contractor’s portable table saw, it has an aluminum table, which isn’t all that thick. This meant I had to route a rabbet around the edge so that it would sit flush. 

Nonetheless, it was worth the effort. Not only do I eliminate the abovementioned problems, but it helps prevent splintering of cross-grain when I’m crosscutting.

11. Make a Crosscut Sled

The crosscut sled has become just about a must-have for table saw owners, which can largely replace the miter gauge and allow for accurate crosscuts. It consists of a platform, riding on two rails that sit in the miter slots. A back fence is installed, perpendicular to the table’s fence, making it perfectly perpendicular to the blade. 

This allows for perfect crosscutting, including attaching stop-blocks for repetitive cuts. A second fence, at the leading edge of the sled, holds the sled together so that it doesn’t get cut in half by the act of using it.

I show how to make a simple crosscut sled in the video. There are many variations on this basic design, by other woodworkers who have added their own touch. One thing I do differently is I make the rails that ride in the miter gauge tracks a bit proud so that the sled itself is held up off the saw’s table. 

Crosscut Sled

This helps to reduce friction, making for easier use. I also attached a piece of plexiglass across the top, creating a blade guard.

12. Make a Miter Sled

Once you’ve made yourself a crosscut sled, it only makes sense to make a miter sled. The basic difference between the two is that on a miter sled, the back fence is replaced by the corner of a piece of plywood, with an exactly 90-degree corner, set at 45 degrees to the blade. 

The easiest way to get a perfect 90-degree corner is to cut an unused corner off a fresh sheet of plywood. The mill tends to get those exact. The real beauty of this means of cutting miters is that it is virtually foolproof. 

I see a lot of woodworkers online, talking about their struggles to make good miter joints. With this sled, they always come out, even if the sled itself is a bit imperfect. As long as one side of the corner is cut on one side of the triangular piece of plywood and the other piece is cut on the other side, they will always make a 90-degree angle, or in other words… a perfect miter joint. See the video for a better idea of how this looks when assembled.

Miter Sled

13. Make a Tapering Jig

Another useful jig that can be made for the table saw, increasing its capability, is a tapering jig. This is ideal for making tapered legs; but can be used for other things as well. There are a variety of different ways of making a tapering jig; but most are designed to use in conjunction with the miter slot, like the aforementioned crosscut and miter sleds.

Tapering Jig

The idea is to build a sled that only goes into one of the miter tracks, usually the one to the right of the saw’s blade. The left edge of that sled is cut off by the saw’s blade, giving a positive location for the cut line. 

Some sort of clamps are needed, which will hold the wood to be cut securely to the jig. I used simple wood crossbars for mine, held down by studs and threaded knobs, but hold down clamps are more common. Other options for clamping are dovetail clamps, with the appropriate dovetail slots cut into the jig, or track clamps, with tracks mounted into the surface of the jig.

To use the jig, measure and mark the piece to be cut. Align those marks with the blade edge of the jig and the piece should be clamped in place. It can then be run through the saw, cutting the piece to exactly the marks.

14. Make a Tenoning Jig

Cutting tenons on the table saw is considerably easier than cutting them by hand. Nevertheless, it requires a means of holding the workpiece exactly perpendicular to the saw’s table. It has to be maintained perpendicular, while the workpiece is passed through the blade.

This requires a jig that straddles the saw’s fence. It must be snug enough that it doesn’t wobble, while still being able to move smoothly along the fence, for making the cut. I show a simple tenoning jig in the video. The basic frame consists of three pieces of wood:

Tenoning Jig

In addition to these three pieces, a fourth piece is attached to the vertical stage, which also needs to be exactly vertical as well, forming a fence for the back edge of the workpiece to be attached to. The workpiece is attached to the vertical piece, up against this fence, and held in place with a clamp.

The idea is to cut the outside of the tenon, which means measuring from the side of the blade’s teeth that is away from the fence, to the stage. For a typical ¾” thick piece of wood, this measurement would be ½”.

The tenon is cut on the two opposite sides of the workpiece in this manner, flipping the workpiece once the first cut is made. The shoulders are then cut, using either the miter gauge or a miter sled, with the workpiece flat on the table.

15. Get a Featherboard

The purpose of a featherboard is to hold the piece being cut against the fence while ripping boards. It is mounted before the blade, so that it pushes the workpiece up against the fence, not the blade. 

Featherboards are typically mounted into the miter gauge track, although there are ones with magnetic holders, which can attach directly to the surface of a cast-iron table. While it’s not difficult to make your own featherboard, there are also several models available which are inexpensive. 

Rich using a featherboard on the table saw

They are called “featherboards” because of the many slots cut into them, causing the “fingers” of the featherboard, which are at an angle to look like the barbs of a feather.

16. Push Sticks and Blocks

Pretty much all table saws come equipped with a plastic push stick. Unfortunately, being plastic, they can be brittle. Should they get caught in the saw’s blade, they can shatter, causing you to lose half the push stick and the protection it offers, in a moment, leaving your hand dangerously close to the spinning blade.

I prefer to make my own push sticks out of plywood. Although they can still get chewed up by the blade, they won’t shatter. That increases the safety factor, which is important to me. 

I have three different push sticks/blocks I’ve made, all of which are ergonomic and keep my fingers well away from the blade. I rarely make a cut without them.

Push Sticks

Final Thoughts

Don’t think that you have to do all of these things right away to fully use your table saw. Maybe you don’t have any projects on your radar, which will require tenoning or tapering table legs. If that’s the case, there’s no sense in rushing to build yourself those jigs. 

On the other hand, most of the other projects have a more general use, which you will probably find useful in your day-to-day woodworking. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to rush; but you’ll find it worth your time to do them.

Building jigs and fixtures for the shop is a great way of practicing your woodworking skills, on something that doesn’t have to be finished perfectly. If you make a mistake on a jig, you can still use it, without being embarrassed by everyone seeing your mistake. At the same time, they provide you with tools that you can use, improving your overall woodworking ability, without having to spend a lot of money.

Rich Profile Pic

Rich is a second-generation woodworker, having grown up in his dad’s workshop, “making sawdust.” Fifty years later, he’s still studying and working on improving his own woodworking skills, while also helping new woodworkers “catch the bug” for the smell of fresh sawdust. While Rich has done some custom woodworking projects, his greatest thrill is helping the next generation of woodworkers along, regardless of their age. His background as an engineer and a writer just adds to his ability to teach his true passion, woodworking.

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