When discussing table saws, many mention the rip capacity as a mere measure of how wide the blade can cut. But is that its only purpose?
Misunderstanding the role of rip capacity can lead newbies and DIYers to invest in the wrong tool. So, let me explain what table saw rip capacity really means and its genuine applications for woodworking.
Rip Capacity, Explained
In a literal sense, a table saw’s rip capacity is a marketing term that describes the distance between the blade’s tip and the edge of the unit’s table fence. Although the maximum rip capacity determines how wide of a material the tool can cut, it doesn’t limit your cutting capacity.
For example, let’s say your table saw has a maximum ripping capacity of 20-inch. What can you do if your saw blade needs to rip into a 4-inch x 8-inch (approximately 24 inches) material?
The solution lies in removing the rip fence to get a larger rip capacity suitable for your project. However, remember that it will be harder to achieve a straight cut without a rip fence.
You can also opt for a larger table extension to utilize extra material support or have another person assist you in ripping the piece.
Other than these methods, I recommend marking the plywood with a straight line and following it closely during the cut. This simple practice can make a significant difference in preventing rough edges.
Left vs. Right Rip Capacity
Most table saws have rip capacities that allow users to switch from left to right and vice versa. One of the sides can have a larger rip capacity than the other, but there are a few table saw options with the same specification for both sides.
While many table saws in the market feature a larger rip capacity on the blade’s right side, the left ripping capacity holds great importance in the overall performance.
You may not know, but the maximum rip capacity on the left side indicates the amount of space you can allocate on the right side of the table saw blade.
For example, let’s say your table saw has a wide ripping capacity of 30 inches on the right and 16 inches on the left. It means that you can increase the right rip capacity by 14 additional inches.
By doing this, the total rip capacity of your table saw’s right side becomes 44 inches while the left side has 2 inches.
The Typical Rip Capacities of Different Table Saw Sizes
Portable Type (28 Inches)
Taking a closer look at today’s market, I observed that most budget-friendly and mid-priced table saws come with an entry-level rip capacity of 28 inches.
These options are often categorized as portable table saws as they’re compact and easy to move around the workshop.
Although portable table saws have a lower rip capacity than others, you can still use them for ripping workpieces sized around 48 inches.
Obtaining smaller table saws with common rip capacities of 28 inches won’t be an issue if you’re primarily engaged in standard woodworking tasks.
Read Next: Best Table Saw Under $500
Contractor Type (30 Inches)
For professional contractors, I’d strongly recommend using table saws with a 30-inch rip capacity. It’s the perfect specification for tackling complex and larger cuts.
But no matter how much rip capacity your project needs, don’t forget that the 30-inch specification only applies when dealing with massive plywood sheets.
It should work well if you need to rip pieces for rooftops and buildings that small table saws can’t handle, even with an extra rip capacity.
Professional Cabinet Type (50 Inches)
Yes, 50-inch isn’t the most common rip capacity for a table saw. However, a bigger rip capacity means your tool won’t have a problem handling large-scale construction projects.
The only problem is even larger table saws don’t carry this massive specification. As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to extend rip capacity, so it’s only natural that most manufacturers sell products with a smaller rip capacity.
A large rip capacity like this specification is often possible for table saw models with a modified rip fence. You’ll need these versatile table saws if you’re cutting boards that are massive and delivered directly from wood manufacturing factories.
Typically, a 50-inch rip capacity on a table saw allows users to make a square cut in one motion, especially when cutting large wood sheets.
Overview of the Different Rip Capacities
Portable Benchtop and Job Site Table Saws
Contractor Table Saws
Cabinet Table Saws
Hybrid Table Saws
What is the Difference Between a Table Saw’s Depth and Rip Capacity?
You may have read a few different tutorials and never encountered a clear explanation of the difference between table saws’ rip capacity and depth.
Some may say the blade depth corresponds to how deep the table saw can cut into the wood, but did you know that it also determines how perfect your ripping process can be? As it correlates with the blade size, the depth determines if your table saw can handle thick materials.
If the depth capacity on a table saw ranges around 10 inches, the material you can cut can’t exceed more than 3 inches. And if your table saw is equipped with a 12-inch blade, you can expect it to cut thicker materials, around 4 inches.
Unlike depth capacity, table saw ripping specifications can be modified by adding an extension to the existing table saws surface. It’s also one of the reasons why it directly affects the cost of the table saw.
How to Determine the Rip Capacity I Need + When Do You Need it?
No matter how premium a tool’s specifications might be, what good is a table saw’s rip capacity if it doesn’t fit your project’s needs? At the end of the day, the rip capacity of a table saw should align with the work you’re planning to do.
For example, framing jobs for massive construction projects will need a table saw with a ripping capacity of at least 24 inches. Why? Because most plywood and boards used in construction are sold in 4×8 sheets that a smaller table saw may struggle to handle.
Ripping Wood on a Table Saw: 3 Steps
The method of cutting wood lengthwise in the same direction as the material’s grain is called ripping. You’ll have to do this cut when your project requires shaving off a few inches from the material you’re using.
Besides ripping, a table saw can execute cross-cuts or slices across the wood’s grain as long as your tool has a miter gauge.
Going back to rip cuts, here are some steps you must follow to execute this method successfully:
Step #1: Measure and Mark the Surface of Your Wood
If you don’t want to waste materials or time, don’t be complacent about your measurements. Markings not measured correctly on the workpiece can result in wrong cuts and annoying do-overs.
Step #2: Adjust the Depth
You can achieve a perfect rip cut if you adjust the blade depth around ⅛-inch over the workpiece’s surface. By setting the right depth, the chances of your hand brushing over the material are lower.
Step #3: Position Your Saw’s Fence
As you know, the rip fence will guide you while cutting the material. This feature moves the workpiece into the rapidly spinning blade and maintains the material position on the fence to deliver a straight cut. You can utilize the push stick to finish the task.
Tips to Extend Your Saw’s Rip Capacity: 3 Tips
Tip #1: Extend One Side of the Saw
You can extend the rip capacity of a table saw by adjusting the blade from the opposite side of where you’re cutting. As discussed earlier, you can adjust the right ripping capacity to take over some of the space on the left side.
Tip #2: Adjust the Fence Railing
For this method, you’ll have to disassemble the power tool. You can search for reliable tutorials to accomplish this, but don’t forget that it can be quite technical.
Tip #3: Get a Table Extension
I’ve previously noted that many models on the market come with modest ripping specifications. However, to address this, many manufacturers offer table extensions to enhance the rip capacity.
You can easily find these extensions at local hardware stores or on e-commerce platforms like Amazon.
Is the rip capacity a basis as to how large can a table saw can cut?
It can be a basis for how wide the tool can cut, but it’s not an imposed limitation. Users can remove the fence hindering the rip capacity, but it will jeopardize the chances of getting accurate cuts. You can opt for table extensions and fence adjustments to get the rip capacity you desire.
When does a 20-inch rip capacity suffice?
Using a table saw with a 20-inch ripping capacity will suffice if you’re cutting sheets for small tables and cabinets.
Having clarified what table saw rip capacity really means, I’m confident that you’ll be able to harness this feature to meet your project demands.
Though it might be tempting to opt for units with more advanced ripping specifications, opting for these models can sometimes be more costly than anticipated.
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