Cutting Thin Strips at the Table Saw
Video - June 23, 2015
Resawing thin stock and cutting thin strips is typically the domain of the bandsaw. And while I consider the bandsaw to be an essential shop tool, not everyone has one. Furthermore, because the bandsaw leaves a somewhat rough surface behind, you’ll need a way to smooth that thin stock before you can use it. So it’s probably worth considering an alternative option that kills two birds with one stone: utilizing a more common tool that results in a smoother cut. So let’s look at a few ways you can use your table saw to cut thin strips.
First, the Problem!
Why can’t we just set our table saw fence for 3/16″ and run the piece through? The primary reason is safety. With so little space between the fence and the blade, it becomes difficult to effectively push the stock past the blade and kickback can easily occur. So the key is to find a way to either push the stock through safely, or simply push the reference stop to the LEFT side of the blade instead of the right.
Fancy Push Blocks
If you happen to have a MicroJig GRR-Ripper, you already know that thin stock isn’t much of an issue. This nifty push block holds the off-cut securely and pushes it safely past the blade. The unit comes with the ability to rip strips down to 1/4″ and a special add-on is available for strips at thin as 1/8″. If one were so inclined, a shop-built solution could also be devised that accomplishes something similar.
Thin Strip Jig
Here’s a super simple jig made from a piece of MDF or plywood scrap that features a hook glued onto one end. That hook is there to push the stock through the cut safely. Once you have the jig made, simply set it against the fence and adjust the fence so the gap between the blade and the jig is the desired strip thickness. Put the stock against the jig and make sure it’s fully-seated in the hook and carefully push it through the saw. So simple yet so effective. The only downfall of this technique is that you’re somewhat limited in the size range of stock. If the board gets too large or too long, it can be difficult to control safely.
The Left-of-the-Blade Stop
While putting the off-cut strip to the left of the blade is definitely safer, you’ll have to re-adjust your fence each and every time to get multiple strips of the same thickness. If we have a stop in place to help index the cut, the process becomes easy and repeatable. You can use something as simple as a piece of scrap wood clamped to the table, but my preferred stop is a magnet. A simple MagSwitch magnet will do the trick quite nicely. With the stop in place, all you need to do is put your workpiece against the stop and carefully nudge the fence in place on the right side. Just be careful not to accidentally push that magnet out of position. This is my favorite method primarily because it’s easy to set up and doesn’t pose any limits on the size of the workpiece or the size of the resulting strips.
While not discussed in the video, there are shop-made and commercial jigs available that fit into the left miter slot of the table saw. They can be adjusted for various thicknesses and they work quite well. So if you plan to do a lot of this, it’s not a bad idea to build or buy a jig.
Interested in an alternative way to surface and smooth thin stock? Check out this video!