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Whenever you make cuts with a table saw, a table saw fence helps guide your wood through the cut. The fence ensures your cut is straight and smooth, while also potentially helping to reduce the risk of kickback or movement of the wood.
Many table saws come with a fence. However, if you don’t have a table saw fence, it isn’t difficult to make your own. Learn how to make a table saw fence by following these 7 simple steps.
- Table Saw Rip Fence FAQ
- How to Make a DIY Table Saw Fence
- When Should I Upgrade to a Professional Fence?
Table Saw Rip Fence FAQ
Using the best table saw available will provide for accurate, precise cuts. You can repeat these cuts over and over again in rapid succession, allowing you to speed through a large project.
In order to make your cuts accurately, and stay safe while doing it, you need a rip fence. Before we dive into making a saw fence, lets spend a few minutes answering some common (and important) questions.
What is a Table Saw Fence?
In essence, a fence is a guide that your wood will follow as you make cuts. The more general version is most often referred to as a rip fence, and name derives from its use to guide wood as you “rip” it. You can use a rip fence with most any circular-bladed saw, such as a circular saw or table saw.
When used specifically with a table saw, the guide is most commonly referred to as the table saw fence.
Since these are very long cuts, you need a hefty guide (or fence) to ensure that the wood is cut straight accurately. Enter a table saw fence.
Do I Need a Rip Fence for my Saw?
Yes, for several reasons. For starters, it is practically impossible to rip wood straight without some sort of guide. So, for accuracy purposes alone, you need to have a rip fence for making rip cuts.
You also need a saw fence for safety. A saw fence does a lot of the guiding work that you would otherwise rely on your hands for. If you used your hands instead of the fence guide, you would be dramatically increasing your risk of hurting yourself.
Knowing how to use a table saw safely is vital. You must stand in the proper place, keep your hands clear of the blade, and make your cuts carefully.
Additionally, the saw fence prevents the wood from racking. Racking (explained in more detail below) can cause serious injury, and using a fence helps to prevent this from happening.
Many of these saws come with a rip fence, but a lot of cheaper table saws don’t have a rip fence included. Table saws are perfect for ripping wood, and are typically measured by their rip capacity. Be safe and use a fence, though.
How to Make a DIY Table Saw Fence
Often known as a rip fence, a table saw fence allows you to safely and accurately cut and rip wood using your table saw. We’ll use the terms “table saw fence” and “rip fence” interchangeably in this article.
Purchase the Supplies to Make your Table Saw Fence
You will only need a few simple supplies to make your table saw fence. Making sure you have everything you need before you start will ensure the building of your table saw fence goes off without a hitch. You will need the following materials to build your table saw fence:
- Tape measure
- (1) 2×4 (longer than your table saw depth)
- Wood screws
- (4) 3″ deck screws
- (1) screw-threaded rod with accompanying nut
Measure the Dimensions of your Table Saw
To ensure you have the correct dimensions for your table saw fence, you will need to determine the depth of your table saw. Simply measure from the front of the table saw to the back with your tape measure.
If you’re looking for more clarity, the depth of your saw is the measurement than runs parallel to the table saw blade. Your saw fence needs to be accurately cut to fit the length of your specific table.
You will be cutting the 2×4 to be slightly longer than your table saw fence.
Most table saws are between 24″-36″ in length, although some portable table saws can be a little more compact. Thus, make sure your 2×4 is at least this long!
Cut your End Caps from the 2×4
You want to start your cutting process by making the end caps for your table saw fence. You will need two of these – one for each end of the fence. These caps will sit on the ends of the fence, allowing it to “lock” on to the table of the saw and stay steady as you cut.
Each end cap needs to be 3″ in length. Simply take your 2×4 and cut (2) 3″ pieces off of the end. Use your jigsaw to quickly make the cuts.
Cut your 2×4 to the Table’s Length
Now it is time to cut your 2×4 for the the fence. Before you start cutting, read on because you need to account for the adjustable screw that you will insert.
Your 2×4 needs to be the length of your table saw plus the depth of the nut that attaches to your screw. By and large, the screw/nut you purchase will probably be roughly 1″. As such, your 2×4 measurement for cutting will probably be roughly 1″ longer than the saw length.
Again, use a jigsaw to make your cut. Ensure it is accurate by measuring and marking the length on the 2×4, and use a square to mark the cut.
Similar to building other tools for your table saw, your cut has to be exactly square, meaning that there is no angle on the ends (not even the slightest). If you end up with an angled cut, even a small amount, the table saw fence will not be exactly parallel to the blade of the saw.
This is called racking… when the fence is not parallel to the blade, but at an angle. This is very dangerous because the wood you are cutting can get pinched between the blade and fence, and the power of the blade can kick back the material being cut.
Attach the End Caps to the 2×4
Now its time to attach your end caps to the 2×4 that has been cut down to length. You’ll be using the 3″ deck screws to attach – two on each end of the 2×4.
Drill pilot holes before screwing into your 2×4. The pilot holes should be roughly 3″ deep, just like the screws are. However, make sure that the pilot hole is a slightly smaller diameter than that of the deck screws.
Once you’ve drilled your pilot hole, it should be easy to screw in the deck screws to the 2×4.
Verify that the 2×4 fence fits properly over the table
Take your new table saw fence and place it onto the table of your saw. If you took your measurements correctly and cut accurately, the new fence should sit over top of the table, and there should be roughly a 1″ gap on one side of the fence.
This gap is supposed to be there – it is for your threaded screws. We’ll install that next, and it is how you secure the fence to the table so that it doesn’t move while you make cuts.
Install the Threaded Screw to the End Cap
You’ve reached the final step in building a table saw fence. This final step is to install the threaded rod to one side of your fence, into an end cap. This rod will allow you to secure the saw fence to the table so that it doesn’t move while you cut.
Similar to Step 5, drill a pilot hole into one end cap. Measure first, with the saw fence resting on the table. You want to rod to go through the end cap and be in line with the table base, allowing you to screw it up against the base to secure it.
Drill the pilot hole all the way through the end cap.
Once drilled, you can screw the rod through the end cap. Then, add the twist nut and end piece for the rod. You now should be able to tighten your table saw fence up against the saw by turning the twisting nut.
When Should I Upgrade to a Professional Fence?
The table saw fence we guided you through above is a great start, but it is a simple, homemade version. There will be a time when you look to upgrade to the best table saw fence.
As time goes on, the fence will weaken at is connection points, and could be harder to move around fluidly. Also, the end caps might loosen slightly, making the saw fence slightly off-center.
At some point, depending on how frequently you use your table saw, and how complicated your cuts are, you should look into a professional option. Chances are that your table saw manufacturer makes the fence available for purchase.
There will be projects you do that require absolute precision in your rip cuts. This would be a great time to consider upgrading.
Also, a DIY table saw fence is not nearly as safe as a professionally built one. As you consider your safety, the safest bet is to go with one that is built to match your table, and constructed with the highest quality workmanship and material.
By following these instructions, you can easily learn how to make a table saw fence for your table saw. It will provide you plenty of accuracy as you cut and help keep you safer at the same time from wood kickbacks or splintering.
You can now start enjoying your new table saw fence and all the functionality it offers.