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When you are ripping wood, one of the most important considerations is the rip capacity of your saw. Most woodworkers would agree that a table saw is the best saw to rip wood, and we’ve outlined how you can determine the rip capacity of your table saw.
What is Rip Capacity on a Table Saw?
On a table saw, rip capacity is the distance from the edge of the saw blade to the furthest distance that the rip fence can move away from the blade. In other words, it is the longest length of wood that the table saw can perform a rip cut on.
The three most common rip capacities are:
- 28 inches: the entry level rip capacity for most cheap and mid-priced table saws. This allows you to rip a standard 48″ of plywood in half.
- 30 inches: the perfect capacity for most woodworkers, this size will handle the majority of your cuts. Although, you will probably end up with the occasional 36″ that you won’t be able to make.
- 50 inches: the largest of all sizes, only the biggest and best table saws will have this capacity. However, the vast majority of cuts will never require a capacity this large. However, you can do additional things with it, such as install a torsion box router table.
As an example, if you buy a piece of plywood that’s 48 by 96 inches and your saw’s rip capacity is 28 inches, you can cut it into two 24 by 96-inch pieces.
Clearing the Confusion about Rip Capacity
Several different specs and features apply to table saws, including rip capacity. However, the biggest factor affecting the price for many table saws is the rip capacity. Because rip capacity affects the cost, it’s an important measurement.
When you make your selection of the table saw, you want to choose the smallest rip capacity based on your needs to get the best value. Smaller portable table saws typically will have a shorter rip capacity than larger, cabinet table saws.
Another key factor that is important for table saws is their depth capacity. This is how deep into the wood the saw can cut. Another way to think about it is how thick of wood the saw can cut.
Generally, a 10″ table saw blade can cut wood that is roughly 3″ thick, and a 12″ blade can cut wood that is 4″ thick.
Table Saw Basics
For many woodworkers, the first large scale tool they buy is a table saw. That’s because they are so versatile and useful. You can use them to make accurate, smooth, and straight cuts in all kinds of materials, including:
- Sheet materials, like OBD, plywood, and masonite
- Some plastics
There are three main parts to a table saw: a horizontal table to support the material, a rip fence to guide the wood, and a circular saw blade to cut it.
Rip Capacity Defined
To rip a piece of wood, you cut it along the grain. In theory, you could cut infinitely long boards. But you are limited on the amount of width that you can cut by the rip capacity. That being said, there are options for extending the rip capacity of a table saw.
How to Extend Your Rip Capacity
While rip capacity is an important measure, there are ways to expand the rip capacity of any table saw. For starters, before you consider extending your rip capacity, make sure you know all of the safety features and procedures for this dangerous saw.
In essence, you can have unlimited rip capacity for both length and width. Just remove the fence. But, it will be nearly impossible to keep a straight line. You can mark a straight line and follow it as you cut.
There are several options for ripping large pieces of wood. Here are a few more ways you can rip large pieces of material with a table saw:
- Have other people help you
- Use larger tables
- Build a fence clamping system
How Much Rip Capacity Do I Need on a Table Saw?
28″ is the minimum rip capacity on most entry level table saws, while 30″ is the most common rip capacity. You can accomplish most rip cuts with a 28″ rip capacity.
The type of projects you plan to work on is the main aspect that determines how much rip capacity you need.
For example, let’s say you want to use your table saw for large-scale construction projects, like frames, fences, or decks. In that case, you want a rip capacity somewhere near 24 inches, since standard sheets of oriented strand board (OSB) and plywood measure 8 feet long by 4 feet wide.
Perhaps you want to work on smaller projects, like cabinetry and furniture. You can accomplish this kind of work with a table saw with a capacity of 22 inches or less.
Since rip capacity is a major factor in the price of a table saw, you’ll want to choose the smallest table saw that will meet the needs of your projects.
Different projects and cuts require different rip capacities. If you’re still a beginner, chances are you can opt for a cheaper table saw that does not have as large of a rip capacity. As your projects grow in size and scope, you will need a table saw with a larger rip capacity.