What Side Should the Rip Fence Be on for a Table Saw?

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Some people tend to ignore the rip fence during their early experience in woodcutting. However, they’re actually quite useful when it comes to getting the right cut of the woodwork. People even confuse themselves on what side should the rip fence be on for a table saw.

What Side Should the Rip Fence Be on for a Table Saw? 

The rip fence for a table saw can actually go on either side of the blade. It depends on several factors like the measurement of the cut you are aiming for. Remember, the rip fence acts as a guide, stopper, and marker for cutting. A general rule of thumb is placing the rip fence on your dominant hand side. 

Most people use the rip fence on their table saw for safety purposes. That’s why you see them placed on their dominant hand side for better stability. Some rip fences also contain a rip scale to help you with measurements.

Man showing what side should the rip fence be on for a table saw

Why Put the Rip Fence on the Right Side?

Most people place their rip fence on the right side if they want a wide cut. Although most people also are right-handed which is why you see most rip fences on the right side. 

However, this doesn’t work for tilted blades. When you make an angled cut with a left tilting blade while your rip fence is on the right, the cut-off part above the blade doesn’t get trapped. 

If you cut it with a right tilting blade with the rip fence on the right, the cut-off piece gets trapped and may get kicked back and hit you. 

Why Put the Rip Fence on the Left Side?

It’s more of a left-handers preference. Some people also like to place the rip fence on the left side because it gives them better stability. It’s also more convenient if you’re making a narrow cut, especially if you’re handling a large piece of wood. 

The biggest problem with bigger pieces is how you can support them during the cutting. The rip fence can act as a stabilizer while you support the other end. 

It also makes sense to have your dominant hand on the side of the rip fence. Since you’ll be pushing the wood with your dominant hand, the opposite side should have no resistance so the cut-off part doesn’t get pushed back to the saw. 

Does It Matter What Side of the Table Saw Blade the Fence is On?

The side only matters for your safety. It gets a little tricky with different types of saw like left and right tilting saws. Table saws also have different spaces on each corner which can dictate what side you’ll be using more. 

As mentioned earlier, the side you should be using the rip fence most is where your dominant hand is. Most woodwork you’ll be cutting with your dominant hand for control and stability. Working with your weak hand may cause some accidents. 

Most of the contractor and hybrid saws will work with either side of the rip fence. It’s just a matter of comfort and safety for what side you’ll position it. 

Table saw fence

What is a Rip Fence?

A rip fence is an important part of your table saw. It works as a guide that helps you cut wood evenly, precisely, and safely. A rip fence typically looks like a metal bar that positions parallel to the saw blade. 

You can adjust the rip fence according to the width of your cut. It also makes cutting much safer as it lowers the chance of a cut off piece kickback. 

A great rip fence often contains the following:

  • Micro adjustment capability
  • True and square bar
  • Easy positioning
  • Easy to read positioning scale
  • Portability
  • At least a 50-inch rip capacity

How Do You Use A Rip Fence on a Table Saw?

Before using a rip fence, you need to have the following:

  • A rip fence
  • A piece of wood (easy for beginners)
  • A table saw

This will give you a great woodworking beginner’s practice. You can use a metal rip fence or a wooden one depending on what type of saw you use. While most table saws use wooden ones, they can also use metal rip fence.

Here are the steps you can follow for using a fence on a table saw. 

Set Up Your Table Saw

Before you can actually start using your rip fence, you should first set up your table saw. Almost all table saws come with an instruction manual that shows you how to properly use it. 

Make Sure The Table Saw is Unplugged 

Before you start with cutting make sure your table saw is first unplugged so you can safely check everything you need. You may accidentally switch on the saw as you are setting up the wood especially if you are just a beginner. 

You should also do this when you are changing the blades or adjusting the rip fence. 

Person cutting wood using a table saw

Mount Your Rip Fence

Insert the rip fence in the slot in the circular or drive saw. You can merely mount the rip fence on top of the table or base to the right of the protruding circular saw. You can also mount it on the left side depending on which is your dominant hand. 

Align Your Rip Fence

This will dictate how much wood you will saw off. You have to manually mark the length you want to align with your rip fence on the table saw. Align it and make sure that it stays secured in place. 

Cutting with the Rip Fence

Use the rip fence as a guide while cutting. Use your dominant hand to push the wood into the blade while your other hand holds down the wood to keep it stable.

Make sure your hands are as far away from the blade as to avoid any injuries. Maintain a tight grip on your wood piece until finished cutting. 

Related Questions

Before this finish this article, let’s answer a couple of questions we often receive on this topic.

Can You Rip 2×4 on a Table Saw?

You can rip a 2×4 on a table saw with no problems. You just need to make 2 passes and use an excellent quality blade specifically for cutting wood. However, it can be quite dangerous for beginners so we wouldn’t recommend you do it unless you know your way around table saws

How Do You Keep Wood Straight on a Table Saw? 

You can use feather boards to keep your wood against the fence for a straight cup. The rip fence also helps keep your wood straight for cutting. If you don’t have a feather board, use your hands following safety precautions.  

Conclusion

It’s always better to place your rip fence at the side of your dominant hand if you’re just new to table saws. Doing so makes it easier and safer to do. It also gives you better stability and control during cutting. 

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.