Why Are My Rip Cuts Drifting on My Table Saw?

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Table saws are power tools for many woodwork shop projects. However, they experience problems, and rip cuts drifting is one of the major issues you will deal with. Table saw drift is the tendency of the blade to veer to the right or left when making a cut with the rip fence.

This could be the blade straying off the cutting line or when the wood seems to be pulled away from the fence during the ripping process. So, if you’re asking yourself: why are my rip cuts drifting on my table saw?, keep on reading.

Why Are My Rip Cuts Drifting on My Table Saw?

Rip cuts drifting on a table saw is a common problem that many woodwork experts experience. Your rip cuts are drifting on your table saw when the blade is slightly damaged, you’re using cheap blades, the blade does not track to the center of the tires or guides are not properly adjusted.

Rip cut drifting can also occur when your saw is not properly set up or does not have a high-quality and sharp table saw blade that is correctly installed and tensioned. As a result, the chances of adjusting for drift are very minimal.

Since all contractor table saws and blades differ in their setup, you must ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s specifications and instructions to correct the drifting.

Man checking his table saw blades

Rip cuts drifting on table saws is a common phenomenon that most wood work enthusiasts deal with. The amount of drifting on your table saw will vary from very minor to very bad.

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However, most table saws will exhibit rip cut drifting to some magnitude. Blade drifting usually occurs when the operator is using a rip fence. 

How to Eliminate Rip Cuts Drifting

Rip cut drifting may occur to the right or to the left and should be eliminated because it will affect the quality of your cuts.

  • If the rip cut drifting is to the right, you can adjust the blade marginally forward or towards you on the upper wheel.
  • If the drift occurs to the left, then you should adjust your blade slightly towards the back of your upper wheel.

Making these minor adjustments will tweak your blade slightly and this can help to steer it and compensate for the drift. This is an easy and fast method of preventing rip cut drifting and is worth a try.

Without rip cuts drifting, you are assured of premium quality cuts that will enhance the outcome of your woodwork project.

Why You Should Prevent Rip Cuts Drifting

Attaining rip cuts involves sliding a board across the face of your saw while still touching the rip fence to help with the direction of the blade. If the board drifts away from your table saw rip fence, the cut will be crooked and you may even experience kickback.

Man trying to determine why are his rip cuts drifting on his table saw

Kickback usually happens when the rotating blade of the saw seizes a part of the wood being cut, lifts it up, and then throws it at a very high speed. Kickback is extremely dangerous since the blade is spinning towards you and the wood that is flung in your direction may result in a serious injury.

Furthermore, your hands may also be thrown to the blade, leaving you with minor cuts or causing you to lose your fingers to the blade. Kickback also occurs during rip cuts and can cause harm to the operator or others in the woodwork shop.

Preventing Kickback

You can prevent kickback by using the right safety technique and equipment. For example, you can use a riving knife as a physical barrier to prevent the wood pieces from drifting to the back teeth found on the spiraling blade. You can also use a push stick or push block coupled with a method known as three points pressure.

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Apart from protecting you, the three pressure points system will also offer a better cut. By maintaining the three pressure points, you will be assured of less drifting, straight cuts and kickback risks will be minimized. The secret is to ensure the woodwork materials move smoothly through the saw’s cut path without allowing any drifting on the blade.

Man using a safety tool to cut his wood on a table saw

What are Table Saw Rip Cuts?

Rip cuts are cuts that are made lengthwise and usually parallel to the wood grain’s direction. For instance, when installing floor planks, window, or door frames, you may need to shave off about a half-inch from the board’s length, or you may have a sheet of plywood that requires cutting lengthwise to fit a subfloor installation layout.

What is the Three Points of Pressure Technique?

The three pressure points technique is a method of applying pressure forward to the blade, downwards, and inwards towards the fence. When running wood pieces through your saw, the three pressure points must be applied to prevent kickback and guarantee little or no rip cuts drifting.

Conclusion

A table saw is one of the best tools to use when rip cutting. However, for safe cutting, you must make adjustments on your saw or use safety equipment to prevent rip cuts from drifting. This should be part of your routine maintenance to ensure you get straight cuts and prevent any hazards like kickbacks.

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.