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Ripping Thin Stock

Question

What is the best method to cut or rip very thin (~1/16″) strips safely on the tablesaw. — Roger Myers

Answer

Al Breed replies: To cut 1/16″ stock I use a thin red Diablo blade and sticky-tape a secondary fence to your regular fence that stops at the end of the saw kerf. This prevents the thin piece from jamming. Then nail a splitter in the form of a brad into your wooden saw insert a few inches past the blade in line with the blade. This will separate the thin strip from the blade from the main piece and keep it from getting chewed up. Matt Wajda turned me on to this method and I’ve used it when sawing inlay banding off a block with excellent results.

Marty Milkovits replies: Set the fence slightly greater (1/32″±) than the slice you want to take off, joint one edge and pass thru the saw. If the piece is greater than 2″ thick, take a cut only half the thickness of the piece and flip it over end for end after each pass. However if you are using a tablesaw to cut veneer you’ll be creating more sawdust than veneer. A band saw with 3/1 wide blade is better suitable for cutting veneer.
Bob Oswald replies: A method that I consider safe, although some would say that a bit more skill is required, is to rip it directly with the blade protruding only about 1/16″ above the wood and using a tall push block. I use this method often for a single piece, because it’s quick to set up.

But the key is the pusher dedicated to this task. An example of the pusher I use is a home cut version of Rockler’s #52662. Observe how high above the wood your hand is and the way the pusher holds the wood down on the table. This works fine for me down to about 1/8″. Narrower than that runs the risk of the pusher slipping behind between the wood and the fence, not a good thing. Below 1/8″, I run it through the drum sander.

Rockler’s Thin Rip Tablesaw Jig uses a thin rip jig that requires moving the rip fence for each cut. The jig fastens in the miter slot and has a positioning finger before the blade and the rip distance away from the blade. You put your wood against the rip fence, positioning the fence and wood against the finger, and rip the thin strip off. I don’t like it because of the inconsistency of rip cuts — every one is set individually. They are close but not perfect.

My preferred method is a jig similar to a taper jig but without the taper. For a safe jig, you would build one like a sled that rides along the rip fence and is positioned close to the blade. You can then cut off thin strips that are consistent. [See Bob’s article describing this method on page 17].

Chris Kovacs replies: Cutting thin (1/16″) strips on a tablesaw can be a tricky operation. The first requirement is a zero clearance insert in the tablesaw. Such thin strips can easily get pulled into the blade and down into the saw cabinet. Next I would recommend a splitter that is integrated into the zero clearance insert or an after market splitter. This will keep the thin strip from getting pulled into the back side of the saw blade. The third requirement is a push stick or block.

For me the process of ripping thin strips would involve setting the fence to the desired thickness and raising the blade about 1/8˝ above the wood surface. Using a wide piece of stock, I would first joint the edge preferably using a hand plane. That way the edge against the fence will not need any sanding.

Rip the first strip using the push block to push the stock completely through the blade while pulling gently on the strip to clear it from between the blade and fence. Re-plane the edge and continue ripping. Even if you do not want to plane the edge between rips, it is still important to straighten the edge after a few thin rips are taken. Unless you are using a power feeder your hand pressure will be inconsistent and the edge will eventually become wavy thus the need to repeated straightening. Stop taking rips from the board when it is about 1″ wide, by that point it will be very hard to keep straightening the edge and the board will likely begin to twist and deform.

Tags: Tablesaw