Narrowest ripping size on a table saw

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Forum topic by sh2005 posted 10-22-2009 10:41 PM 7661 views 7 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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97 posts in 3411 days

10-22-2009 10:41 PM

When ripping stock between the blade and the fence, what is the consensus on how narrow you can go on the table saw? I was trying to rip a 2-1/8” stock the other day, and I noticed the stock came out little tapered (about 1/32”). I had noticed that the wood was moving away from the fence at the back of the blade after ripping half way through. Then, I tried a wider stock (5”) and didn’t experience that problem. I am guesisng the way I am pushing the stock doesn’t work for such narrow stock.

24 replies so far

View NathanAllen's profile


376 posts in 3319 days

#1 posted 10-22-2009 10:56 PM

As I write this I’m rubbing a pin sized gouge that I received in my thumb through gloves from not following my own safety rules about kickback but the best rule of thumb is wide enough that you can keep all your safety features on (riving and pawls, featherboard(s)) and use a push stick.

It’s always safer to cut a narrow piece off a wider stock placing most of the board between the blade and the fence.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3997 days

#2 posted 10-22-2009 10:58 PM

The tapering you are experiencing is probably due to either a fence alignment issue or technique or a combination of the two. When ripping narrow stock I use a thin ripping jig. This is just a push block that straddles the fence and the face of it consists of a piece of 1/4” plywood with a 1/4” notch cut in the bottom. This push stick allows me to rip 1/4” off of a piece of lumber safely.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View sh2005's profile


97 posts in 3411 days

#3 posted 10-22-2009 11:27 PM

Hi Scott,
Would you be able to share a pic or diagram of the jig? Would greatly appreciate it.

The parallelism between then fence and the blade (and the riving knife) is not more than 0.005”. I have the blade guard on, which makes ripping narrow stock harder, but I still prefer to keep it on.

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3943 days

#4 posted 10-22-2009 11:27 PM

also if you are ripping if from a wider board the board can warp and move away from the fence causing that tapering

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 3998 days

#5 posted 10-22-2009 11:53 PM

sh2005 I will post a thin strip ripping jig with in the next hr… easy to make and very reliable…Blkcherry

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3461 days

#6 posted 10-23-2009 12:15 AM

Nathan, I wouldn’t recommend wearing gloves in most woodworking (Cutting) operations. They can be caught up in blades and actually pull your fingers in worse. I know some do this all the time, but it scares me, especially with small pieces. Many warning labels on equipment says this.

Now, for the question. Probably look at blackcherry’s jig. Definitely some sort of jig should help. Search “jigs” under “Projects” for other ideas. Good luck


View CharlieM1958's profile


16278 posts in 4393 days

#7 posted 10-23-2009 01:17 AM

Generally, I agree with NathanAllen… it should be wide enough to have your safety features installed and still be able to get a push stick on it. I will sometimes go even narrower for small parts, but only if I can control the piece with my GRR-Ripper. A thin rip jig is always a safe way to go.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 3609 days

#8 posted 10-23-2009 02:57 AM

I agree with Charlie. I bought a pair of GRR-Ripper blocks and they are really nice when it comes to keeping fingers away from troublesome blades. They allow you to keep pressure (both vertical and lateral) during the cut at all times. You can also “hand-over-hand” for longer cuts. I have a really cruddy Craftsman contractor table saw with a fence that takes multiple measurements to get even close to ballpark. These blocks have saved me lots of frustration.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3997 days

#9 posted 10-23-2009 03:01 AM

SH2005, here is a picture of the jig for ripping thin pieces of stock:

It consists of a face of thin material. In this case I use some 3/16” scrap with a 1/4” notch cut in the bottom and attached to a 3/4” piece of birch plywood that is the same width as my rip fence. On the back I put a tall piece of 3/4” plywood in case I ever needed to raise a panel on the table saw.

Here is the jig straddling the fence:

And here is the jig with a panel in it for demonstration purposes showing a 3/8” cut off the edge of the panel:

The jig could be improved by adding a dowel to the plywood that straddles the fence as a handle. I would recommend using the jig to rip thin pieces of stock between the blade and the fence but if you want to rip thin pieces of stock for inlays or banding then the jig that Charlie posted is the way to go.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3349 days

#10 posted 10-23-2009 04:46 AM

When I was trying to make miter slot rails for my crosscut jig, I ran into the same problem.

If you Google “thin strip ripping jig” you can find LOTS of different concepts, too.

[EDIT: Here ’s one.]

-- -- Neil

View jsheaney's profile


141 posts in 4163 days

#11 posted 10-23-2009 06:01 AM

I use the Grripper for rips down to ~1/4”. There’s an optional side leg you can get that is 1/8”, but I don’t have it.

Smaller than 1/4”, I just use a sacrificial push block that runs up against the fence. Just a piece of 2×4 with a piece of hardboard glued on the end to act as a hook. It’s actually not much different than the Grripper; just sacrificial. You can even stick some sandpaper on it for extra gripping. And really, it’s something you can reuse, if you want to keep it around.

Make sure you have a proper splitter or (better) riving knife to keep the cut side from wandering. It’s an essential safety feature when using these techniques. You have to guard against a random twitch getting you into a kickback situation. If you’re using a splitter and a sacrificial push block, make sure you have the blade high enough to clear the splitter. Not an issue if you’re using a riving knife, which is why they are better.

-- Disappointment is an empty box full of expectation.

View a1Jim's profile


117276 posts in 3752 days

#12 posted 10-24-2009 04:17 AM

I think the main issue is to correct the fence if it is not parallel to the blade then use a gripper or push stick or ? can be used to feed the stock.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View sh2005's profile


97 posts in 3411 days

#13 posted 11-01-2009 05:27 PM

Thanks for all the responses. I am back working with my table saw now, was away for work for the last few days. I have seen the thin strip jig before and I am planning to make one soon.
Charlie, I like your design, it’s simple to make.
Scott, eventually I would like to make a jig like yours.
In the mean time, I am going to practice to see if I can pin point where the problem was coming from.

View niki's profile


426 posts in 4254 days

#14 posted 11-01-2009 06:56 PM

Actually, you can make the Strips sled from just a board with “Pusher” screwed behind….

I made one for long (67”) strips to cut 1/4” thick strips…and another, shorter one…

For very thin strips – 2mm (3/64”), I use the “Vacuum strips sled”










View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 4166 days

#15 posted 11-01-2009 08:53 PM

I personally like Niki’s method best… It keeps your appendages as far from the blade as possible without sacrificing control.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

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