Table Saw Blade Height

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Forum topic by TopamaxSurvivor posted 11-18-2009 07:28 AM 16943 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18286 posts in 3700 days

11-18-2009 07:28 AM

Topic tags/keywords: table saw blade height

I just saw this in Woodworkers Journal e-zine

Table Saw Blade Height

Somewhere along my pathway of woodworking, I was told that a table saw blade should be limited to 1/8th inch above the wood being cut. In pictures in different magazines, I have seen saw blades raised as much as 2 inches above the wood. Is there a rule for this? And if so, why?

Chris Marshall: Our own master woodworker Ian Kirby sums up the issue of how high to set your blade quite well in his book The Accurate Table Saw (Cambium Press, 1998) p. 70:

“Everybody wants to know the correct blade height, but there isn’t any. Test it for yourself. Start with the gullets a little above the surface of the workpiece and make a cut. Then raise the blade to full height and cut again. Compare the two cuts and decide which is better … The cleanest and most efficient cutting occurs with the blade raised to its maximum height. However, having that much blade exposed above the workpiece might make you nervous. The correct blade height is somewhere in between. For the cleanest cut, raise the blade; if it rattles you, lower it.”

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

15 replies so far

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5910 posts in 3218 days

#1 posted 11-18-2009 07:44 AM

Hey TopaMax: Sounds to me kinda like a contradictory in terms—nobody really knows how high to set the blade. One says one way, the other says the other!! Who knows. Just be your own judge.

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4114 days

#2 posted 11-18-2009 07:52 AM

It is “safer” to keep the blade at a minimal hieght, but you can get a cleaner cut when the blade is higher. The angle of attack is completely different.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View studie's profile


618 posts in 3170 days

#3 posted 11-18-2009 08:43 AM

Hi Topamax, I saw (ha) at a lumberyard that you should only go thru the board 1/8th”. It makes the blade stay sharp longer, so the article claimed. This was for a skil saw. I have found that if I want a true & straight line I have the saw set at max depth as the length of the blade is at max. But this is for skil saw stuff. For table saws I usually do the same as they are more stable, only just having the gullet just clear the top of the board for dust to clear the best. Some say that having the blade very high is safer as the angle of attack pushes the board down to the table therefore less chance of kickback. Depends on if you use a blade guard, splitter, riving knife or not.

-- $tudie

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18286 posts in 3700 days

#4 posted 11-18-2009 09:13 AM

I run it all over the place depending on what I’m doing:-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View TomHintz's profile


207 posts in 3422 days

#5 posted 11-18-2009 09:37 AM

We have gone through the various height settings to judge cut quality but it always seems to come back to setup accuracy. If the saw is set up right, it cuts clean at virtually any blade height. If the saw is not set up accurately it might be a little better with the blade way up but that is far more dangerous than I am willing to accept so I tune up the saw and keep the blade down where I think it belongs.

-- Tom Hintz,

View BlankMan's profile


1490 posts in 3377 days

#6 posted 11-18-2009 10:29 AM

Yeah I was always told/believed just above the piece too and that’s what I do. I can’t see having the blade 2 inches above the piece when making narrow cuts (less than 2”), even with a push stick that just strikes me as unsafe or asking for an accident to happen.

-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3358 days

#7 posted 11-18-2009 01:04 PM

Thanks Bob. This was interesting. I’ve always wondered about it too, but I just do what I want anyway. So now I know that is ok, which is comforting.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View knotscott's profile


8056 posts in 3399 days

#8 posted 11-18-2009 02:04 PM

Different manufacturers make different height suggestions, but as Topamax Survivor suggests, the optimum height varies, and really can’t be narrowed down to one height fits all. There are a lot of variables and a lot of different results from changing those variables. It depends a lot on the blade style and configuration regardless of brand, the material being cut, the thickness of the material, type of cut, etc. According to Freud, optimally a rip cut should have 3 to 5 teeth buried in the work piece, and a crosscut should have 5 to 7 teeth buried. The suggested blade height for a 50T blade would be different on the same rip cut as a 24T blade.

There are two major areas that the teeth make contact…the tips and the sides. The tips of the teeth primarily effect the entrance and exit of the cut, with the exit being the most visible and problematic. The sides of the teeth primarily effect the edge of the cut. Varying the blade height varies how well each aspect of the top is carried out….the “best” height depends on the cutting objective. Raising the blade higher makes for more efficient cutting because there are fewer teeth in the work piece at any given time, so there’s less heat, less resistance, less chance of burning, etc….it’s roughly comparable to using a lower tooth count blade. It also changes the attack angle of the teeth, the higher the blade the more aggressive the hook angle behaves. But raising the blade higher also reduces the amount of contact between the sides of the teeth and the edge of the cut, which means less chance for the sides of teeth to polish the edge, which may mean more saw marks left and rougher edges.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View niki's profile


426 posts in 4104 days

#9 posted 11-18-2009 02:33 PM

This subject was here just 14 days ago….....

Just to add to my reply (with pics) on the above post….

Ian Kirby, is recommending high blade (as mentioned).

Rick Christopherson (Engineer that wrights the manuals for Festool USA), also recommend high blade…

And, that’s what Kelly Mehler is saying…

I agree with everything that you said except the “Which may mean more saw marks left and rougher edges”...

As a “high blade” user, I didn’t encounter any saw marks (unless the fence is not aligned) but – I’m also using a 60T~100T blades (on the other post, you can see on the pics 100T blade – the Makita). Maybe if you use the normal 24T blade for ripping….


View knotscott's profile


8056 posts in 3399 days

#10 posted 11-18-2009 03:19 PM

Hi Niki – With a good 60T to 100T blade, you’re not likely to encounter issues with saw marks, and you’re right that much scoring is caused be lateral pressure and, but it’s still a matter of physics….the more contact the side of the teeth have with the edge of the wood, the more polished it becomes (more burning too!). Lower blade means more edge contact but many things can vary even within that specific aspect…feed rate, side grind of the blade, etc.

I’m neither a “high blade user” nor a low blade user, though I guess I tend to use lower more often…I usually just do what’s needed with what I’ve got, but if I’m truly looking for a certain result from a cut, the first move I’ll make is to change to the correct blade.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3298 days

#11 posted 11-18-2009 06:34 PM

they teach ppl in trade school to set it at no more than 1/8” over the stock but when i do that it feels alot more risky to having kickback happen into which i have had kickback happen a few times but i just set my blade 2-3” high and ive never had a worry about kickback because the blade is cutting the wood downward towrd the table top not towards you as if the blade were near the stock.

-- M.K.

View Kevin's profile


462 posts in 3229 days

#12 posted 11-18-2009 08:33 PM

I usually set the teech about 1/4 above the wood, but when I had a smaller TS I had it set about 1” – 1.5” higher than the wood being cut.

knotscoot has pretty much summed up everything that I have ever seen/heard on the correct height of a blade. Not much else to really say.

-- Williamsburg, KY

View gerrym526's profile


274 posts in 3832 days

#13 posted 11-19-2009 04:40 AM

What I’d add to Knotscott’s response (which is right on target and very complete) is a little bit of wisdom I got in a class taught by Roger Cliffe several years ago. Roger was the auther of the “Table Saw Book”, and was a certified expert witness who testified in trials involving injuries to workers using woodworking equipment. He was a stickler for safety on the tablesaw-i.e. always use a splitter and blade guard when cutting.
His advice was to have the minimum number of teeth showing above the surface of the wood being cut (in some cases that amounts to only one or two teeth showing). His comment was “in the case of an accident on the table saw, laceration is always preferable to amputation!” The thought here being that the less of the blade showing, the smaller the cut on your appendages in the case of an accident.
I’ve followed his advice, and still have all my digits. When the blade causes burning on the cut surface, I grab a trusty scraper and clean it up.

-- Gerry

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4323 days

#14 posted 12-27-2009 03:18 AM

I was going to start a topic about this since Jockmikes2’s accident.

I was taught to set the blade about 1/8” above the work piece.

I think it’s less likely to pickup the board on the out feed end, & kicking.

I like this explanation.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View griff's profile


1207 posts in 3786 days

#15 posted 12-27-2009 04:56 AM

I try to keep my blade set just above the piece i am cutting 1/16 or less, if something happens i might get to keep my body parts. If it causes my blade to get dull faster. or if my cut is not as smooth, so be it,

-- Mike, Bruce Mississippi = Jack of many trades master of none

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