Why use a buried blade set on a Table Saw?

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Forum topic by JohnMcD348 posted 05-22-2014 11:46 PM 3541 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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50 posts in 1800 days

05-22-2014 11:46 PM

Please educate me on what I see a lot on different shows, such as WoodSmith Shop, and others.

I see additions to the fence on Table Saws that allow for a partially buried blade using an Auxiliary fence. Something like this:

I understand the use, need and purpose of things like a Zero Clearance Insert and other jigs to help provide clean, tear out free cuts. I just don’t know what the purpose and use is for these buried blades.

I’m very new to wood working and still am learning about what I can do with my table saw and other tools.

Thanks You

18 replies so far

View SamuraiSaw's profile


515 posts in 2167 days

#1 posted 05-22-2014 11:55 PM

The blade you see buried in that picture is a dado set and is set up to do a rabbet along the edge of a piece. Among other reasons, burying the blade allows you to adjust the width of the rabbet. For example, you can adjust the fence so that the rabbet is only 3/16” instead of the full 1/4” of the dado set.

-- Artisan Woodworks of Texas....

View carver1942's profile


93 posts in 1907 days

#2 posted 05-23-2014 12:05 AM

The wood attached to the fence is called a “sacrificial fence”. When using a wider blade set than than the rabbet cut it allows you to run the wood up against the fence to make the cut. If you watch this video you will see how it is used. The use of the wood fence starts about 3 1/2 minutes into the video.

View jdmaher's profile


439 posts in 2782 days

#3 posted 05-23-2014 12:47 AM

Purposes are rabbets and sometimes tenons.

Reasons are safety and precision.

Safety, because the blades stay buried under the wood being cut and the sacrificial fence. However, I still don’t use my hands to move the wood or hold it down; I gots enough push pads and blocks and other accessories that I don’t need my naked hands near even a covered blade.

Precision, because it lets you “fit” the rabbet. I often use rabbets on plywood edges for cabinets. Plywood ain’t NEVER 3/4”. So I set up a 3/4” dado and bury a 1/16 under the sacrificial fence. Make a test rabbet and try to fit another piece of plywood in it. The new piece will be proud (usually about 1/32”). I scooch the fence over a little less than that and recut the test rabbet. Try the fit again. Usually just barely proud. Scooch and test again, until I’ve “snuck up” on a perfectly flush fit.

Always fit, sneaking up on the exact right size. Never measure.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

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50 posts in 1800 days

#4 posted 05-23-2014 06:30 AM

Thank You all for the replies. I appreciate it greatly. I still have a lot of learnin to do so I’ll still be around asking questions to what seem like Common sense answers so please bare with me from time to time. What I can’t find in a search, I’ll be asking.

I was surprised I really couldn’t find answers via Google. My Google-Fu is usually pretty good.

View MrRon's profile


5195 posts in 3446 days

#5 posted 05-23-2014 04:37 PM

The principal reason for the sacrificial fence is to protect the normal fence from being cut into when doing rabbeting.

View RandyinFlorida's profile


257 posts in 2270 days

#6 posted 05-25-2014 02:42 PM

John McD,

Than you for asking the question. I thought I knew the answer but wasn’t sure…

-- Randy in Crestview Florida, Wood Rocks!

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50 posts in 1800 days

#7 posted 05-25-2014 02:59 PM

So with rabbeting and creating tenons, how do you use the measure since, the sacrificial fence increases the width and throws off ruler on the table or whatever you’re using to measure with?

Would you make your first cut from the inner part of the tenon or rabbet? Do you setup some sort of stop on your miter?

View endgrainy's profile


251 posts in 2091 days

#8 posted 05-25-2014 03:14 PM

I was just cutting some rabbets with a sacrificial fence and dado stack yesterday. You’re right, the measurement of the table saw ruler may not be accurate under these circumstances.

For rabbets, I measure with a combo square and then make several test cuts to “sneak up” on a snug fit. As mentioned previously, especially with plywood, the width of the piece that will fit into your rabbet is usually not exactly 3/4” (for example.)

As for your second question, I’m not sure if I understand entirely, but I set up the dado stack/fence to cut the full width of the rabbet on one pass. I typically do tenons a little differently using the miter gauge. In that case I’ll set up the fence as a stop and cut it in two passes, the first cut being the one closer to the end of the workpiece. [Edited for clarity]

-- Follow me on Instagram @endgrainy

View jdmaher's profile


439 posts in 2782 days

#9 posted 05-25-2014 03:24 PM

I don’t measure.

Take a rabbet as an example. I actually use a marking gauge, set on the board that’s gonna fit in that rabbet, and mark the cut line on the board that’s gonna be cut. Lay the board to be cut mark side down on the table, and BY EYE set the fence to intentionally give a cut that’s a bit too small. From that cut, I “inch up” on a perfect fit.

In your terminology, that’s the OUTER part of the tenon / rabbet. That is, after the first cut, the tenon is too short or the rabbet is too narrow.

When I first started “inching up”, I occasionally would over-shoot – due to impatience to get to the right setting. With practice, I’m at the point where I can usually get the setup right-on in three cuts (and I usually do this setup on scrap).

Its a lot harder to describe than it is to do. In practice, its quite intuitive.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View Tony1212's profile


250 posts in 1937 days

#10 posted 05-27-2014 02:31 PM

I’ve always had a question about this as well:

If you want a 3/4” rabbet, why not set up a 1/2” dado stack, make the first cut at the very edge of the board (so you have a rabbet slightly less than 1/2”) then use the regular fence as a stop to sneak up on the 3/4”? This way you don’t need to use a nice, long, straight piece for a sacrificial fence.

I’ve always had problems defining a 2 – 3 foot long by 4 inch piece of straight wood as “sacrificial”.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

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392 posts in 1734 days

#11 posted 05-27-2014 03:29 PM

Another benefit is that you can cut multiple rabbets with one set-up. Install the blade set for the largest one and you can adjust the fence without having to change throat plate of the number of chippers and spacers. With the varying thickness of plywood, domestic vs. import you can sneak up to the correct width with a steel ruler and test pieces.

View JohnMcD348's profile


50 posts in 1800 days

#12 posted 05-27-2014 03:30 PM

By inner, I mean the point that the tenon would sit after inserted into the other piece. Would you start off with your cut at that point and then work your way out toward the end of the board? Or, would you start at the end of the board and work your way down toward the point you want the board to insert? I would assume, dangerous I know, that you would setup your initial cut using scrap to do the initial cut and work out toward the end of the board from there.

View jdmaher's profile


439 posts in 2782 days

#13 posted 05-27-2014 11:37 PM


Let’s use some standard terminology.

When I referred to a tenon, I was referring to “inching up” on the shoulder cut, the “length” of the tenon. The first cut would be at the “end” of the board and subsequent cuts would move toward the final position of the shoulder cut (which I guess you refer to as “inner”).

However, I encourage you to think about the rabbet as a better example to consider to answer the original question “why use a sacrificial fence”. Although I DO use the technique for “inching up” on the tenons, my motivations are not what you might think (confusing in this context; send me a private message if you wish to pursue application of the technique to tenons).

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

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50 posts in 1800 days

#14 posted 05-28-2014 01:20 PM

Thank You for that photo. It helps me understand it much better now. I was trying to come up with something to better explain what I was trying to say with the previous post but failed horribly.

View Jamie Gielens's profile

Jamie Gielens

11 posts in 2013 days

#15 posted 05-30-2014 11:25 PM

Regarding measurements I NEVER use the ruler on the saw as the final word! To me it is only a suggestion that I am fairly close to the measurement I require. I ALWAYS do my measuring from the blade itself making sure I am doing it from the correct side of the blade for the cut I am making.

-- Jamie - l'atelier Orion

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