Cutting Plywood on Table Saw - Saw Height, Pawls - New to TS

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Forum topic by Ed54 posted 12-06-2014 08:37 PM 1139 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 718 days

12-06-2014 08:37 PM

Topic tags/keywords: table saw blade height pawls blade guards question cutting thin stock

After thirty years of using my trusty Craftsman RAS for ripping and cross-cutting, and an old but sturdy circular saw for cutting down plywood, I finally broke down and purchased a Delta 36-725 table saw. Just finished setting it up, following the manual and great posts on the saw herein. That said, I’ve never owned or used a table saw before. For my first project, I’ve designed an entry-way bench. I plan to cut a 1/2” birch plywood sheet down using my circular saw and straight edge, then do close-in (fine-tuning) using the Delta TS to make everything accurate. My confusion is blade height, pawls and blade guards. Having always used my RAS (think up-side down TS), I’m comfortable with the blade going minimally through the wood (say 1/8” over) on a through cut. However, I noticed that when I install the pawls on the riving knife on the Delta TS, the blade must be extended at least 7/8” to accommodate them (meaning if I want to cut 1/2”, I’d need a blade height of at least 1.5” to allow a little slack in the pawls). Add the blade guard, and the accommodation rises to 1.5”, which puts the blade at about 2 1/8” just to cut 1/2”. I read some commentary in Lumberjocks forums about blade height, but frankly, left a little confused (probably due to my long RAS bias). Anyway, my question for you experts – should I cut with a high blade, pawls and blade guard in place, or should I take both off, and simply raise the blade a bit higher than the thickness of the wood, leaving only the riving knife in place? Either way, my fingers will get nowhere near the blade; I just don’t have a feel for kickback on a TS. Any expertise is welcome Thanks.

9 replies so far

View jmartel's profile (online now)


6466 posts in 1569 days

#1 posted 12-06-2014 09:00 PM

I have a splitter instead of a riving knife since my TS is pretty old, but I generally raise the blade such that the gullet between the teeth is level with whatever I’m cutting. I can see where the Pawls would get in the way for that, though. I think most who use a riving knife don’t use pawls. You should also get less tearout if you keep the blade lower on plywood since the blade will have more forward direction than if it was raised higher which would be almost all direction going down.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View ElChe's profile


630 posts in 756 days

#2 posted 12-06-2014 09:01 PM

Not familiar with your saw. I took the pawls off my unisaw because they were as worthless as teats on a bull. I get decent results on rips and crosscuts by exposing roughly half the gullet between the teeth at the high point of the blade during the cut. Plenty enough to clear the dust/chips and keeps most of the blade in the wood. What you are describing sounds dangerous! Are the pawls adjustable in any way? You should not have to raise the blade that much to efficiently engage the pawls.

-- Tom - Measure twice cut once. Then measure again. Curse. Fudge.

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5839 posts in 3004 days

#3 posted 12-06-2014 09:34 PM

Actually a lot will depend on the sawblade used.I have a large saw with a scoring blade excellent for the dreaded plywood tearout stubble, useually to be found when cutting plywood.The scoring blade turns in the opposite direction to the main blade and is only around four inches actually it is made up with two interlocking blades which score or prescore the underside of the wood to prevent squelch or breakout of the fibres .It only cuts a fine line in line with the mainblade and a depth of a few millimetres.When the main blade cuts through the underside has already been cut cleanly and present no fibre breakout whatsoever works great on laminated finishes and melaimine kitchen tops etc as well as most other wood too .Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

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7145 posts in 2795 days

#4 posted 12-06-2014 09:45 PM

The blade you use will make more of a difference than the cutting height, but if the guard is in place there’s no harm in raising the blade higher….if anything, a higher blade height helps keep the teeth cooler and the workpiece on the table due to more downward pressure from the entry angle of the teeth.

The cleanest cutting grind for plywood is a Hi-ATB grind combined with a higher tooth count….typically 60T to 80T. Some excellent choices are the Infinity 010-060, 010-080, Freud LU79, Forrest Duraline, or CMT 210.080.10. You can also improve the quality of the cuts by pre-scoring the cut line with a utility knife, using painters tape, and a zero clearance insert.

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

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339 posts in 842 days

#5 posted 12-06-2014 09:45 PM

Is the riving knife in the higher position?
I have the same TS.

View joek30296's profile


47 posts in 2286 days

#6 posted 12-06-2014 10:04 PM

From the last comment in your post, “I just don’t have a feel for kickback on a TS”...Not to be a smart aleck, but you don’t ever want to have a feel for kickback on a TS! It hurts!

Just my 2 cents…

-- "There are two theories to arguing with a woman....neither of them work"

View Ed54's profile


3 posts in 718 days

#7 posted 12-06-2014 10:30 PM

Well… thanks for all the fine advice on blades – got me thinking that maybe I should at the least move my good blade from my RAS to my TS and replace the stock blade that came with the TS (at least for cutting the plywood). jacquesr – you were right, I’d totally missed the knife position instruction – feel a little foolish with my first post – anyway, thanks. Scottsman, this is me bowing in awe. Knotscott, besides great blade advice, scoring is such an elegant approach to minimizing splintering that I would not have thought of. Bottom line, the question turned out to be dumb, but the advice went well beyond the question, so I’m still glad I posted. Oh yea, joek30296, RAS kick back too… I never stand behind my rips; sounds like a habit I should continue. Thanks to all for making this community such a valuable resource.

View jacquesr's profile


339 posts in 842 days

#8 posted 12-06-2014 10:43 PM

Ed – Glad I could help.
I am a total beginner… made all possible mistakes in the past few weeks….

FWIW, I have cutting sheets after sheet of 3/4 baltic birch for this project

with my Infinity Super General TK and the Delta zero-clearance inserts.
Flawless results.

Maybe I could be as happy with a cheaper blade, but I’m not interested to find out.

I also have a Fred ultimate cutoff 80T I have to test for cross cutting hardwood eventually….

View knotscott's profile


7145 posts in 2795 days

#9 posted 12-07-2014 01:07 PM

.... got me thinking that maybe I should at the least move my good blade from my RAS to my TS and replace the stock blade that came with the TS….

If you rob the blade for your RAS, just be sure that the RAS blade has a positive hook angle….an appropriate blade for a RAS will generally have a negative hook angle, or possibly a very low hook positive hook angle. A TS should have a distinctly positive hook angle to help keep the pressure on the work piece toward the table, and to help with the feed rate into the blade. A decent new blade can start in the $20+ range.

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

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