Tablesaw Techniques for Very Narrow Rips

      Advice on push blocks, jigs, and other solutions for making very thin rips for laminating. November 28, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I've been doing strip laminations and using 3/32" contrasting elements sawn out of 5/8 to 1-1/4" stock to create repetitive patterns when I crosscut and re-laminate the surfaced long grain glue-ups to create fields of end grain. I'm ripping on a Biesemeyer-equipped 12-14" Powermatic variety saw equipped with an unused feeder. I use short pieces of clear, straight stock to make these thin rips. I push the cut with a skinny push stick. This is fairly tense work, sawdust in the face and about 50% waste between the short lengths and defect from flutter and burn. Can anyone suggest a better method of work, one that will yield a higher percentage of useable rips, allow me to catch the top-side dust, and get my face out of the action?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor S:
If you have a widebelt sander and a decent bandsaw, rip on the bandsaw (carbide-tipped blades do an amazing job) and put through the sander. You can't put very short material through the sander, but most will handle 14-16" stock. If you don't have a sander consider finding a shop that has one, or buy an inexpensive one - the import machines are decent as long as you don't overtax them. Thereís far less danger, far less waste, and youíll have a far nicer product.

From contributor J:
Not sure of your lengths or equipment but how about a decent bandsaw and fence setup with a 3/4 or larger blade and dust collection? Less waste for sure and depending on your dust collection options possibly less dust, maybe a shop vac or top mounted line near the blade.

From contributor F:
If youíre going to keep using the tablesaw I wouldn't recommend a push stick, just not the best tool for the job. A simple block with a handle on top and a small lip at the back that rides over the blade will be much safer and much easier for ripping small parts.

When cutting your face should not be in the line of fire! You want to be to the side a bit, using a better push block may help you out there also. Dust collection for that type of cut is going to be difficult. However if you do it enough it may be worth rigging a 3" hose off your main collection line to help. You'll have to play with positioning it so it catches dust without being in the way, but with a little patience I'm sure you can improve your results. I do think for parts that thin the bandsaw with a good quality blade (for large quantities your probably talking carbide), would be another good solution. It just depends on what you have available in your shop?

From Contributor O:
Use the tablesaw with a thin kerf blade, a low fence and a power feeder. The thin kerf will save you wood and take less power. Use a smaller diameter blade if you can to minimize deflection.

The low fence (contacting the wood below the upper surface of the wood) allows the feeder wheels to be well centered over the cut. The feeder should have good wheels and all the adjustments so you can rip without push sticks or threat of bodily harm. This will allow you to stand to the side feeding in at one side and removing parts at the other - out of the line of fire.

Use a zero clearance insert in the saw table also to give you good support. If you need to you can even fashion a dust collection hood over the feed wheels to catch the dust that escapes. I think your dust exposure will be greatly limited and safety much improved if you use the thin kerf, zero clearance, low fence and feeder.

From the original questioner:
I follow you completely except for a couple of questions. I have a fine-functioning old industrial bandsaw that routinely makes glue-able cuts except for the last couple inches at the end. The economy of material is not as great as you might imagine compared to a thin kerf, small diameter circular blade. I keep a 1-1/4" .032" thick blade with plenty of set on the bandsaw so if jointing is required between cuts there is no economy. Would it be feasible to use a three wheel stock feeder, maybe with the middle wheel removed, to feed these cuts to eliminate the need for re-jointing? Do any of you have experience with this?

I have a widebelt sander but use it on band sawn veneers (stuff 3/32" or thinner) except with a sled to support the work and narrow bands of thin double-sided tape to secure the thins. That causes .006" thin spots in the veneer above each strip of tape, no big deal using them in endgrain laminations, but a problem when stacking a bunch of identical veneers together or using them as face veneers on flat work. Since I could happily prepare an armload of thins in one session and be done with it for months, I'm looking for a process that turns a six hour job into one that takes two. I like the thin kerf/low fence/power feed/zero clearance suggestions but is some reasonable way to take successive cuts of the same thickness with such a setup? I work in isolation and am grateful for the collective insight of this forum.

From contributor F:
I like Contributor O's idea of the short fence with a feeder. It solves all your problems right there! Have you tried sanding your parts without a backer? I can run 1/8" through my widebelt no problem, I haven't tried 3/32", but I certainly would before going through the trouble of using a backer.

From Contributor O:
I think the low fence and feeder thing would be ideal for successive cuts. I figured that is what you were looking for - turning an 8" wide board into a stack of accurate rippings, with as little as possible ending up in the shavings bin. Depending upon the surface finish you need, the bandsaw may also work. You would have to fiddle around to find the right blade, but then the feeder would not work. I'm the type that if I have repetitive mindless work, I try to idiot proof it so I can't get my hand in the wrong place. I have done things like you describe and feeder is probably why I can still type.

From Contributor Z:
I often make edging from 4/4 stock for my plywood cabinets using a jig that I built. I recently upgraded it by adding a ball bearing for extremely smooth operation during use. You can also get a real nice one online. Using one of these would give you plenty of room to position a vac line near the action to stop the dust in the face. Zero clearance plate I agree is a must. Put all that together with a feeder with the center wheel removed to provide blade clearance when the fence gets really close to the blade and it's almost a hands-off operation. By the way - a riving knife behind the blade is key to stop any binding. I add a small wedge to guide the strip away from the blade and make it easy to safely remove from the saw without getting my fingers in harmís way.

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From Contributor Z:
Sorry I did not show the zero clearance throat plate and the splitter/riving knife with the wedge in my previous post. A picture is worth a thousand words so here's a couple more. Sorry about the one out of focus - I was trying to show my basic setup with vac nozzle in place, holding it by hand (shaky).

By the way with a thin kerf blade these 3.5" blade stiffeners really make a difference. Of course the key to reducing burn marks is to have a consistent feed rate and don't stop and start. I'm still dreaming of the day when I finally get a power feeder.

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From the original questioner:
That roller-tipped stop is great. The shop-built version is beautiful and I just ordered the commercial version. Out in my storage yesterday I rolled around the feeders I have and thought about how they would assemble with the column upside down. They still seem ok but I wonder whether to mount the three wheel feeder or the four wheel version for this application. Who knows whether there is a functional difference between the two versions? Is a four wheel feeder always preferable?

The overhead stock feeder mount I'm considering will also carry the above-table dust pick up and feeder wiring. The location of the saw and shaper, when they're rolled into place, will have to be repeated within an inch or two, not only so the feeder requires minimal adjustment, but also because the below-table dust collection and wiring will be in a trench in the slab. The saw and shaper's 12' plus infeed and outfeed paths are defined by larger machines that won't be on casters. One of my concerns, as far as thin rips are concerned, is arriving at a suitable riving knife arrangement. The Powermatic M-72 I'm switching to has a splitter to carry a top guard but splitter thickness is way undersized. I bought some of those little plastic nubbin splitters that fit into a saw kerf but I've grown accustomed to a real, proper thickness, laterally adjustable riving knife on a European saw I recently sold.

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