Jointing on the Table Saw

Jointing on a table sawThere are plenty of times when you need your boards to have a smooth, straight edge. No jointer? No sweat. With the help of a simple shop-made jig you can be jointing on the table saw.

Even if you own a jointer, jointing on the tables saw is a handy technique to know about. If you ever need to clean up edges on abrasive material like plywood, particle board, plexiglass…the carbide teeth of a saw blade will stand up to it much better than tool steel jointer knives.

You’ll need to build a jig, and then create an offset in the jig to get the same affect as the offset tables on a jointer.

Getting started

Jointing-on-the-table-saw-jig-construction

I built my jig from ¾” melamine, but any material will work. Since you’ll be using it for jointing you’ve got to be very careful to rip nice, straight edges onto the parts. The vertical piece is 3” wide, tall enough to easily clamp to my rip fence. The horizontal piece is 4” wide. The length of the jig determines the length of the pieces you can joint. I made mine 6” longer than my rip fence.

Jointing-on-the-table-saw-positioning-the-jigClamp the jig to your rip fence so that it’s approximately centered on the length of the fence.

Jointing-on-a-table-saw-blade-selectionPick the right blade. A 40-tooth alternate top bevel blade works great. A thin kerf blade is better than a standard blade since the thickness of the blade determines how much material you’re taking off with each pass.

Set the blade to the right height, slightly higher than the thickness of your material.

Jointing-on-the-table-saw-position-the-jigSlide the jig and fence toward the blade. Mark the position of the back of the blade on the jig.

Cutting the offset

Jointing-on-a-table-saw-set-up-to-cut-jigRemove the jig from the rip fence and move the fence to the left side of the blade. You need to VERY carefully position the fence for the cut in the jig that creates the offset. Be sure your saw is unplugged.

Jointing-on-a-table-saw-position-for-cutAlign the right side of the saw blade with the right edge of the jig. It’s easier to feel this with your finger than it is to see it. Make small adjustments to the rip fence position until it’s correctly set.

Jointing-on-a-table-saw-cut-the-offsetWith the fence correctly positioned, add a feather board and cut the jig. When making this cut, don’t allow the jig to pull off the rip fence. The feather board helps a lot.

Jointing-on-a-table-saw-stopped-cutStop cutting when you get to the pencil mark you made earlier. Turn off the table saw.

Jointing-on-a-table-saw-check-the-offsetWith the saw unplugged check the offset. With the jig tight to the rip fence the right edge of the saw blade must be perfectly even with the right edge of the jig. If the blade projects past the jig you don’t have enough offset. Move the rip fence to the right, slightly, and make another cut. If the jig projects past the blade you’ve create too large an offset. You’ll need to rip the offset off and go through the positioning steps again to cut a new offset.

Jointing

Jointing-on-a-table-saw-set-the-fenceMove the rip fence to the right side of the saw blade. With your saw unplugged, clamp the jig to your rip fence so that the back of the blade aligns with the offset.

Jointing-on-a-table-saw-confirm-jig-positionThe left side of the saw blade should align with the left edge of the jig, and the blade should turn freely. Adjust the position of the rip fence until this is correctly set.

Jointing-on-a-table-saw-test-cutMake a test cut.

Jointing-on-a-table-saw-test-cut-resultsCheck the results. If you’re getting a slight sliver, the jig is too far from the blade. Make small changes in the fence position until the sliver goes away, and the blade can spin without touching the jig.

Jointing-on-the-table-saw-making-the-cutOnce you’ve tweaked the fence position, you’re ready to joint!

A dose of reality

If you’re careful with the set up, this technique works well. Should you sell your jointer? I think not. Without question it’s easier to turn on a jointer and make a cut than it is to set up the jig on your table saw. But if you don’t own a jointer, or need to joint abrasive materials, the results from the table saw are good, plenty smooth enough for edge to edge glue ups.

This works great on ¾” thick stock. Thicker than that and the results deteriorate. I suspect the thin kerf blade flexes a little on thick stock, since it’s only cutting on one side.

Discussion
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15 Responses to “Jointing on the Table Saw”
  1. Don1Cobb

    I liked this idea, so I made one. The only problem was that it only had one depth setting, the kerf of the saw blade. I modified it to put a very thin strip of wood on the “infeed” side of the jig and was able to get a finer cut. So far it works great.

    Reply
    • tombaugh

      I don’t understand your comment re: depth of cut and modification.
      If you have a 1-1/2″ board to joint why couldn’t you just raise the blade? I’m missing something here..

      Reply
      • David

        I believe the “depth of cut” that Don is referring to is not the vertical height of the saw blade but the left to right thicknes of the saw blade. If a standard 1/8″ blade was used, then every pass using this method would remove 1/8″ of material from the jointed board.
        If a thin kerf blade is used, then apx. 3/32″ would be removed. So Don is suggesting if you want less than 3/32″ depth of cut, then add a very thin strip of say 1/32″ onto the infeed edge of the jig but not in the area where the saw blad would line up. This way, you would then remove 2/32″ with each pass.
        Hope that makes sense.

        Reply
  2. Brett Sheffield

    Awesome! I was directed here after submitting a question about jointing without a jointer for the live broadcast on March 19, 2015. George showed this jig and directed me to this webpage. I’ll be making one of these very soon. Thanks!

    Reply
  3. geoff opulski

    Instead of all farting around with shims&fine adjustments . Why not just buy jointer ! this sounds way to difficult and to much like work this is suppose to be relaxing and fun . go buy jointer $2200.00

    Reply
  4. Larry

    Great idea I have struggled with no jointer. I use the planer the best I can, but it does not work as well as this would. Suggestion: On the first pass with cutting the jig, do not take a full kerf cut. Take a cut that is 1/16. Lower the blade and attach the jig to the fence and adjust it so the end of the 1/16 cut is over the saw blade and the outside of the saw blade is even with the uncut portion of the jig. Turn on the saw and raise the blade. You are now set up to remove in 1/16 from your stock. Take multiple passes if needed. I think the thinner cut would also result in less blade deflection.

    Reply
  5. Rusty Seesaw

    Nice instructions I was wondering how to cut the offset..now I know…thanks!

    Reply
  6. Michael fahey

    It’s not clear how you cut the inset. Did you move the melamine sideways into the blade. It will be important to communicate this. If you cut the jig all the way through the blade, you are back to sq 1 with no offset.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Photos 6-10 in the article demonstrate how this is done. You move the fence to the other side of the blade, which allows you to flip the jig around and send the end that is normally rear facing through the saw first.
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  7. Michael fahey

    Ok I get it the offset is one only one side of the blade so only the width of the kerf is exposed to the Infed stock.

    Reply
  8. Dan

    Wouldn’t this fail on a board that does not have a straight edge? Most solutions I have seen use a straight board as a sled and have hold-downs so the piece you are cleaning up sits on the sled and hangs over the edge on the blade side. It works for any board no matter how messed up the edge is. Once you have one edge straight, it is easy to clean up the other side and get parallel edges.

    Reply