Woodworkers often find themselves ripping lumber to a dimension where the thickness and width must be equal. Common applications for this include table legs, turning blanks, posts, slats, etc. Oftentimes, the first step is to plane the stock to the desired thickness, then take it to the table saw to cut the wood width. It might be tempting to use traditional means to measure the thickness, or to use a reading from the planer itself to determine where to set your table saw fence, but this can lead to inaccuracies simply due to the difference in scales of your various machines.
A good table saw technique includes proper handling and safe feeding of stock, but also a sense of finesse when setting up for a given cut.
Using Your Wood to Measure
When the wood width needs to match the wood thickness, why not use the wood itself to calibrate the table saw? The idea here is straightforward. If you mainly care about consistent thickness and width, then you can use the wood itself to calibrate the saw fence.
Consistency Over Precision
When sizing table legs and similar components in a project, it’s critical that you have the thickness and wood width be consistent on each leg and that all of the legs are consistent. It is slightly less important for the legs to be sized to within 1/128” of the stated size in your plan. You want to remain reasonably true to the proportions of your design, but keep in mind that we are building wood projects and not performing heart surgery.
A Bit of Finesse
When using wood to set up your fence, it’s important to use a bit of finesse and make sure not to set it too tight. Go for a “Goldilocks fit.” Just right!