Even experienced woodworkers may be unsure of what accessories they need to tackle a new project.
No need to feel any shame on this one. Plus, I’m going to make things sweet and simple.
First things first:
Let’s curl the herd.
If you are a newbie, this post outclasses you. Start with my article on Essential Table Saw Items and make sure you have every last one. Learn yourself some Basic Table Saw Skills and then move onto the more Advanced Table Saw Skills Guide. THEN come back here when you are ready to get your setup perfect.
Also, I will not be covering the appropriate times to use all of the different safety jigs and accessories that work with the table saw. For that, check out my Table Saw Safety Basics.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
I’ve organized this by jig because it simply would not be feasible to list every possible woodworking project and then list requirements.
One article could never cover every single cut problem and solution, but we’ll go deep into the jig databank. So if you suspect you might need something, this is a great place to confirm it.
Like always, I’ll start with basic and progress to advanced.
That makes the crosscut sled the perfect place to start.
You Might Need a Crosscut Sled if…
…you have any intention of becoming a serious woodworker.
(I was tempted to include it in my Essentials, but I thought it might scare off some of the newbies that post was intended for. Plus, it definitely belongs here.)
If you don’t already know, a crosscut sled is a jig that runs along the miter slot. In its most basic form, it’s intended to make perfect 90° crosscuts easy and repeatable or to provide increased material support for large stock.
A crosscut sled (or a few) always ranks as one of an everyday woodworker’s most used jigs. Makes sense as they are just so darn useful.
Sled creation is also a great project for less experienced woodworkers who could use some practice along with a jig to make their work better and easier.
But the ‘crosscut sled is only the tip of the iceberg as far as sleds go. So let’s move onto creating sleds that help with miter cuts as well.
You Might Need a Miter Sled if…
…you consistently make the same miter cut, whether it by 45° or otherwise.
I also have several dedicated miter sleds that I created for specific projects. Once you’ve made a few, it becomes easier and easier to create new ones and modify designs. However, if you start with the right setup, a single one can last you a long time.
I highly recommend a sled just like the one inthis video. It has an insert that converts it from a crosscut sled to miter sled. For mine, I’ve created over 20 different inserts. I don’t use them all frequently, but they all get their use based on my variety of projects..
As you’ll see—if you didn’t know already—the crosscut sled will continue to be building block for other useful jigs.
However, there is no need to be narrow minded:
There are a ton of great designs across the Internet all with different strengths and weakness.
Just remember the major advantage of a miter sled is the same as a crosscut sled: easy, accurate, repeatable cuts. You don’t need to overcomplicate things if it isn’t going to see a lot of use.
Sleds are great when you need to make the same cut over and over, but when you just need to make a one-off cut at a specific angle, it’s time to turn to your miter gauge.
Sometimes though, you need a little more support.
You Might Need a Miter Gauge Extensions if…
…you work on just about any custom project.
You might be able to get by without them if you stick to cookie-cutter designs that only use basic angles. But if you use your miter gauge with any sort of frequency, adding on to it in the right way is one of the most important ways you can make its use safer and more accurate.
You might have a need for a specific sort of miter gauge extension (or auxiliary fence) based on any particular project, but in its purest form, a miter gauge extension helps support large stock for accurate cross and miter cuts.
This is yet another near-essential that really improves the safety and accuracy of your work.
Unless you have purchased some sort of high-end telescoping miter gauge, you’ll need to create them yourself.
I need some tall and some long. You will too. Most are made with screw holds or some other standard method of attachment for this very purpose.
Very many end up being ‘sacrificial’ (more on sacrificial fences in a moment).
Most of your common cuts should be made with some sort of sled, but miter gauges specialize in setting custom angles quickly. Extensions simply augment their use.
This allows you plenty of versatility. For instance you can set it with a stop block. Or you could make it extra long if you are going to be cutting down several 8’ boards to length. There are quite a few different reasons one might need a specific sort of miter gauge jig.
The standard miter gauge comes with a few holes for screwing in custom stock for this very purpose.
It follows that there are a variety of different sorts of these jigs. And here’s a tip:
The higher quality your miter gauge, the more useful your add ons will be.
Very similar to miter gauge extensions, but designed for rips, we have auxiliary rip fences.
You Might Need an Auxiliary Rip Fence if…
…want to be safer when making certain cuts.
There are a variety of auxiliary fences. They attach to the rip fence and help support stock on different cuts, making them safer, more accurate, and more repeatable. And then some of the more complex designs can really increase some of your saw’s capabilities.
There are unbelievably awesome ones like this one as well. I found it shortly after the video was published (Thanks Izzy Swan!) and have been finding creative uses for it ever since.
Truth be told, there are all types of useful auxiliary fences you can create or buy. Don’t be afraid to do a little digging. Sometimes you find a jig first, then find a use for it. Woodworkers call that inspiration.
But there are a few basic kinds, so let’s break it down a little further:
You Might Need an ‘Extra Tall’ Rip Fence if…
…you want to be safe performing a variety of advanced cuts.
I consider a vertical rip fence extension a near-necessity in the woodworking workshop.
It has so many uses.
For instance, it can help you rip acute bevels if you don’t have a dedicate bevel cutting jig. And it’s needed anytime you make joinery cuts into the side or ends of stock unless you have dedicated jig for that particular cut.
Way too many uses to name here. Make a few and you’ll see.
More versatility as a woodworker and peace of mind from taking safety precautions are always good things.
You Might Need a ‘Sacrificial’ Rip Fence if…
…you want to be safe performing a variety of advanced cuts.
Sound like a broken record? I know.
But sacrificial fences are a little more specific, though no less useful:
There are often times when you need to ‘bury the blade’ part way into a fence to make a cut.
This video demonstrates both how to make a high quality one and how you utilize it. Very often you will want extra tall, sacrificial fences. But not always.
The last type of auxiliary fence has a little different purpose.
You Might Need a ‘Short Rip Fence’ if…
…you’ve allowed yourself to be influenced by the Europeans, as I have.
This video demonstrates the safety advantages of using a short rip fence when making bevel rips. The technique is foreign and seemingly dangerous to many “old school” American woodworkers.
But this way of doing things is required by law across the UK and Europe.
Why is that?
Well, experienced woodworkers know that bevel cuts produce some of the more powerful and dangerous kickback of any cut. It’s also one of the most likely cuts to produce it.
Americans like their bevel cuts “on top” of the blade, with the waste piece within the acute angle. Part of that is because we don’t implement a short rip fence when making rip cuts. The typical rip fence runs from the front of the tabletop to the back of the tabletop.
This actually increases chance of kickback when beveling because the back end of the rip fence keeps your work from diverting away from the blade naturally.
In certain situations (and always with a European-style table saw), it is preferable to use a short rip fence and make your bevel cuts on the same side that the blade leans. You don’t actually need a separate fence, you can simply make a shorter auxiliary fence to go over your existing rip fence.
If you follow the instructions in the video to a tee, the chance of kickback is reduced considerably. Believe it or not, this technique even increases cut quality when done right..
It’s 2015. A great time to be open minded.
Try it out before you tell me I’m wrong. Watch these video instructions and and you’re sure to learn something new.
Now, since we’re already talking about bevels, why not a bevel-specific jig?
You Might Need a Bevel Jig if…
…you have some specific beveling or do it a lot.
There are all kinds of different jigs for beveling.
But they basically fall into two usage categories. Some are made to repeat the same bevel cut quickly and accurately. Others are created for specific situations that a table saw isn’t naturally equipped to handle.
I have a few of the first kind. The second kind is usually created on a per use basis for specific projects.
However, if you have one like in this video, it can handle both sides of the coin. It’s my favorite design, but I haven’t been able to find a video online that shows how to make it, so maybe I will make a video about it in the future.
There are numerous online videos and tutorials elsewhere that offer different ideas on what works for them. This is one of the great things about woodworking. What one can do is really only limited by their ingenuity.
This is why many of the more advanced jigs have many different designs. For instance, there are a multitude of ways to create a solid jig for tapering stock.
You Might Need a Taper Jig if…
…you want to do any taper cutting on a table saw.
Taper cuts are basically just middle ground between rips and crosscuts.
Tapering stock is most commonly used to create furniture legs. The point is to create an even gradient down the length of the material. That is to say, it will be thicker at one end than the other.
The inherent difficulty in making tapered cuts is that you need the rip fence but it is extremely dangerous to use one if it isn’t square to the blade.
The thing about most tapering jigs for the table saw is that once it’s made, it can only be used to make that specific taper cut. But this is my favorite design because it is adjustable. This way, you don’t need a new taper jig every single time you create a new piece of furniture.
If you ever want to be a serious furniture carpenter, this jig—or one like it—is an absolute necessity.
You Might Need a ‘Jointer’ Jig if…
A jointer jig is simply a jig used to get your table saw some of the functionality of a jointer.
The purpose of a jointer is to create a flat, workable surface along the length of stock. It’s called a jointer because smooth surfaces are essential to the flush, beautiful joints that are a woodworker’s goal.
A jointer jig would definitely make a table saw capable of producing joint-worthy surfaces. But more often than not, a table-saw-turned-jointer is fitted with the task of straightening out sides and edges to make stock rippable. Or at least to prepare it for another cut.
For instance, you can use a jointer jig to reclaim warped wood or prepare wood you’ve just brought from the lumberyard for use. And for anyone working on barnwood or pallet projects, some type of jointing tool is essential.
Like so many jigs for advanced woodworking operations, there are many versions and nuances to jointer jig creation. I used to use one like this all the time (and it still get some use in very specific situations) before too many close calls turned me into a safety nut. Now, I use one exactly like this almost exclusively.
Any semi-serious woodworker needs a jointer or a jointer jig for the table saw. I myself, get on fine without a jointer, but the choice is really up to you.
You Might Need Dado Blade Set and Sled if…
…you want decent grooves and dadoes.
Simple as that. If you want to create respectable dados with a table saw, you need a stacked dado set.
A stacked dado blade set consists of two cutting blades, some chippers, and shims. The outside blades set the width of the groove, the chippers remove the waste between, and the shims help you finetune the width of the cut.
The ability to handle dados adds an extra layer of versatility to your table saw, allowing you to make a variety of different joints without any other tools.
By using a dado set instead of a single saw blade or wobbling dado blade, you get flat-bottom dados with crisp, clean surfaces and corners. Having a dado sled or two, makes your dados cuts more safe, accurate, and repeatable.
Depending on your preferences and needs, there are any number of small nuances. But a dado sled is really just a miter sled with a dado-size groove (instead of a blade-width kerf) and either a stop block or clamp system on the backside fence to help line up your cuts back to back.
As mentioned, dados are a big part of joinery creation with the table saw. But if joinery is what you need, why stop at dado jigs?
You Might Need a Joinery Jig (or two) if…
You are a serious woodworker.
There aren’t many spectacular woodworking projects out there that can be created joint-free.
In fact, most ‘spectacular’ projects actually call for multiple joints or maybe even uniquely difficult ones.
And what’s a jig for but to help make unique and difficult situations seem commonplace and easy? This is the exact reason why I have tenoning jigs, box-joint jigs, dovetail jigs, and more. I could go on and on, but I’ll say this:
If you need to create a specific joint and you’re unsure how to do it, consult the Internet. Chances are, someone has come across your exact same problem and if you know how to search for it, you’re sure to find the solution somewhere online.
All you really have to do is look.
You Might Need Another Resource if…
I missed something you need.
My apologies; it just isn’t feasible to cover every single table saw accessory or jig someone may need on any given project.
There is always Google and woodworking forums. Then there are great resources like the Fine Woodworking ‘Tablesaw Jigs’ Page that offer up a ton of different plans for different jigs.
But over the last 3 or 4 years, great woodworker after great woodworker has taken to youtube to share what they know. I really love the video medium for woodworking education, though you have to be careful not to pick up on some experienced woodworkers’ unsafe habits.
Still, stand on the shoulders of giants instead of trying to go it alone.
It’s likely you’ll always find a need for a new table saw accessory or jig as you gain experience as a woodworker.
And like I said before, sometimes that awesome jig can inspire your best project.
Anyway, if you have a particular project and you are unsure what you might need to enhance your safety or cut-quality, feel free to comment below. I will be sure to help you out in any way I can.
Make sure to check out our list of all table saw guides for more.