cutting wood

How To Get A Smooth Crosscut On Wood Using A Table Saw

What Is A Crosscut On Wood?

A crosscut when performed on wood is when the saw blade cuts across its grain. In other words the cutting is not in line with, or running alongside with the direction of the wood grain.

This may occur at angles other than 90 degrees of the grain. Specialty cuts at other degrees still require the cutting to be performed in a way that is not in line with wood grain direction.

Most Important Element Of A Crosscut On Wood

There are two elements that are critical when performing a crosscut on wood. Of these two, one must be right no matter what else you do.

You need a crosscut blade. For table saws it can be common to find a general purpose blade which can serve multiple functions.

forrest blade

While it may be alright for general work, when doing fine woodworking or wood art you need better.

Rip saw blades which run alongside the grain can have as few as 24 teeth. A crosscut blade will commonly have anywhere between 60 to 80 teeth.

Performing a crosscut requires more teeth to aid in creating a smooth cut. Yet this feature will often be found with a smaller gullet accompanying more teeth.

The smaller gullets aid in preventing a feed rate that is too fast for this kind of cut.

Second Most Important Element Of A Crosscutting

The speed at which a cut is performed is critical. What do I mean by speed? It is the feed rate, or speed at which the wood is fed into the blade by the operator.

Slower feed rates allow the blade to do its work properly and provide a smooth edge. With crosscutting you will notice the chips are smaller than a rip cut.

This is by design and is intended to be a fine cut which allows for a smooth edge.

What About The Blade Teeth Profile Impacting A Crosscut On Wood?

The profile of the blade teeth is also important. Most commonly you will find an Alternate Top Bevel used by most people in crosscutting wood.

tooth profile

What about a combination blade? These attempt to fill the role of both rip and crosscuts. The tooth profile will usually have four ATB teeth to one FT or Flat Top.

A genuine ATB will still provide a smoother cut than a combination blade. Nevertheless some will find that the combination will provide desirable results in many woods.

The High Alternate Top Bevel is another specialty profile that can be used with products surfaced with melamine. The profile aids in preventing chipping.

It is never recommended to use a FT or Flat Top profile when crosscutting. Doing so will not only create a rough edge, but could also be dangerous.

What Can You Do To Create A Smooth Crosscut?

If your equipment is setup properly using the right blade for the right cut, there are other elements which still play a role. One you can control, the other you cannot always help.

The wood itself can be an issue. Wood is not consistent from species to species, nor from board to board if of the same species.

gauge tool

In this way we are using a tool to cut something which is inconsistent in density and hardness. This can produce different results.

Knowing this it may take time to learn how to adjust. The feed rate at which you push wood into the blade will need to change depending upon these variables.

Adjusting how fast you push the wood into the blade definitely matters. With this a few other tweaks can be made.

If your fence is not offset properly this can create issues and burning. A fence should slightly lead away from the blades edge as the wood progresses forward.

Understand the offset to parallel of the blade argument can cause some division in the woodworking world. Nonetheless many, including myself, can attest that a .003 to .005 offset definitely helps.

Also ensure that your vacuum system is clearing chips and debris properly. The teeth and gullets need to be allowed to work! It would surprise many how insufficient their systems actually are.

Buildup of debris is a common problem that gets in the way. Slowing feed rate into the blade can help with this giving more time for the whole of your system to work properly.

Common Problems When Crosscutting Wood

The most common problem people will run into will be either a rough edge, splintering, and then blowout at the end of the cut.

A burnt edge can also be common but is typically associated with either a dirty or dull blade, feed rate, or improper blade and fence alignment.

table saw

To solve a rough edge requires a blade change to better accommodate that cut. Ensure that you have enough teeth, the right profile, proper gullets, and this should remedy the issue.

To solve splintering or chipping, if you have the right blade, two issues could be at play. The tooth profile may be the issue, or your feed rate needs to be slower.

There are cases where the wood itself is the problem when seeing some splintering. In these cases a very slow feed rate can improve the situation but may not eliminate it.

Blowout at the end of the cut is actually quite easy to fix. Have a follow block, or a “push block” behind the wood you are cutting.

This block of wood serves the purpose of maintaining pressure to the end of the cut. As the blade ends its cut, the block will prevent blowout as the blade cuts into the push block.

For 45 degree or odd angle cuts the same principle can be used. Jigs can aid in creating a system where the cut is finished into a spoil block or board of some kind preventing blowout.

Things To Check On Your Equipment Before Crosscutting

A table saw should always have a sharp blade. Often woodworkers will think it is dulling when the saw blade needs to be cleaned.

If your blade is clean but dull, then replace it.

Check your fence to ensure it is set properly as you desire to the blade. Also check to ensure that the table saw blade itself is within the specifications to minimize blade wobble while spinning.

Clean your table top! Many fine woodworkers and wood artists will often wax the steel table top. The surface should be clean and provide a smooth push into the saw blade.

Replace your stock miter gauge. Use a quality system that will ensure minimal wobble, a smooth push, and lock firmly into the angle of cut desired.

These simple things can be easy to overlook. Compounded together each would aid in creating not only an unsafe environment, but also one within which a smooth crosscut is very difficult to achieve.

Safety is ultimately the most important factor. As each of these simple issues are relatively easy and inexpensive to solve no one should ignore them or put them off.

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