How To Extend A Table Saw Fence For Increased Rip Capacity

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Struggling with limited rip cuts on your table saw?

Our guide helps you to easily expand your saw’s capabilities for those larger woodworking projects.

QUICK ANSWER:

To extend a table saw fence, add a side table, adjust the fence rails, or install a fence extension kit for wider rip cuts.

What Does Rip Capacity Mean On a Table Saw? 

Rip capacity refers to the distance between the edge of the saw blade to the greatest distance the rip fence can be moved from it.  In short, it defines the longest length of wood that can be ripped on your table saw.

For instance, if you are making a new cabinet, you likely will need rip cuts of 30 inches.  You must be able to move the fence on your table saw 30 inches from the edge of the blade.  It’s the rip capacity you’ll need.

What Are The Common Rip Capacities on Table Saws?

What Does Rip Capacity Mean On a Table Saw 

There are basically three common rip capacities for table saws:

  • 28 inches:  the most common capacity for jobsite table saws.  You can rip a 48” piece of plywood in half with this capacity.
  • 30 inches:  the most common capacity for most woodworkers and can handle most of your ripping needs.  Cabinets, for instance, as we mentioned above, will call for 30” dimensions.
  • 50 inches:  the largest rip capacity, and only with the best and most expensive table saws.  Again, though, it’s likely much more than most woodworkers will need.

To put this into practical perspective, plywood sheets, irrespective of grade, are 48” x 9 irrespective of grade.  Both a 28” and a 30” rip capacity table saw will be able to give you two 24” x 96” pieces of plywood.

Most woodworkers will want to spend just a little for the larger rip capacity table saw, although that will depend, too, on the types of projects you are most likely to tackle.

As you can see, rip capacity has nothing to do with blade size.  Table saw specs for rip capacity are most responsible for determining a table saw’s cost.  

Blade size will determine how thick a piece of wood your table saw can cut.  A 10” blade will be able to cut a 3’-thick piece of wood, but a 12” blade will be needed to cut a 4”-thick piece.  Obviously, manufacturers are not going to use a larger/stronger motor on a smaller table saw.

Portable jobsite table saws, because of their small size, are going to have a smaller rip capacity, usually 28”, than a table or cabinet saw.

How To Extend Your Table Saw’s Rip Capacity

Now that we know what rip capacity is and why it is important, what if your table saw’s rip capacity isn’t enough for your needs anymore?

There are 3 primary options available to you: 

  • Adding a Larger Table: Constructing a DIY extension table using materials like MDF and 2x4s.
  • Adjusting Fence-Sliding Rails: Modifying the existing rails on the table saw to extend further out.
  • Table Saw Fence Extension Kits: Purchasing and installing a kit specifically designed for the table saw model in use.

Adding a Larger Table

Steps:

  1. Begin by measuring the height of your table saw to ensure the new extension table will be flush with the existing work surface.
  2. Cut a piece of MDF board to the size of the desired table surface. MDF is preferred for its flatness and stability.
  3. Construct a sturdy frame from 2x4s to support the MDF board. This frame will also provide the structural integrity required for heavy-duty work.
  4. Secure the MDF to the frame with wood glue and screws, ensuring a flat and stable surface.
  5. If you plan to move the table frequently, attach heavy-duty casters to the legs. Ensure the casters can be locked to prevent unwanted movement.

Advantages:

Building your own extension table is a highly economical choice, especially if you have spare materials in your shop. It allows for a tailored fit to your specific space and can be designed to accommodate various project sizes.

The addition of casters transforms the table into a multipurpose work surface that’s easily movable, providing flexibility in your workspace.

When not in use for sawing, it can serve as an additional workbench or storage solution, maximizing the utility of your shop area.

Here is a video to show just one example of a table extension. The DIY project is a bit extensive, but it’s also an example of what can be done with a bit of homemade imagination.

There is one other consideration.  Many table saw manufacturers will also sell you extension tables specifically built for particular table saws.  You can spend up for this option if you aren’t the DIY type.

But table extensions are not especially difficult projects, and with careful measurements, will work quite well.

Adjusting Fence-Sliding Rails

Steps:

  • Inspect your table saw to determine if the fence rails are adjustable. Look for bolted connections that can be loosened.
  • Using the appropriate tools, usually a wrench or socket set, loosen the bolts or screws that hold the fence rails in place.
  • Carefully slide the rails to extend beyond their original position, increasing the distance between the fence and the blade.
  • Once you’ve achieved the desired width, retighten the bolts to secure the rails, ensuring they are parallel to the blade.
  • Test the movement of the fence to confirm it glides smoothly over the new rail length.

Advantages:

This method is a quick and cost-effective way to enhance your table saw’s capabilities without the need for additional parts. It’s a practical solution that can be completed in a short amount of time, providing immediate results.

By extending the rails, you can handle larger materials for more ambitious projects. This adjustment can also improve the accuracy of your cuts by providing a wider range of fence positions.

Here’s a video to show you what we mean.

Table Saw Fence Extension Kits

Steps:

  • Research and purchase a fence extension kit that’s designed for your specific table saw model. These kits can be found at hardware stores or online.
  • Unpack the kit and familiarize yourself with the new components. The kit should include all necessary parts and detailed instructions.
  • Carefully remove the existing fence and rails according to the instructions, taking care to keep all original parts in case you need to revert back.
  • Install the new rails and fence, following the step-by-step guide provided. This may involve some drilling or other modifications to your table saw.
  • Once installed, adjust the fence to ensure it’s perfectly aligned with the saw blade and test its movement and locking mechanism.

Advantages:

A fence extension kit is a straightforward solution that ensures compatibility and precision. It’s ideal for those who prefer a ready-made option that minimizes the risk of errors during installation.

The kit comes with all the necessary hardware and is engineered for your saw’s specifications, which can lead to a more professional and aesthetically pleasing upgrade.

While this option is more expensive than a DIY approach, it offers peace of mind with its tailored design and often includes customer support for installation and troubleshooting.

Rack And Pinion Fences

One fly in the ointment of the homemade table extensions, extension wings, and adjustable rails projects is the rack and pinion fence.  We’ll offer just a brief word about them as it relates to increasing rip capacity.

This is not a loose, removable fence; instead, it sits on a toothed rail and is adjusted using a gear.  There is no tap-tap-tap to move a pinion fence into place as there is with the more common removable fences.  The gear is more accurate and more secure in moving and holding the fence in place.

Extending it, however, is not an option.  It is what it is, as the common expression these days goes.  DeWalt table saws use rack and pinion fences, and they will be happy to sell you extensions for them. It’s a project to install, though.

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