Tabletops & Throat Plates

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SawStop's working riving knife is easy to remove for tenon cutting and other operations.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Attempting to rip sheet goods or long stock without an outfeed table is madness. I feel like any stock saw table is really just a starting point for a suitable cutting setup in the shop. However, it is nice to have a big, solid, and true table to start with. Delta's, Grizzly's, and Jet's tops all measure close to 27 inches deep by 40 inches wide, Powermatic's is slightly smaller and the SawStop and Laguna are slightly larger. With a bit of work, an outfeed table can be added to any of these saws.

The table inserts also are important. They should be adjustable so they're flush with the tabletop, and the opening for the blade should be as narrow as possible. This is very important to prevent small scraps from getting caught up in the blade and potentially shot back out. It also helps prevent tear-out in sheet goods and makes cutting tenons and other cuts near or on the throat plate–like rips in thin stock–much safer. SawStop's standard insert works well. It's made from a composite material and the opening is narrow, just wider than a blade, which is exactly what I want. Laguna's standard throat plate is huge, with a composite dovetailed insert that can be customized to fit any size blade or dado set–very nice! For the other saws, I would make a wood insert or look into an aftermarket model.

Fences

Good fences may or may not make good neighbors, but they do make or break a table saw. Again, the test group is well-outfitted and each saw arrived with a nice fence. All could be adjusted so they locked down with the fence parallel to the blade, all were equipped with a scale along the rail, which made setting the fence quick and accurate, and all were easy to operate.

Delta's Biesemeyer fence operated smoothly and was easy to adjust, but it lacked a way to easily fine-tune the clearance of the side plates so they rode smoothly over the table. This is important because the saw works best if these plates just clear the tabletop, yet run smoothly as the fence slides across the working surface. And, if I'm cutting a 1/8-inch pattern piece, veneer, or laminate, I want to be doubly certain the material doesn't slide underneath the fence.

SawStop's fence was very nice, too, but adjusting the side plates, should they need aligning, could be problematic because it lacked ways to fine-tune their height above the table. Jet's fence worked well, and large ports on the underside of the fence made precise adjustments of the side plates a breeze. Grizzly's also worked nicely.

The two standouts here were the Powermatic and Laguna. They were both rock solid and offered easy access to the hardware that holds the side plates in place. Of these, the Powermatic was the smoothest operating.