Shoot Boards for Handheld and Table Saws

Quote of the Day

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.

— John Maynard Keynes


Figure 1: How I Would Love to Have A Full-Size Table Saw.

Figure 1: How I Would Love to Have A Full-Size
Table Saw (Source).

I live in a small home, and I have to do my woodworking in the garage. Since I have two cars that "live" in the garage, I do not have sufficient room for a full-size table saw (Figure 1).

The biggest challenges I face have to do with cutting large sheets of plywood (4' x 8'). Without the space for a table saw, I had to begin looking for alternative approaches that I could setup and teardown in my garage.

Shoot Boards For Circular Saws

Figure 2: Standard Shootboard.

Figure 2: Standard Shoot board (Source).

When I began woodworking, I cut my plywood to size using a circular saw and a shoot board that looks identical to that shown in Figure 2 (detailed plans here).

This approach served me well for many years, and I have a number of furniture pieces that were done with this simple, yet effective, saw guide. The main issue with this approach has to do with the jagged cut left on the top-side of saw cut, which is called tear-out (Figure 3). Admittedly, the shoot board does greatly reduce tearout, but I still get some.

There are ways to minimize the tear-out using masking tape and cutting with the finish side down (discussed here), but these are less than ideal solutions because you really want a clean cut on both sides of your workpiece.

The solution to the problem of tearout is the use of a zero-clearance base for the circular saw. You can see a homemade zero-clearance base in Figure 4. However, using a homemade shoot board and zero-clearance base was a bit of a problem because you do have to occasionally replace the base as you change the saw depth-of-cut, and the edge of edge of the shoot board eventually gets ragged.

Figure 3: Example of Tearout (Source).

Figure 3: Example of Tear-out (Source).

Figure 4: Homemade Zero-Clearance Saw Base.

Figure 4: Homemade Zero-Clearance Saw Base (Source).

For the last five years, the best solution I have found is the EZ Smart Track Saw (Figure 5). This saw has a replaceable saw base and cutting edge so that I always can make straight clean cuts. I highly recommend this system. One quaint aspect of EZ Smart is that when I called them with a question, I ended up talking to the company founder, Dino.

Figure 5: EZ Smart Track Saw Video.

Shoot Board for a Table Saw

When I learn a new technique, I always start to think about how to generalize its application – generalizing is the part of mathematics that I find the most interesting. I was interested in whether there was an equivalent of a shoot board for a table saw? I found the answer to my question in the L-Fence shown in Figure 6. I love the simplicity and safety of this approach. Nice work by the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking Director Bob Van Dyke.

Figure 6: L- Fence, A Table Saw Equivalent of a Shoot Board.

Figure 6: L- Fence, A Table Saw Equivalent of a Shoot Board (Source).

Since I do have a small, portable table saw for cutting small pieces that the track saw cannot handle safely, I am going to experiment with this fence over the next few weeks. I should mention that Finehomebuilding has an excellent video featuring Bob at this site.

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