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Squaring Up a Sliding Table Saw

Pros walk a newcomer through the steps of getting a slider trued up for accurate rips and crosscuts. February 20, 2008

I have a Minimax s315 8' slider and am having a little trouble with it. I set the slider up for dead square using the 3-cut method, do not bump the fence, and every once in awhile to more frequently, I have been off about an eighth of an inch ripping plywood. I then reset the fence using 1/4" MDF, square it back up, and seem to end up in the same place I started.

I am a very mechanically inclined person and this is driving me crazy. If my cuts are off this much, I believe it to be caused by one of three things: 1. saw sucks, 2. plywood is not square, or 3. technique is off.

Right now I take a full sheet, place it up against the fence tightly using the stop, go to the fence, double check that plywood is flush to fence, clamp it down lightly and run it through the saw. I just cut a sheet down and one end was off 1/16", flipped it over end to end, ran it again, and it was square. I then cut another piece and it was off 1/8" the other way. What the hell is going on?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor T:
Sometimes plywood acts a bit like solid lumber. When you cut it in the middle it may bend out of square.

From contributor Z:
#2 is invalid... That is what your saw is for. Never use a factory edge. That leaves #1 and #3, your choice.

Never heard of a 3-cut method, however there is a 5-cut that I use for my Altendorf. First edge against fence, cut. Turn sheet, put last cut against fence, cut, repeat until you have cut all four sides, then turn and cut fifth side, this time cutting off, say, about a 1" wide piece. Break off-cut in two pieces and check if both ends are the same thickness. Adjust fence if necessary. Checking your cut this way compounds the error four times, so keep that in mind when adjusting your fence.

If you are ripping a sheet 8' in length, I'd use the rip fence for parallel cuts. If you trim one end first, then trim one edge against the fence, and then rip for width using the now square fence, you should get true results.

From contributor G:
The MinMax does not have a real solid stop at 90 degrees. When you tighten the handle to secure the cross cut fence to the outrigger, you need to make sure you hold the cross cut fence to one side. The pin that indexes the cross cut fence has a good 1/16" of play and if you do not tighten it back to the same spot, you will be off. Try this and do not move your cross cut fence and you should be fine. Like the guys said above, do the five cut method once, and if you still have problems, have MinMax come out and look at the saw.

From contributor N:
Sounds to me as if your riving knife is not adjusted correctly. It could be pulling your piece away from the fence. Do not try to square your piece with the rip fence, only the crosscut fence.

From the original questioner:
The 3 cut method is just a condensed 5 cut method. On the 5 cut, I would rip a piece off, take the dial calipers and measure both ends. The 3 cut you measure the material. I first cross cut one side, put that against the fence, rip one side, then flip material over. I used to use the 5 cut and actually, Tim at Minimax introduced me to the 3 cut. How are you guys processing your sheet stock? I normally will rip to dimension, but that leaves factory edge and probably is where I am screwing up.

From contributor M:
I think there is a reason MiniMax uses 3 steps instead of 5. I don't think it will hold the tolerances. With 5 cuts, you get the variance over 5 cuts, not 3. As for technique, if you are ripping lengthwise, take your panel and lay the long side against the crosscut fence. Now trim the short edge. This is your new edge. You use this instead of anything the factory did.

Now spin this fresh edge against your crosscut fence and trim the long edge. If your saw is set up correctly, you should now have a 90. You can now push this against your rip fence and get parallel cuts. Be sure to push the end of the fence so that it is in front of the blade. Use your crosscut fence as your guide, not the rip fence. In this case, the rip fence is acting as a stop, not a guide.

It could be that your technique is off. I have said it before, but a slider does have a learning curve. I have tried to teach several guys to use it accurately, and some just aren't capable. It does take skill and coordination. You must walk in a straight line, push the sheet forward and down, while you are walking (some will start walking into the blade), and you must support the outside edge; you do this by pressing down with your right hand, and lifting up with your left.

It does take practice, and your muscles do have to learn. You cannot just think a new process and expect your body to respond. It is a new activity, and it will be awkward until it be comes a habit.

Crappy sheet goods will also contribute to bad pieces. It can twist and bow after you cut it.

Try the 5 cut method. Snap the last piece in half to see how far you are off after 5 cuts. Then make adjustments. If your pieces are still out of square, try the 5 cut procedure again. If your piece is square, it is either you or the panel. If it is not square, get MiniMax out there. Remember, you must put a fresh edge against the crosscut fence every time. A factory edge will not be as good as what you put on it.

From the original questioner:
That sounds good and I do believe that the factory edge was the problem. Technique, although I will be the first to admit if I am wrong, is good and I am very coordinated and do exactly as you described. One question, though, in regards to the rip fence. I did not understand what you were saying about using the rip fence for cutting sheet goods.

From contributor B:
I think that either Stiles Machinery or Altendorf's web site has a video demo for using a slider. It should clear up the discussion here regarding breaking down sheet goods and making a dust cut to true up an edge.

From contributor M:
Don't think of a slider as a table saw. You have to get used to doing things on the left side of the blade, instead of the right side. Your crosscut fence is the main benefit of this machine. If you keep the material flush to the crosscut fence, it will keep the sheet straight and true as you push it through.

If you pull the rip fence so that the end of the fence is in front of the blade, then you can use it as a stop for your crosscut fence. If you want to make 12" rips, then set your rip fence to 12". Now push your material (after it has been properly squared) up against the cc fence, and then slide it over to the rip fence. Hold the material as you push it through.

When you had a table saw, you relied on the rip fence to support the material as it went past the blade. Your cc fence will now handle that job. It will support the material after the cut. It is a different style of cutting.

From the original questioner:
Gotcha about the rip fence - that should save some time. What I wasn't doing was burning the factory edges, and will do so now because I was getting ticked off because I kept chalking it up to technique and I truly don't believe that to be the problem. I checked Stiles website but couldn't find a download for technique. Thanks everyone.

From contributor M:
You have to be careful about a "dust cut." Make sure that there is material on both sides of the blade to get a good cut. Otherwise you can have deflection in your blade - leaning to the side without material support.

From contributor U:
I agree with contributor M on this - we always leave at least 3mm of material to the right of the blade when making a dust cut (maybe the name "dust cut" is not appropriate, since it implies that you are just leaving dust).

From contributor P:
I also use the feature on my saw (Hammer K3L expert) where the fence can be moved back just short of the blade. Here it becomes a stop only, for cutting narrow strips to length (e.g., drawer sides and ends.) This way, by the time the work piece hits the blade, it is clear of the fence, so the work piece cannot get bound up.

From the original questioner:
Thanks, everyone - this was very helpful and I will follow these rules every time now. Tuned up my saw yesterday and did use the 5-cut method and got it cutting perfectly. I also used the rip fence as suggested.