A Table Saw, also known as a saw bench, is a very versatile tool and is often said to be the ‘heart’ of a woodworker’s collection. When adding a mounted woodworking tool to your collection, Table Saw is the first tool you should consider! But the problem arises with the lack of basic information among beginners and professionals.
When you look at the available options, there is an overwhelming amount of information on the internet that could be too much to process. There are portable table saws, stationary table saws, motor, and drive configurations, safety features you should be looking for, and the list keeps going on.
But one of the things that could significantly make your table saw purchase worth every penny or could potentially make you regret your decision is rip capacity.
Rip capacity is one of the most crucial factors you should have in your mind before getting your hands on a table saw. Most of the projects you have in your head are possible with the right amount of rip capacity. Messing up in that area would create a little hole in your pocket and eat up your space for nothing. In this article, we’ll break down what rip capacity is, and its importance in a table saw.
Table of Contents
- Know About Table Saw Rip Capacity
- Common Rip Capacities on a Table Saw
- Left Blade Ripping Capacity vs. Right Blade Ripping Capacity
- What Rip Capacity is Right for You?
- Can You Increase The Rip Capacity on a Table Saw?
- Space Considerations While Buying a Table Saw
- Final Words
Know About Table Saw Rip Capacity
If you are under the impression that rip capacity is somehow related to the length of board you can cut with a table saw, let me clear that misconception. No, it’s not. Table saws, or most saws, can cut miles-long sections of wood; how much you can go for is a debatable question. But no, rip capacity has nothing to do with the length of wood you can cut from a table saw.
Rip capacity can be defined as the maximum space between the furthest edge of the rip fence and the center of the cutting blade. In easier words, the distance between the edge of the fence and the edge of the blade is rip capacity.
For better visualization, imagine measuring the length from the saw blade, then imagine measuring the maximum distance fence travels to the right side of the blade- that is, the rip capacity. It might not sound like something significantly crucial at first, maybe a design specification, but to sum it up in the least words possible, rip capacity on a table saw will determine the maximum width it can cut on any material.
Some professionals do feel that rip capacity is a marketing term used by manufacturers to exploit the buyers to think that they won’t be able to cut beyond the capacity. Even though there is some truth to it, for someone not having experience of at least half a decade, the opinion can be disregarded.
When we talk about rip capacity, we also consider the use of a fence while using the table saw; technically, when you remove the fence, with the right amount of size of tables and human effort, there is no upper limit to the depth you can cut with a table saw. But that is an ideal case. For an individual, rip capacity matters a lot.
Common Rip Capacities on a Table Saw
24-28 Inches - Portable Table Saw
For someone just starting with no clue about table saws and rip capacity, you are more likely to encounter portable table saws as your recommendations. Most cheap to middle-range table saws feature a rip capacity of about 28 inches. And just to put it in simpler words, a 24-inch rip capacity will let you cut wood with a width of 48 inches, which is pretty damn good if you are a standard craftsman/DIYer.
When I started, I went with a 28-inch rip capacity, and it was a portable saw indeed. I’ve done countless projects with this capacity, and I can assure you that most of the stuff, excluding heavy-duty tasks, can be dealt with with a 28-inch rip capacity. It’s not ideal, but a great stepping stone if you are starting. Most decent portable saws come with this rip capacity, and you’d need to go to a different type of table saw if you need a relatively higher rip capacity.
30-32 Inches - Contractor Table Saw
As you go higher in the range, the need and the market for the same becomes sparse. With a dead giveaway in the name, Contractor Table Saws are aimed at not just beginners but contractors. For the workpieces that couldn’t be cut by a portable table saw, Contractor Table saws will get it done.
With a rip capacity of 30-32 inches, you are likely to get done with most of the cuts. Getting a contractor table saw would be worthwhile if you think of going professional years down the line. Even though the difference won’t be stark when you need the 28-inch rip capacity, it’d be a lifesaver whenever you need a 30-inch capacity.
50 Inches - Cabinet Table Saw
Cabinet table saws, with a 50” capacity, have a minimal market. You will likely, never specifically will, feel the need for a professional cabinet table saw. If you aren’t, or if you won’t be a heavy-duty professional ripping task shortly, a professional table saw won’t be worth its price. A 50-inch rip capacity does sound intimidating but is of no use to most people., excluding the fraction of professionals.
Left Blade Ripping Capacity vs. Right Blade Ripping Capacity
When looking for table saws in the online or offline market, the ripping capacity is often marked as left or right rip capacities. Well, a fence can be used on either side, so there is a need to mention the ripping capacities for both sides. Most of the time, the right side of the blade capacity is relatively higher than the left side. If you don’t see any side mentioned along with the capacity, assume the number to be the maximum ripping capacity on that table saw.
What Rip Capacity is Right for You?
I have no specific answer when I get this question at face value. Everyone has preferences, and there is no way I can throw a number around when asked this question. However, the work you’d be doing with a table saw will significantly result in a better answer to this question.
A 26”-30” rip capacity on large-scale construction projects will get you done with most of the stuff. It would be best to look at the 28” rip capacity range as a contractor. A 28” rip capacity is rarely inadequate unless you are going in for something massive.
If you are likely going to deal with just small woodworking projects, even a 24” rip capacity should be good enough for you. To put it in simpler terms, a 24” rip capacity table saw will let you easily cut a 4 feet wide log. And trust me when I say this: most buyers reading this will never need to go higher than 24” rip capacity. For anyone just starting, I always recommend starting from a table saw with rip capacity on the lower side. A 20” capacity might come with some limitations, but 24” seems the ideal number for a beginner.
Of course, if you are on a low budget, you should look at the other features and the rip capacity. Generally, the more expensive the saws are, the higher the rip capacity. So if you’re looking to spend as little as possible to start DIYing, you should look at the low to mid-range portable saws. That being said, you should always weigh the in-ceiling value you’d possibly cut with your table saw; it’ll never hurt to buy a high rip capacity table saw; if your space lets you.
Can You Increase The Rip Capacity on a Table Saw?
The short answer- is yes. But that will require you to modify the table saw or add a table to increase a few inches in the rip capacity. However, I won’t recommend putting any effort into revising the tool until you have at least some experience with the product. One way you’ll have to look for is to get the table they make for specific table saws. You’ll have a higher rip capacity with one more table on the side!
Another way is to move the fence over one bolt. That’ll increase the sliding capacity of the fence- ultimately increasing the rip capacity. However, it would be best if you weren’t attempting to increase the rip capacity unless needed.
Rip capacity extensions have also been on an upward trend for quite some time now. Most big manufacturers have to mass-produce rip-capacity extension kits for their table saws, which lets the contractors and professionals increase the rip capacity to the desired rip capacity with an upper limit.
There have been some projects by some innovative woodworkers in the past years that have been able to increase their rip capacity. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some of them, but as they aren’t mass-produced, there is no way for an individual to get the product for themselves.
Space Considerations While Buying a Table Saw
A table saw with a very high rip capacity will get you done with most heavy-duty ripping tasks, which translates to a larger table saw in dimensions. As you increase the rip capacity, the space required for accommodating and properly functioning the table saw also increases proportionately. Every 20” increment in rip capacity adds up to 50 inches or 4 feet 2 inches in space.
If you don’t have much room for a higher-rip capacity table saw, you should look at a portable saw, which comes with a rip capacity starting from 20”, which should be comfortable enough for most buyers.
Even though a table saw comes with dozens of specifications, rip capacity is often seen as the price-changer. With an increment of every inch in the capacity, you’ll see a significant change in the retail price. So it should be worthwhile to have a range you are willing to spend on a table saw.
Since it’s impossible to know everyone’s preferences, I can’t just say a number you should be looking for while considering the rip capacity. However, if you are starting, look for portable saws featuring a ripping capacity of about 24 inches. That should get you done with most of the standard woodworking projects.