Woodsmith last issue Woodsmith current issue

Keep up to date with


Sign Up for Our FREE Newsletter

Give a Gift FREE Issue
URL:
https://www.woodsmith.com/article/how-to-make-a-zero-clearance-insert-plate/
Share Page:

How To Make a Zero-Clearance Insert Plate

By: Phil Huber
All it takes is an afternoon to make a set of zero-clearance inserts and get cleaner table saw cuts.

I rely on my table saw for everything from crosscutting and ripping boards to cutting joinery like dadoes and rabbets. No matter what the operation is, a clean, splinter-free cut is a must. The trouble is even if your saw is tuned up, you can still end up with a ragged edge. Thankfully, the solution is simple and inexpensive — a shop-made, zero-clearance insert.

How it Works. The reason you get better cuts with a zero-clearance insert is that the opening in the insert exactly matches the thickness of the blade. This fully supports the workpiece as it’s cut so fi bers can’t tear away.

Make or Buy. I bought my first zero-clearance insert at a cost of $15. And right away, I saw a dramatic improvement in the quality of my cuts. But I quickly realized that just one insert wasn’t enough — I needed a set. That’s because an insert is fit to a specific blade. If you switch to a thin-kerf blade or change the size of your dado blade, the benefits would be lost. Since buying several inserts can add up, I started making my own instead.

Simple Process. Making a zero-clearance insert is a pretty simple task. The photos you see here give you a good overview of the process. It starts with an oversized blank and then you fine-tune it to match the opening in your saw.

Table saw insert blank

Cutting the Blank. The first step in making the insert is to cut the blank to width. I use 1⁄2" MDF because it’s inexpensive, flat, and easy to work with. I aim for an easy slip fit in the opening with no side-to-side play.

By the way, I usually make several inserts at a time. Then I always have one on hand. With the blank cut to the final width and rough length, I attach the stock insert with double-sided tape. The stock insert will act as a template for the next few steps.

Cutting insert ends

Cutting the rounded ends is a two-step process. The first step takes place over at the band saw. Follow the curve of the stock insert and cut away most of the waste.

Flush trimming an insert plate

Trim the Blank. The second step is to trim the blank flush with the template. It’s a quick job at the router table. But you want to skip around the retaining pin and the notch for the blade guard. I sand these bumps away later.

Blade guard riving knife slot

Add Details. At this point, you can add a few details. The first is to drill a 3⁄4"-dia. finger hole to make the insert easy to remove. Then I cut a notch to accommodate the blade guard. This isn’t needed for every insert (dadoes, for example), but since I’m just making generic inserts, it saves some hassle down the road.

Insert plate retainers

Another detail to add is a retainer to keep the insert from lifting out during use. Use the stock insert as a guide for making your own. You can see two options here.

In addition to a secure fit, the insert should be flush with the saw table. If it’s proud, a workpiece will catch on the edge. A recessed insert can lead to dadoes, grooves and rabbets with an inconsistent depth. And the workpiece can catch on the back edge of the opening.

Rabbet the edges

Proud. For an insert that’s proud, you can rabbet the edge of the insert at the router table. Routing the rabbet in a couple of passes allows you to sneak up on a flush fit.

leveling screws

Recessed. To level an insert that sits too low, a set screw installed in each corner lets you adjust the insert until it’s flush.

starter kerf

The last detail to add is a wide kerf in the bottom face. This provides clearance for some saw blades that won’t retract enough for an uncut insert to rest in the opening. Then, to create the blade kerf, clamp a board across the insert to hold it in place. Finally, turn on the saw and slowly raise the blade. After a few coats of finish, you’re ready to take advantage of this low-cost upgrade.

Published: Oct., 19 2021
Share Page:
Topics: None

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

WSM_Tips_Sidebar_2for1HolidaySub

WSM_zone58_PopWoodSubPromo_300x250

Related Articles

Reviews

Create Beautiful Art With The Best Epoxy Resin For Wood

Get Them Started Early With The Best Wood Working Kit For Kids

Make Perfect Cuts With The Best Miter Saw Blades

Best Worm Drive Circular Saws: The Ultimate Cutters for DIYers

Best Allen Wrench Sets For Snug Fits

Best Pliers To Buy For Your Everyday Household Works

Best Electric Chainsaw For Safer and Quieter Cuttings

Our Team’s Review of the Best Chainsaw Mills

Get Rid of all of the Dust with the Best Dust Extractors out there

Best Dremels For Wood Carving

Cut Cleanly Through Wood With The Best Circular Saw Blades

Cutting is made Easy with the Best Plunge Router

Upgrade your Creativity with the Best Tap and Die Sets

Smooth Cutting with the Best Jigsaw Blades

Make Carpentry Effortless With The Best Saw Horses

The Best Needle Nose Pliers for your DIY Projects

Best Coping Saws for Coped Joints

The Best Mini Circular Saws For Perfect Cutting

Best Flooring Nailers for DIY Enthusiasts

Best Dowel Jigs for An Exquisite Woodworking Experience

The Best Drywall Sanders for Incredible Finishing

Best Roller Stands for Your Woodworking Projects

Best Strops For Knives To Polish Them Well!

Best Reciprocating Saws To Buy For Heavy-Duty Cutting

Best Air Impact Wrenches You Can Buy – A Brief Buying Guide

Best Gas Chainsaws for Trimming Large Branches

Enhance Your Woodworking With The Best Benchtop Thickness Planers Of 2021

Become a Home Improvement Hero With These Best Heat Guns

Improve Your Cutting Efficiency Easily With The Best Mobile Sawing Tables

Work On Irregular Wooden Structures With The Best Oscillating Spindle Sanders

The Best Electric Brad Nailer For Healthy Nails

The Best Respirators to Keep you Safe!

The Best Pocket Hole Jigs to Create Joints that Last

Take Your Sanding Projects To The Next Level With The Best Belt Sanders Of 2021

Smoothen Numerous Surfaces With The Best Palm Sanders Of 2021

Best Socket Sets For Day-To-Day Needs

Create Strong And Robust Interlocking Dovetail Joints With The Best Dovetail Jigs

Best Carpenters Tool Belts For Easy Storage Of Essential Equipment

The Best Dewalt Wrenches To Topple Every Project

Add the Best Vise Jaws to Your Workshop for Added Workpiece Stability

The Best Sawzalls; Cut Through Anything. Anywhere

Best Dewalt Tool Kits For DIY Home Project

Make Stapling A Breeze With The Best Pneumatic Staple Gun

Add The Best Dewalt Impact Drivers To Your Tool Kit

Effortlessly Thread Neat Screws With The Best Die Sets

Measure with Accuracy: Best Angle Finder

No More Cracks: Best Wood Filler

Enhance Your Woodworking Projects With The Best Plate Joiners Of 2021

Make Your Sanding Jobs Easier With The Best Spindle Sanders Of 2021

Best Scroll Saw For The Finest Cutting Results

See Through Walls With The Best Stud Finders

The Best DeWalt Drills and More For Your DIY Needs

The Best Drill Press Of 2021

The Best Wood Planer To Complete Your Woodshop

Make Every Cut Ideal: Best Router Table Fence

The Best Router Base For Furniture Manufacturing

The Best Allen Wrench to Get the Job Done!

Make Your Projects Effortless With The Best Ball Peen Hammer

Brushless Drills: An Incredible Addition to your Toolbox

Keep Your Cuts Clean With The Best Radial Arm Saw

Best Tap Sets For Your Workshop

The Smoothest Experience With The Best Random Orbital Sander

Carve and Create With The Best CNC Router

Upgrade Your Workshop With The Best Benchtop Jointer

Deal with Logs with the Best Wood Chipper

Blast the Tunes with the Best Woodshop Radio

Best Compact Bandsaws For Easy Cutting

Best Finishing Nailer For Durability

Best Mini Air Compressors To Buy

Our Team’s Review of the Best Propane Torches

Best Wood Carving Set For Hobbyist

Best Wood Lathe For Beginner

Use The Best Edge Sanders To Smoothen Any Wooden Surface

Seamlessly Cut And Chop Wood With The Best Hatchets

Woodturning Essentials: The Best Roughing Gouges

Best Shop Fans: Top 7 High-Velocity Heavy-Duty Fans for Garages, Worksites and Workshops

Preserve Your Valuables With The Best Linseed Oil

Best Rubber Mallets For Woodworking

Best Wrench Sets That Makes Work Easy

The Best Wrench Racks To Organize Your Tools

The 7 Best Calipers For Accurate Measurements

Best Marking Gauges For Professional And DIY Woodworkers

Best Folding Stools To Fit into Compact Spaces

Get The Perfect Flush Cuts Every time With The Best Edge Banding Trimmers

Best Deck Screws For Pressure Treated Woods To Make A Perfect Deck

Best Miter Saw Stands To Mount Your Cutting Tools On The Go

Increase Your Sanding Efficiency With Zero Effort Using The Best File Belt Sanders

Best Table Saw Fence 2021 for Smooth Cuts and Shapes

Sharpen And Shape With The Best Bench Grinders

Best Metal Clamps for Your Craftsmen Needs

Best Cordless Impact Wrenches for All of Your Mechanical Needs

Best Biscuit Joiners to Help Easing Your Woodwork

Best Estwing Hammers For Your DIY Needs

Use The Best Wood Moisture Meters To Separate Healthy And Damaged Wood Pieces

The Best Rail And Stile Router Bits: The Staple Of Hassle-Free Woodworking

Best Adjustable Wrench For Hassle-Free Work

Best CNC Router Bits For A Hassle-Free Woodworking Project

Achieve Precision with the Best Glass Cutter

Keep Things Sharp With The Best Sharpening Stones

The Best Sandblaster To Get Your Job Started Strong

Best Forstner Bits To Add To Your Woodworking Tool Kit

The Best Jointer For Every Type Of Woodworking

The Best Track Saw of 2021

Our Team’s Review Of The Best Spring Clamps

Best Rasp Files – A Versatile Woodcarving Solution

The Best Veneer Edge Banding: A Perfect Finish To Your Furniture

Catch The Dust Before It Catches You With The Best Dust Hoods

Best Depth-Gauges: A Staple For Woodworking Enthusiasts

Construct Your Projects On The Best Workbenches Available

Smooth Out Your Work Using the Best Sanding Discs

The Best Caster Wheels to Upgrade Your Equipment

The Best Furniture Levelers: Bid Farewell to your Furniture Woes

7 Best Flush Cut Saw That Could Change the Wood Cutting Game

Level-Up Your Portals With the Best Door Hinges

Organize Your Lifestyle With the Best Pegboard Hooks

The Best Magnetic Toolbars For Easy Storage And Organization

The Best Vise: A Staple In Every Workshop

Our Team’s Review of the Best Rolling Tool Chest

Organize With Ease: Best Pegboards

Make Better Cuts With The Best Table Saw Push Block

Cut And Shape With Ease: Best Router Table

The Best Plywood Jigs For Every Need

Reviewing The Best Taper Jigs This Year

Hit The Nail On The Head With The Best Hammers

Make Every Cut: Best Angle Grinder

The Best Wood Stain For Every Project

The Best Overhead Storage Rack For Convenient, Safe Storage

The Best Double Sided Tapes That Won’t Damage Surfaces

The Best Saw Dust Catchers For Shop Safety

Toolbox Essentials: The Best Sandpaper

Start Your Next Carving Project With The Best Scorp

Seal, Coat, and Craft With the Best Epoxy

Finding the Best Circular Saw in 2021

Reviewing the Best Drill Bits of 2021

Best Ratchet Wrench for Quick and Easy Repair

The Best Table Saw For The Everyday Handyman

Reviewing the Best Router Leveling Jigs

Tackle Screws Effectively With The Best Screwdriver Sets

Best Shop Vac For Those Heavy-Duty Cleaning Tasks

Best Tape Measures For Professionals and DIYers

The Best Handscrew Clamp For Gluing, Painting, and Building

The Best Wood Mallet For Your Next Carpentry Project

Revamp Your Outdoor Space With The Best Deck Stain

Smooth Out Edges With The Best Spokeshaves

The Best Carpentry Square For Precise Measuring

Protect Your Outdoor Entertainment Space With The Best Firepit Cover

Get The Right Measurements With The Best Framing Square

Best Wood Chisels For Impactful Wood Crafting

The Best Bird House Kits For First-Time Builders

The Best Wood Glue To Complete Your DIY Projects

Our Top Picks Of The Best Wood Burning Kits This Year

Reviewing The Best Moving Dollies This Year

Best Wooden Box Puzzles For Challenging Fun

Get Organized With The Best Racks For Firewood

The Best Landscape Edgers To Beautify Your Space

Endless Fun With The Best Wooden Puzzles

Our Top Picks Of The Best Blueprints This Year

Reviewing The Best Benches This Year

Never Lose Out On Warmth: Best Water Heaters

Make Cutting Easier With The Best Band Saws

Easy to Use and Efficient: Best Sanding Blocks Reviewed

Reviewing The Best Axes Right Now

Cordless Precision Possible: Best Compact Routers

Work Smarter with the Best Canvas Aprons

Convenience And Reliability: Best Tankless Water Heater

Create Clean Slices using the Best Low Angle Block Planes

Craft Wood Effortlessly with the Best Carving Chisels

Make Storage Seamless With The Best Extension Cord Reel

Review: The Best Cordless Drills

Don’t Let Handtools Slow You Down: Best Drills

Get Your Home Looking Sharp With The Best Wall Paints

The Best Table Saw Stand For Easy And Clean Cuts

Keep Your Tools Running Smoothly With The Best Lubricant Oil

Review Of The Best Hacksaws Right Now

Strong and Soft: Best Shop Towels

Stay Sharp With The Best Electric Pole Saws

Get Up-Top With the Best Step Ladders

The Best Deep Toolbox For Maximizing Your Space And Time

The Best Porch Swing Will Sweep You Off Your Feet

Tackle Any Project with the Best Chop Saws

Review of the Best Portable Generators

Secure Woodworking with the Best Bench Vise

Precise and Durable: Best Measuring Tape

Enhance Your Cuts Using The Best Miter Saw

Keep Your Work Organized: Best Toolboxes

The Best Electric Log Splitter For Great Cuts