Woodsmith last issue Woodsmith current issue

Keep up to date with

Sign Up for Our FREE Newsletter

Give a Gift FREE Issue
Share Page:

Table Saw Tricks For Making Vertical Cuts

By: Dennis Perkins
Using the table saw to shape the edges of a workpiece is a snap with a couple of easy-tobuild accessories and simple techniques.

A table saw sits at the center of most woodworking shops — and with good reason. It’s the go-to tool for ripping, crosscutting, breaking down sheet stock, and even cutting joinery. For most of these cuts, the workpiece is held horizontally, flat against the table. But with a practical method for holding a workpiece vertically, you can use your table saw to shape its edge rather than just cut it to length and width.

The key is learning a few simple techniques and building a couple of accessories. This allows you to make raised panels, cut tenons, and the slots for splined miters. You can even make quick rabbets without having to install a dado blade.

TALL FENCE. The first step to making vertical cuts is to come up with a way to support a workpiece on edge and keep it from tipping during a cut. For this, I turn to a tall fence. An auxiliary fence to fit over your saw’s rip fence keeps a large panel stable. The height of the fence also allows you to make these cuts safely by keeping your hands well away from the blade.

5363063 snip 1548825626982 new

The design shown in the drawing at left provides a very solid fence. It attaches to your table saw’s rip fence with two studded knobs that fit into threaded inserts in the back of the fence. By simply tightening the knobs, the fence becomes a sturdy fixture, ready to handle tall workpieces.

BUILDING THE FENCE. I used Baltic birch plywood for the fence, but MDF would also work well. To make your own fence, start by cutting the sides. You can make them the length of your rip fence and about 12" tall. You’ll need to cut grooves in the sides of the fence to house the supports. The width of the supports depends on your saw’s rip fence. Just size them for a snug fit. After drilling countersunk screw holes for the supports, drill holes for the threaded inserts in the side opposite the blade.

Assembling the fence with screws goes pretty quickly. I didn’t use glue in the grooves just in case I need to adjust the fit after assembly. Finally, check to make sure the fence sits square to the table.

RAISED PANELS. With the fence complete, you’re ready to put it to work on a project. And a good first project is making raised panels. I like this technique because it saves the cost of an expensive router bit.

The examples in the margin photos show two options. The top panel features a simple beveled edge. The lower panel defines the raised field with a shoulder. Both styles are easy to make using the tall fence.

SHOULDER. The photos above show how to make the cuts that form the shoulder. All you need to do is set the blade height to 3 ⁄ 16 " and the rip fence to 1 1 ⁄ 2 " and cut along all four edges of the outside face.

ANGLED CUT. Next, install the tall fence and set the saw blade angle. I’ve found 10-12° is about right for this design. Then simply line up the blade and set the height to just meet the inside corner of the cut you made earlier and make the cuts.

As you can see in the photos, I like to place a handscrew at the top edge of the panel. The handscrew rides on the fence and helps keep the panel square as you make the cut.

The tall fence is a great first step in making vertical cuts. To find a simple jig for cutting tenons, slots for splined miters and more, turn the page.

How-To: Cut Rabbets with a Tall Fence

I usually cut rabbets using a dado blade buried in an auxiliary fence. But installing a dado blade can be time consuming. So, when I only need to cut one or two rabbets, I find it’s quicker to just install the tall fence and use the two-step process shown in the photos.

You start by setting the fence to determine the width of the rabbet and then the blade height to define its depth. Next, make the first cut with the workpiece in the horizontal position. Then, flip the workpiece on its edge and adjust the fence position and blade height to meet the kerf of the first cut. Hold the workpiece vertically to make the cut and complete the rabbet.


After making cuts with the tall fence, you can probably imagine how vertical cutting techniques can be applied to joinery. You’ll find that making a sliding jig for cutting tenons and splined miters is also a great addition to your table saw.

REVERSIBLE JIG. The sliding jig shown in the illustration at right is similar to the tall fence you made earlier. But in this case, the jig slides on your rip fence instead of remaining stationary. You’ll also notice a cleat on either side of the jig. A 90° cleat holds a workpiece straight and square for cutting tenons. On the other side, a 45° cleat secures a mitered workpiece while you cut a slot for a spline.

BUILDING THE JIG. The sliding jig relies on the same construction you used for the fixed, tall fence. Two plywood sides with grooves housing the two supports make up the body of the jig.

Once again, start by cutting the sides to size and then cut grooves for the supports. Next, you’ll need to cut the supports to the correct width for your saw. I did this by “sneaking up” on a good fit, dry fitting the parts, and testing them on the rip fence. You want the jig to slide freely, but without any slop. Now you can assemble the jig by attaching the supports with screws in the countersunk holes.

On one face of the jig, I cut a shallow dado and attached a cleat square to the table. On the other side (with the 45° cleat), no dado is necessary. This allows you to adjust the accuracy of the miter cut by finetuning the placement of the cleat. Both cleats are simply attached with screws — no glue. By not using glue, you can also easily replace the cleats when they get chewed up.

But before you attach either of the cleats, raise your table saw blade to full height and make sure to locate the screws for the cleats well above that point. Finally, I found it helpful to add a light coat of wax to the inside of the jig (the part that slides along the fence). This will keep it running smoother by reducing the friction, while still maintaining a tight fit on the rip fence.


After assembling the jig, you’re ready to put it to work. It’s a good idea to experiment a little bit using some scrap pieces. This way, you’ll get a feel for how to align cuts to layout marks and also how to get the most out of the jig in your shop.

SPLINED MITERS. One of my favorite applications is making splined miter joints. Whether in small applications, like picture frames, or larger projects such as edging a cabinet, the perfect, seamless miter joint is a woodworking staple. But no matter how well cut, the joint is inherently weak due to its endgrain glue surfaces.

Adding a spline — a thin strip of hardwood fit into slots on the mating faces of each piece — dramatically increases the strength. But cutting a perfectly matched slot on the mitered ends of the workpieces can be a tricky operation.

That’s where the angled side of the jig comes into play. By holding the workpiece at the correct angle, cutting the slot is a breeze. As you can see in the photo at left, all you need to do is position the workpiece on the 45° cleat and fasten it in position with a small clamp.

Then, using a dado blade centered on the workpiece, you can cut the slot with little chance of error. The jig also allows you to vary the dimensions of the slot. A thin spline is all you need for picture frames and other small projects, but a thicker spline will guarantee plenty of strength for heavier applications, such as a cabinet face frame.

SPLINES. For the spline, all you need to do is plane some stock to match the thickness of the slot. It’s a good idea to make sure the grain of the spline is oriented perpendicular to the slot. This way, you won’t need to worry about the spline splitting under pressure. Then, a little glue and clamps make for a straightforward assembly.

You can complete the joint by trimming the spline on both the inside and outside of the assembled frame with a flush cut saw and follow up with a little sanding. An example of a finished joint is shown in the inset photo on the bottom of the opposite page.

CUTTING TENONS. The mortise and tenon joint is another favorite for many woodworking projects. And there are several ways to cut tenons. One common method uses a dado blade with the workpiece held flat on the table and guided by a miter gauge. This technique is quick and reliable. But for many applications, particularly when using a through tenon, where part of the tenon is visible, the result is less than desirable. As you can see in the photos in the box below, a dado blade leaves a rough surface on the face of the tenon.

By cutting a tenon vertically using a tenon jig, you get a much smoother face. A good-quality rip blade leaves a face that seldom requires any further planing or sanding to achieve a tight fit. The smooth face provides a better surface for the glue and adds more strength to the finished joint.

Fortunately, cutting tenons is a simple operation using the jig. The box below shows the steps. The thing I really like about this jig is how easy it is to adjust the thickness of the tenon simply by moving the rip fence. The smooth tenon will result in a strong joint that lasts for years.

SAFETY. While the jigs shown here are designed with safety in mind, there’s one thing to remember as you put them to use. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of sliding a workpiece all the way through the cut and well past the blade before removing it from the jig. Don’t just pull the jig and workpiece back through the blade. You risk catching the back of the blade and having the workpiece kick back.

Once you get the hang of using the tall fence and the sliding jig, you’ll see how easy it is to incorporate vertical cutting techniques in your future projects. You’re sure to agree it was well worth taking the time to make the jigs.

How-To: Cut Tenons with the Sliding Jig

Use a miter gauge to cut a shoulder on all four faces of the workpiece to define the length of the tenon. You can use the rip fence as a stop.

Align the blade with the shoulder cut and slide the jig and workpiece through the cut.

The smooth face of a vertically cut tenon makes for a stronger glue joint.

Published: June, 21 2019
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.



Related Articles


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