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I have the following understanding for table saws:

  • A cross cut is against the grain, and should use a miter gauge (w/ the rip fence removed).
  • A rip cut is with the grain, and should use a rip fence.
  • Boards that are being cut length wise get pushed along the rip fence, and width cuts get pushed with a miter-gauge.

What do you use for a square piece of plywood then (alternating grains, and length / width is identical) - use a rip fence or miter-gauge?

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You can use whichever one is more practical for the size of your workpiece and your saw setup, but in general a miter gauge is not as well-suited to working with square stock. The miter gauge's capacity is limited unless you have an auxiliary infeed table, since it falls out of the track once it extends too far past the front of the table. Also, the bulk of a square piece's material is only supported at the outer end of the miter gauge's fence (if you have one). Using a basic miter gauge with no attached fence to cut a square piece of material will be awkward at best, and probably dangerous.

If you're talking square sheets, you're probably not looking at anything larger than 5'x5' (e.g., Baltic birch plywood). On the table saw, it will be easiest to cut this with an appropriately-sized sled or the fence. For small parts, you should use a sled.

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The simple answer is that it depends on the size and shape of the piece you are cutting. For large pieces of plywood the fence is the right answer; for smaller pieces the miter gauge -- or a tablesaw sled -- could be the better choice. Whichever makes handling the workpiece easier and safer.

  • The shape of the piece is a square - I would imagine a 12x12 square would have the same answer as a 24x24 square, but I'm not sure. Also, I'm not sure what makes for a safer use (the miter-gauge or the rip fence) as you state to do, which is why I'm asking this question. – Tony DiNitto Oct 16 '16 at 20:18
  • For plywood, whatever produces a straight and accurate cut while keeping your fingers clear of the blade is probably fine. The miter gauge would have slightly less risk of kickback. – keshlam Oct 16 '16 at 21:43

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