Zero Clearance on the Table Saw

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Blog entry by taidsturning posted 04-30-2010 02:54 AM 1527 reads 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I cut a lot of small parts in my segmented bowl making. Lots of these cuts are made at blade angles other than 0 degrees. Operating with a zero clearance insert is desirable but the variety of blade angles makes using one difficult. I would need a bunch. I use a lot of packing tape to hold small parts while gluing and the other day it occurred to me to stretch a thickness or two of the tape over the blade slot with the blade down and then lift the blade to cut through the tape and leave it as a zero clearance overlay. The tape is strong, not very thick and the idea works very well. I am in the midst of cutting a number of small wedge shaped pieces about one-eighth of an inch max and haven’t lost a one down the blade slot.

Replacing the tape is quick and cheap, but the tape seems to be tough enough to last for a long time. The tape I am using is about 2” wide and I would not reccomend using a narrower tape. It needs to span the entire slot, and should be long enough to go both in front of the slot and behind it for close to the full width of the table.

Bill Roberts

-- Bill Roberts -- Steal one idea it's called plagerism. Steal a bunch - it's called research

11 comments so far

View scrappy's profile


3507 posts in 4405 days

#1 posted 04-30-2010 03:32 AM

Sound like a good idea. My only question is: How much will it throw off your angle with the thickness of the tape?

Thanks for posting a fresh idea.


-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View woody57's profile


650 posts in 4402 days

#2 posted 04-30-2010 03:51 AM

a great idea thanks for sharing

-- Emmett, from Georgia

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 4370 days

#3 posted 04-30-2010 02:07 PM

The blade angle should remain fixed.
Its the same as raising the blad while tipped at an angle. It doesn’t change the angle at all.
It only changes how far the blade protrudes from the top of the workpiece.


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View taidsturning's profile


233 posts in 4370 days

#4 posted 04-30-2010 02:49 PM

I worried a little about changing the saw angle because the part being cut rides on the tape and the end of the board rests on the table so I added another section of tape in the area where my hand normally rides to hold the board down. This is probably not necessary since the tape is only a few mils thick, but I feel better about it anyway.

-- Bill Roberts -- Steal one idea it's called plagerism. Steal a bunch - it's called research

View sedcokid's profile


2738 posts in 4573 days

#5 posted 04-30-2010 03:13 PM

I can’t wait to try this, I like your idea!

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1619 posts in 4540 days

#6 posted 04-30-2010 10:31 PM

I have been meaning to pass this tip on but you beat me to it.

I just place a piece of blue painters tape on each side of the blade for a quick temporary zero clearance, works great!

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View WoodArtbyJR's profile


428 posts in 3940 days

#7 posted 06-16-2010 03:37 AM

For the clamping I read once where someone used inner tubes cut up like rubber bands and used them around the item being glued. Another idea is using an item like a strap wrench (you can buy items like this from Rockler). We’re only limited by our imagination…......

-- Jim Roberts, Port Orchard Washington

View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4552 days

#8 posted 06-16-2010 04:04 AM

View toyguy's profile


1745 posts in 4812 days

#9 posted 11-18-2010 04:09 PM

Now why didn’t I think of that..great idea.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Radu's profile


334 posts in 4018 days

#10 posted 11-18-2010 05:12 PM

I’ve seen one of the guys at the WW show using tape as ZCI. I did try it and worked OK but there was goop on the blade – I used nylon packing tape. I had to give the blade a good clean-up after that. As you mention, for odd blade angles works fine.
I would run the tape over the insert slot and then under the insert (at least in the front) so it won’t peel off when you run the wood over it.

View john925's profile


81 posts in 3891 days

#11 posted 01-11-2011 05:50 PM

I do a lot of segmented turning myself Bill – it’s my passion. I’ve done mostly 12 segment turnings and I built myself a dedicated Segment sled for the table saw – set at 15 deg. This seems to work great – has a hold down clamp so pieces don’t go flying. As for the small strips – was having the same problem so I use a dedicated zero clearance plate then transfer the cut pieces to the sled so I don’t have to worry about cutting small pieces. Keep up the turnings – it’s addictive isn’t it. I find myself dreaming of different ways to design bowls. If you haven’t done so yet – look up Malcolm Tibbets on the internet – – he has some fantastic pieces in his gallery.

-- John, Brentwood, CA

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