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Are 4'x4' Panels Safe to Rip on a Table Saw

1637 Views 10 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Grandpa
How safe is it to rip 4×4 panels on a table saw with 36 inches of outfeed and 36 inches of material support?
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I don't hesitate to rip 4'x4' ply on my TS and haven't had the wreck yet. BUT I am careful when pushing them through the blade and keeping them FLAT on the table. I also raise my blade higher than usual when doing this.
I have run 1/4" plywood through a contractor saw, ripping it into about 1.25" strips for a pinewood derby track. It takes two people and some real caution, but the track came out great. No in feed or out feed tables, and most importantly, no injuries. My father in law and I were experienced woodworkers at the time.

You should be just fine, but if you are doing it alone, use a lot of care.
Most contractor\table saws have enough table width to accommodate 4' x 4' easily, with enough table on the left and right side of the blade if cutting somewhere near the middle.

An out feed table would also be wise.
I have been known to rip 4×8 but not often. 4×4 no problem at all. When starting the cut I stand on the side of the plywood opposite the fence, then as I'm about halfway thru, I move to be behind the piece so I can push it thru straight and have a hand on each piece as it goes thru.
I wouldn't try it, that's a dangerous cut. You should have home depot cut it for you, or take it to a local cabinet shop and have them do it for you safely. I would get a Saw Stop before trying something as dangerous as that.
Why in the hell would you want a saw stop for large sheets? You would be no where near the blade. I do 5×5 sheets on my contractors saw frequently (baltic birch). No guards, no riving knife, but no kick backs. And no Saw Stop.
When I cut sheet goods that size I always keep the bulk of the material on the fence side. I find it easier to control a cut where 32" is on the fence side and 16" is on the cut off side than the other way around. Also your biggest risk is the far end of the plywood against the fence coming away and causing the blade to bind at the back side. A splitter and blade guard can help a lot here but your putting a lot of force on them with a piece that large to so don't depend on them completely to keep the blade from binding. I have seen a plywood panel bend a splitter on my contractor saw easily but one of the thicker splitters might work better. You have to make sure you are applying as much pressure against the fence as you do pushing forward when you are feeding this though. And don't forget to think though what is going to happen to the offcuts. You can get in trouble quickly trying to save a panel that's falling off the end of the saw while it's still running.

A circular saw and straight edge can make this pretty easy to break down the pieces and get closer to final size as well making them easier to handle on a table saw.
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simple answer to your question is yes. I do it on a regular basis with my 3650 Rigid. I do have an outfeed-table though. You hear a lot of opinions on here about saw stop (both sides) I think the saw stop is great technology but most of us simply cant afford it. Exercise great care no matter what piece of power equipment your are running.
I also do it all the time. I do have an outfeed table that is 6 feet wide and the saw is centered on the table. What is dangerous about this. I don't have anything on my saw except for a fence. This is only dangerous if you feel like you are not able to control the wood. If you can't keep out of a blade that is 16 inches from you then perhaps you should consider a new hobby. Now that is my opinion and not more. I have done this all my life and will most likely continue as long as I am able to get to the shop to do it.
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