The rip capacity of a table saw determines how much space you have at a maximum between the center of the cutting blade and the furthest edge of the rip fence. Many people misunderstand ripping capacity as the maximum length of the board which you are cutting, however, a table saw can theoretically cut infinitely long sections of wood.
Your rip capacity will determine the maximum width to which any wood, plastic laminate, or sheet metal can be cut.
Here we’ll be explaining the various rip capacities of most common table saws, allowing you to determine which is best for your workshop.
What Capacity Do I Need?
Your required rip capacity depends exclusively upon what type of work you most frequently do. One needs to keep in mind that extending your rip capacity is not always possible, despite rip fence extensions being available for most direct-drive table saws.
Outfeed and infeed extensions can only do so much. Nothing tops the built-in capacity of a good table saw.
As a general rule of thumb, it is always a good idea to get a table saw with as much extra capacity as possible, factoring in the amount of space available in your work area.
Don’t forget that the sharpness of your blade will play apart in your rip capacity.
Left & Right Rip Capacity
Rip capacity is normally stated referencing the right rip capacity of the table saw. Yet, one needs to keep in mind the maximum left rip capacity as well, as it is equally as important.
Your total maximum rip capacity is relative to how much leeway is allowed on the left. A 30” rip capacity table saw with 12” rip capacity on the left will allow you to shift your fence 10” more, granting a total rip capacity of 40” on the right, leaving 2” on the left.
24” to 26” Rip Capacity
Most portable table saws come with a rip capacity of between 24” and 26”. This should be more than enough for most stock used on-site.
Most craftsmen find that there is rarely a need for a ripping capacity greater than 24”, as most table saws allow more than enough rip capacity on the left to allow large sheets to be cut.
30” Rip Capacity
Even when looking at larger table saws, the need for a 30” capacity is rarely reached. Even when ripping large cuts, one needs to keep in mind that when a 30” rip is needed, the same result can be attained by performing an 8” rip off the other side of the board, leaving the 40” section wanted.
Most experienced contractors find that this is the largest table saw that they find themselves needing.
50” Rip Capacity
Some craftsmen will argue that a 50” rip capacity is essential for large cuts. This is true for those who work with large surfaces and full sheets of wood, as is used for table-tops.
Quite often, a smaller rip capacity its fence extended to reach 50”, while the larger table saws are best for those looking to carry out router work on large surfaces. For example, a 50” table will give you deeper throat depth between the cutter and the rip fence system.
One big advantage to a 50” rip capacity is the fact that you can perform a “square cut” on a sheet of plywood, cutting it in half in one sweep.
Rip Capacity Extensions
Many reputable table saw manufacturers supply extension kits for their products, granting cabinet makers and other professional contractors the enhanced rip capacity that they need. Many innovative woodworkers have also devised their own custom-made rip capacity extensions and table saw modifications, such as moving and repositioning the rail system of their table saws.
Be sure to shop around for table saw extensions giving you up to 50” rip capacity on a saw conventionally only supplies 30”.
Massive ripping capacity also translates to more space being needed in your workshop. With every 20” of ripping capacity adding roughly 4 ft2 of shops space, the decision to go big needs to be carefully considered.
Before heading out to buy a new table saw for your ripping needs, it is a good idea to devise a mock-up of the table at the same size of the total surface of your prospective table saw. You may be shocked at how much space it will occupy in your workshop.
Removable Rip Fences
When shopping for a portable table saw, be sure to check whether the rip fence is removable. For example, most 25” rip capacity table saws can rip up to 44” stock if the rip fence is removed.
You sacrifice accuracy and have to work far more carefully, but if you do find yourself in the position of needing a larger rip capacity, this will become invaluable.
Sliding Fence Precautions
When opting for a table saw with a sliding fence for the purpose of increasing your rip capacity, make sure that the sliding fence is secure and stable. Many table saws suffer critical design flaws on their sliding fences.
As soon as the fence extends, granting you a greater rip capacity, all accuracy goes out the window. Most contractors and hobbyists who rip wide lengths, normally find themselves purchasing an extended fence to be used with their table saw, instead of relying upon factory standards.
Rip Capacity Recommendations
If you frequently cut hardwood, then it is generally far better to go with a table saw featuring a larger rip capacity. An increase in rip capacity hints towards the performance capabilities of your saw, with compact, portable table saws not being truly suited to ripping through hardwood varieties frequently.
This being said, many smaller table saws are completely compatible with rip fence extensions, so stay aware of this possibility when shopping.
If you plan to do router table work using your table saws surface, then a large rip capacity on your table saw would be your best bet. The extra work space becomes invaluable when adding a router-table add on.