My favorite accessory ranks a zero

I never realized how many table saw accessories there were till recently – there seem to be hundreds. But my favorite one remains the same as always.

Working on a magazine article on aftermarket table saw accessories, my first step was to sit down with a notepad and jot down five of the most obvious. My article is limited to 10 accessories and I planned to do a bit of research on what was out there, but there were five really essential ones I wanted to include no matter what my research turned up.

And as I was researching, it became clear that the list of accessories was seemingly endless, making for some tough decisions for the remaining five. I finally narrowed it down to my list of 10, but it was clear that there was no real way to rank these “the 10 best,” since a readers idea of what was essential would vary according to what they use a table saw for most frequently. But even with that in mind, it was clear to me that one accessory stands above all the others, and will always remain number one for me: A zero-clearance insert.

Now, you may argue for your favorite and that’s fine. Some of you might say a push stick; others a splitter; for still others it might be something else. I’d probably even agree (mostly) with your assessments. But to me, a zero-clearance insert offers so much, and it offers it for just about every cut you make.

It eliminates tear-out. It adds safety (no cutoff slivers fall into the blade opening). Cuts are smoother. It reduces noise. That zero-clearance slot is easier (and more accurate) for measuring exact cuts than measuring from the blade. It increases the effectiveness of your dust collection. Depending on what it’s made of you can mark on it temporarily with a pencil to aid your cuts. And the list goes on.

And as I noted, you can use one repeatedly for almost any kind of cut except bevels. And even for that, you could create a single-use insert if you wanted to.

So there you have my favorite table saw accessory. What’s yours?



  • Gene Kelly says:

    I always use a “zero” tolerance insert, however I have never seen a truly zero tolerance insert. Soon after the first use the tolerance becomes somewhat less than zero, so I would not count it as my favorite but it is necessary. Along with push sticks, dust collection and an accurate fence.

    I would have count as my favorite table saw accessory my precision miter attachment. I make a lot of segmented turnings, and I know that a lot of people use a miter saw to make their cuts, but I find it to be much more accurate to cut my miters on the table saw using a miter attachment.

  • Bill Selchow says:

    Mr. Hamler,
    I totally agree with your number one table saw accessory.
    I have been unable to find anyone who makes a zero clearance insert for my Porter Cable jobsite saw. Would you possibly have any suggestions? I would really appreciate some positie input on this matter. Thanks A J ——————————–Bill

  • John Lowe says:

    I really agree with you about your favorite for all of the reasons you mentioned. Although it may go without saying, I believe that any mention of making a zero clearance insert should contain a warning about being careful as you raise the blade up from the bottom. I am recovering from an accident that occurred while making the insert – 6 stitches in index finger and 3 in the middle finger. Problem stems mostly from inattention, lack of awareness of the specific danger, wearing ear protectors that mask the sound of the running blade, and no guard on the blade. I reached across the turning blade to pull up tape that was holding the insert down and the rest is recovery. No permanent damage but six weeks of lost time in the shop.

  • Stangage says:

    Zero clearance is important but for my work, the Incra Mitre 5000 sled combines the features of zero clearance with the ability to set and repeatedly set precise angles and precise lengths without having to resort to stop blocks and clamps and other measuring equipment. It’s a reliable product that is also much lighter than most homemade sleds so it’s easy to whip on and off when needing to change to other tasks on the table saw.

  • Jon Walpole says:

    I like the Mast-R-Slide (Sliding crosscut table) by JessEm. I also like the clamps that Rockler sells for clamping a sacrificial board to my rip fence. And then there is the Vega rolling frame that supports the 3HP cabinet saw and the chest of drawers I made to keep my TS blades and accessories handy. I also very much like the Wixey digital readout on my tablesaw.

  • dean hartley says:

    It may sound too easy but I just lower my blade,lay down apiece of good old Duck Tape(If you want you can lower insert,I just use it as is.One on 12″ Oliver table saw averages several weeks before needing replacing,on my Dewalt miter saw I used several layers of just blue tape.After 1 1/2 years have not had to replace.Hint on miter use two side tapr when cutting small pieces.DENO

  • Keith Mealy says:

    Shop-built sliding table(S) Most used is one for cross cuts. Another for 45 degree miters and a third for larger panels (Fence on only one edge) that I use for bevel cuts and wider pieces.

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