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Rip Fence Mirror

How many times have you pushed a sheet of MDF or a wide board through your table saw and wondered if it was really tight against the rip fence? They often look tight, but if the light hits a board just right, there’s a slight shadow right between the board and the fence. Sometimes that shadow drives us nuts. Is the wood tight against the fence or is there a small gap?

Well, here’s a table saw tip we bet you never thought of.

Bill Bode installed a strip of mirror—that’s right, GLASS—on his rip fence.

Glass is a lot stronger than you might think. If it has solid backing, and if you don’t hit it with a hammer, it’s not likely to break. And a board—even a hardwood board—is a lot softer than a hammer.

With a mirror on the rip fence, you can SEE the edge grain as it nears the fence. (Click images to enlarge)
With a mirror on the rip fence, you can SEE the top edge of the board as it nears the fence.
With a mirror on the rip fence, you can actually see that the board is tight against the glass. And the extra light reflected by the mirror helps old eyes a lot.


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Please don’t try anything you see in THISisCarpentry, or anywhere else for that matter, unless you’re completely certain that you can do it safely.

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[Editors’ note: Our thanks to Bill Bode for this tip!]


14 Responses to “Rip Fence Mirror”

  1. Parks

    Neat idea, but a bit anal and over the top, IMHO. I mean, it’s not going to help you keep the material against the fence. Yer either good to go or not. Just saying :-)

  2. dave parker

    I’d say meticulous. Nice idea Bill,Thanks. Speaking of meticulous- look at that shop. Now that’s a work of art!

  3. Bob Antocci

    We run a professional shop and good lighting will always solve the shadow line when using any power tool…. invest in better lighting… good luck..

    PS I don’t think osha will like the mirror idea… just a thought.

  4. Brian

    I’ve had the same problem and the solution looks like a great idea. I have very good lighting – but with large sheets it is still tough. Can’t wait try it.

    • Gary Katz

      I agree, Brian. I’ve got the same problem and even have a task light in the ceiling right above my saw. Large sheets are especially frustrating because I’m much farther away. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s because I see out of only one eye. Maybe it’s just a ‘little bit’ tough to see in the first place. But I’m sure it has nothing to do with being anal. (boy I hate that word…)

  5. Jesse Wright

    Great Idea! I could see how that would be helpful. However I dont take full sheets down with a table saw anymore. I use a Track saw for that. Its much more accurate for me as well as making it a one man job. But I will still rip 24in wide material. Great thinking and nice mod for the table saw.
    Thank you

  6. Skip Van Wyck

    Hey, Gary; Anal isn’t P.C. anymore, according to my corporate friends. Now it’s ” process oriented “. Hope that solves a dilemma for all. Works for me, as we say.

  7. Roger Buggle

    Sticking to the issue at hand! There’s always room for improvement in any work shop. Whether we’re a professional, or a do-it-yourselfer, every advantage for safety and accuracy is a plus. Any organization that’s an onlooker can’t argue with that one.

    Bill is a thinker! Give credit where credit is due. Good job Bill

  8. Dean M

    One thing that the mirror does is double the space between the material and the fence…optically that is. And it would make it much easier to see…at least to my old eyes…

  9. Jim Seybert

    Great idea, but I hope the mirror is made from tempered glass. The idea of small glass shards flying in all directions after a hardwood kickback is not a pleasant one.

  10. JeffB

    Neat idea. However, the table saw (unless it is a European style with a sliding table) is not the right tool for ripping large sheet goods. Buy a track based circular saw (like a Festool TS55) and avoid the entire process of lugging large sheets good around.

  11. Macon

    The “mirror” should be made of one of the plastics – plexi, lexan, or something along those lines. That eliminates any safety concerns regarding the “glass”.

    Another solution: Install something like the “Board Buddies” or the JessEm Clear Cut Stock Guides. The Board Buddies are very reasonably priced. The JessEm Guides, on the other hand, will require written approval from your spouse.


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