Cove Cutting on the Table Saw


Recently during a project there was an opportunity to learn how to cut coves on the table saw and not having any experience with coves I wanted to take the time to learn. Jay Bates and I was working on a dart board cabinet that has a top and bottom panel with a cove cut into three sides of each one. It turned out to be a pretty simple job, but I still want to share with you what I learned. Be sure to watch the video above.

cove profile

Milling the boards

Before we can start cutting coves we need to cut the top and bottom of the overall cabinet to size. To get the correct length and depth of these pieces we connect the cabinets with the front arched rail and the back support rails. We know what our overhang is going to be, so we position the cabinets in place, measure for the overhang and make the necessary marks for reference.

making reference marks

Since both, the top and bottom, are the same size we cut one to the correct length and width then transfer those measurements to the other. To get to the correct width we first joint one edge at the jointer and then rip it at the table saw with the jointed edge against the fence.

Jointing a board

The next cut is at the miter saw to square up one end and then cut the other end to the final length. With both top and bottom cut to the final measurements we can now setup for the coves.

miter saw cut

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Setting up the table saw

Having no experience with cutting coves, Jay helped me with the process of setting up the table saw. The first thing we did was find a board we could use as a sacrificial fence because we would be raising the blade up and into the board incrementally as we cut the coves. To make sure our fence was nice and straight we jointed one edge at the jointer. One important note here is that the sacrificial fence needs to be long enough to camp down so it doesn’t move while your cutting the coves. The last thing you want is for the fence to move and cause kickback.

sacrificial fence

Setting up the angle depends on the rise and run of the cove you want. As the first step in this setup, raise the blade to the desired rise of the cove. For the run you’ll need to determine the center line of the blade, the location of the arbor, and strike a line across the center (directly on your table saw). Next, you’ll want to find the location of where the blade will start to make contact and strike a line there as well. Now, you have two lines on your table saw.

setup marks on the table saw

Next lay the board that you’ll use for your sacrificial fence on an angle over the blade. Intersect the middle line with the edge of your fence. For the other line where the starting cut location is, measure the distance of the run you want from the fence to the opposite side of the blade.

When you have the angle you’re looking for clamp the fence down and make some test cuts remembering to raise the blade one eighth of an inch after each pass until you reach the full rise.

cove test cut

Cutting the cove

To begin with, we wanted a half inch rise and a run of three quarters of an inch. To make sure the cove was correct we ran a test piece the entire rise and found that we actually wanted more of a run. To adjust for this we simply angled the fence away from the front of the blade.

As a note, keeping the same angle and moving the fence closer to the front of the blade will result in more of a flat area towards the back edge of the cove whereas moving the fence and keeping the same angle you will have more of a flat area towards the front of the cove.

After using test pieces to find the desired run we could start cutting our coves on the project pieces. Now it was a matter of passing the boards over the blade as we raised it one eighth of an inch after each pass.

completed coves

Finishing the cove

Finishing the coves required a little bit of sanding, which wasn’t too bad. As we ran the boards over the blade during the cutting process, we experienced some fuzz in the cove. To get this smooth we sanded it down with sand paper starting with 60 grit working down to 320 grit. We were also careful not to disturb the contour of the cove and to also keep the edges nice and straight.

What did I learn?

I learned a lot in this part of the project. Actually cutting the coves was the easy part. The setup involved with the table saw, sacrificial fence and angles was the hardest part. So, a couple of things I can file away for future projects concerning coves would be… find the center of the blade and strike a line, find the point of contact (blade to wood) and strike a line, then find the distance between the fence and the opposite side of the blade to create the run. Also, mark the max rise on the board and don’t exceed that height. Always clamp the cove fence down securely.

“If you never try anything new, you’ll always limit yourself.” -S.S.


Project Plans

See our project plans:

Tools Used In This Project

(*the projects mentioned in this article can be built with limited tools)

Shop Attire:

• Shop apron/vest, Atlas 46:

• Hats/shirts:

Power Tools:

• Table saw, SawStop:

• Miter saw, Rigid:

Measuring, Marking and Layout:

• Lefty/Righty 16′ tape measure, FastCap:

• Combo square, Stanley:


• Safety glasses, 3M:

• Fire extinguisher:

• First aid kit:

Video Equipment and Electronics:

• DSLR camera and mic, Canon/Rode:

• Camera battery pack, Canon:

• Wireless mic, Rode:

• Mic wind muff:

• Tripod, Manfrotto:

• Mic for voiceover, Snowball:

• Backpack for laptop (modified for camera):

• Memory card, 64gb:

• Memory card waterproof case:

• Laptop, MacBook:

• Network Attached Storage, 6TB:

Other tools I use


*Most of the links listed above are Amazon Affiliate links

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