Although power feeders are most commonly known to be used on shapers, running a feeder on a table saw is becoming more popular. We previously wrote an article about choosing the right power feeder for a shaper, so we decided to tackle power feeding on a table saw. This article is not only meant to help you figure out the ideal power feeder for your table saw, but to also detail the best practices of power feeding on a table saw.
What are your options? Assuming mid to heavy duty work, we won't focus on the small feeders but narrow down the rugged stock feeders capable of heavy-duty work. There are generally 2 types capable of the task:
1 horsepower AC motor feeders such as the AF38 3 Wheel Stock Feeder and the AF48 4 Wheel Stock Feeder
DC Brushless Motor Feeders such as the DC30 and DC40
Questions to Ask Yourself
Where should I mount a feeder on my table saw? You want to make sure that the feeder is mounted in an area where it is out of the way and doesn't limit what you can do on your saw. The area required for mounting the base of the stand is roughly 7" x 7". For some table saws and many combination machines, you may want to consider a tilt-away bracket that goes on the side of your machine. When you don't need the feeder, you can simply tilt it down and out of the way. Standard feeder arms are 28" long and have a 19" reach from where the base is mounted to the inside of the feeder head. If more length is required, you can get a longer 42" arm with a 30" reach or upgrade the stand altogether to a smart stand which already includes the longer arm.
How should I position the feeder in relation to the blade? The Co-Matic 3 and 4 wheel DC Series and Wegoma Feeders (Made by Co-Matic) are compatible with 1" wide rollers as well as the 2.36" wide rollers that are included, so you can have the wheel layout modified without having to leave a spindle wheel-less. This means you can straddle the saw blade with two thin rollers (1/4" gap) on the center spindle(s) or equip one or two spindles with one thin roller on the inside or outside to ensure constant contact throughout the feeding process. Some users also place one thin roller on each of the center spindles (if 4 wheel) and center the first and last roller with the standard wider rollers so contact is made on both sides of the blade with the larger rollers.
This feature is one of the main reasons the DC Series Feeders are very popular with table saw applications. Without the modifiable wheel layout, the feeder would be placed on one side of the blade, requiring a push stick to push the piece (not in contact with the feed roller) out from the blade after running through the feeder. *For dados, the modifiable wheel layout has no advantage.
What type of wood will I be feeding? Most feeders come standard with 60 durometer rubber rollers which usually work fine for softwoods; however, hardwoods and laminated work pieces are slicker and may require rollers with better grip as you may experience slippage. Both the AC motor and DC Series feeders can be equipped with 50 or 55 durometer polyurethane rollers which have better grip to effectively feed slicker material such as hardwoods and laminates. Always make sure that you keep your table nice and slick regardless of your application as it will significantly reduce friction leading to a smoother feed and less wear on your feeder and saw.
How important is speed? The 1 horsepower AC motor feeders are typically available in 4 or 8 speed options (2 or 4 speeds per gear setting) with intermittent speeds ranging from 6.5 to 108 feet per minute (5 to 134 fpm with optional gear set on 8 speed model). The DC Series feeders are completely variable ranging from 5 to 70 fpm. If you need to run as fast as possible, the 1 horsepower AC motor feeders would be a better option (up to 134 fpm). Most applications don't call for speeds above 72 fpm, so if that is the case for you, the DC Series has the advantage when it comes to changing and dialing in speeds unless you plan on setting it at the same speed and rarely changing it.
In Summary It's very rare to go wrong with one of the 3 and 4 wheel heavy duty power feeders mentioned in this article as all are capable of doing heavy-duty work on a table saw. We recommend the 4 wheel feeders as they provide more hold down to help prevent any kickback but the 3 wheel feeders are commonly used on table saws as well. The DC Series does offer more convenience with the modifiable wheel layout in order to feed both sides of a workpiece through the blade while having variable speed capability. However, if you want to run parts through at the highest speed possible, the 1 horsepower AC motor feeders are your best options.