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Table Saw Safety

It does not take much to work safely

by Lorenz Prem
published on March 19 2010 6:30 pm

"Before we get started let's take a moment to talk about shop safety..." you probably know where this one is from. Norm's right, you have to understand how to operate your power tools safely. Safety glasses and hearing protection are the basics of safety. On the table saw, however, they won't be enough.

Table saws have an exposed blade. Most injuries occur when hands or fingers touch the blade. You might think that it's easy enough to keep your hands away from the blade, but every person injured will tell you they thought it was easy too. Make sure to follow the following rules:

  • Whenever you take a cut, collect yourself beforehand. Concentrate on the cut and nothing else. You need to respect the saw. This is the most important rule. Don't hurry. Use your brain.
  • Don't expose the entire blade. Just use as much of it as you need to.
  • Never, ever remove waste lying next to the blade with the blade spinning. I know it is tempting to do. Just don't do it.
  • Always use push stick. Your hands should never get close the to blade. 10" is already getting too close for comfort. A lot of injuries are caused by hands being pushes or pulled into the blade. For example, the blade might slightly lift the board and move your hand, or something might distract you. When that happens your hands move where you don't want them to be. You'll recover soon enough, but if you were 2" from the blade to begin with, you'll hurt. Better use push sticks. They give you the margin you need to walk away when things go wrong.

The second most common source of injuries is kickback. Kickback occurs when a part of the work piece catches the blade. The blade then launches the work piece at the operator. Kickback has many sources, some of which you can easily avoid.

  • Make sure your fence is parallel to the blade. Otherwise the fence might push the work piece into the blade causing friction.
  • Use sharp blades. Dull ones can catch the work piece.
  • Don't push the work piece into the blade while your body is at an awkward angle. You might inadvertently cause the kickback yourself.
  • Stand on the correct side of the table saw. Kickback is more likely to occur between the fence and the blade. Don't stand in the flight path of the piece of wood being cut.

The table saw does not have to be a dangerous tool. If you think about what you are going to do before you use it, it will be easy to perform a safe cut. The blade guard that come with your saw are typically junk. Most woodworkers remove them.

I advocate replacing the guard with a ceiling mounted guard. Gordon Sampson built a nice example: DIT Overarm Balde Guard for the Table Saw. The ceiling mounted guard is by far the easiest guard to use, because it never gets in the way of things. Simple and convenient things get used. Do yourself a favor and look into getting an after market blade guard.

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."