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Blade guard on or off

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  • Blade guard on or off

    Ok. I might be opening myself up for some ridicule here but I just noticed this weekend that I cant cut pieces thinner than 1" high on my TS (Dewalt - sorry Ridgid) without removing the blade guard.

    I have always heard the line that "most people just remove the guards anyway" and I guess this is a perfect example. Would I be using the saw for something it isnt meant to do if I do this? I think not but I wanted to see what the consensus was on this first.


  • #2
    You lost me with "thinner than 1 inch high".

    Do you mean with the fence set less than 1" from the blade, or do you mean that the stock is less than 1" thick? If you are less than an inch from the blade, you're making a dangerous, very difficult to control cut that I would urge you cut with a different method (happy to help with one if you don't know any).

    If less than one inch thick, I don't understand what the problem could be.

    Though I'm an American woodworker, I subscribe to the rule of thumb used in Europe that says, if you have to remove a machine's safety equipment for an operation you are using the wrong machine. My saw's guard is on all the time.



    • #3

      I meant that the piece is less than 1" thick. There is a little stop on the blade guard on my TS that prevents cuts less than 1" high (lowering the blade below 1"). Not sure what to do then if I have to keep the blade guard on.

      I'm trying to make an L shaped groove in the edgoe of say a 1 x 4. Picture looking at the side of the stock. I want to cut in on the 4" side by 1" and up about 1 to 2/8".

      See if this diagram comes through:


      I tried the advice in an earlier post to use a router and clamp several pieces together but the router jumped around a lot. Maybe a router table would work but I dont have one. How about a dado blade?

      This seems like a simple project when I started it but I dont want to screw around with the wrong application for these tools. I like having 10 fingers.


      • #4
        So, you aren't cutting all the way through, but rather rabbeting? There isn't an American style blade guard built that will accomodate this, unfortunately (this is why I don't use an American style blade guard ).

        This cut can be made in reasonable safety without the blade guard, using featherboards on both the table and fence, and a good-sized pushblock (like a jointer uses, or larger).

        Set up the featherboards, and test run through the entire cut with the blade lowered all the way. Through the whole sequence, ask yourself what will happen to your hands if the wood just disappeared. If the answer is "contact the blade", you have a problem that needs to be fixed. This is a sequence I use any time I make an unusual cut.

        If you have any questions about the setup, please ask. [img]smile.gif[/img]



        • #5
          That sounds like good advice. I havent made featherboards yet. Do you make your own? Any suggestions on how to make them. Regarding passing the wood through, I was thinking I would use a push stick rather than my hands. Isnt that the safest way? What about using a dado blade? Same setup? Sorry for the novice like questions but I dont want to make any foolish mistakes. No room for error right? I originally thought that a rabbet bit would do the job but they dont make them this large.

          Any help you can provide would be appreciated.


          • #6
            OH Boy, I'm gonna open a can of *#!* now. Growing up and using my dads saw there was no such things as a guard. When I bought mine almost 20 years ago it came with a blade guard that caused about as much trouble as it maybe did good. Or maybe it was me not being used to the guard, either way I took it off and it's never been back on. I still have all my body parts and other than the time I had a blade out of balance that provided a nice kick back into the ol chest I have never had any other problems. I grew up knowing that the blade could be unforgiving on body parts and to this day I never forget that. I have the utmost respect for my saw and all the moving parts so the number one rule is being very careful, number two is to always pay attention to what I'm doing, and always think about where the ol hand could end up should something go wrong. Dave has some great advice about feather boards and push blocks, and I'll add a good push stick or two to the list. So with that said, I'm not telling you to get rid of the guard I'm just saying if you need to remove it temporarily, by using good sense, lots of care, and a few saw aides you'll get your job done and still have all ten fingers.
            By the way the chest was only black and blue for awhile, no damage other than my pride, and I was a little saw shy for awhile. I kept standing to one side of the saw when I was cutting, I gotta tell you it's really hard to keep things going through straight when standing to one side. GOOD LUCK.
            It\'s not the quantity or quality of your tools that matters....<br />It\'s all in the firewood that\'s left over.....


            • #7
              No need to apologize for "novice" questions. No one is born knowing how to operate a tablesaw safely.

              I have some storebought featherboards, and some shopmade. The ones I make, frankly, are better than I can buy. But, in my opinion, you need either a bandsaw or a fair amount of patience with hand saw to safely make a featherboard. Doing it on a tablesaw, which would require either standing the work on end or withdrawing a partially cut piece, is unacceptably risky to me. So, if you can't make them safely, you're kind of stuck buying them. I would feel a true idiot hurting myself making something to keep from hurting myself, wouldn't you?

              I'm a fan of pushblocks over pushsticks. One day I'll get a picture of one of mine on-line. My favorite is made primarily of a 2x4, 24 inches long (yup, two feet). Atop that, I have mounted a handle shaped like the handle on my favorite hand saw. What this give me is a device that...
              a)will not allow my hand to contact the blade, period, because the lowest part of the handle is higher than the blade reaches.
              b)will carry my hand with it, should the stock somehow kick back, because my hand is completely enclosed in the handle.
              c)is extremely stable, due to the huge amount of area on the stock.

              I'd say a dado blade would do a fine job with your task. If you haven't used them before, be prepared for a fair amount more resistance than with a single blade.

              I'm not going to hassle DCH about not using a guard, everyone's choice is their own. I would never, however, recommend not using guards.



              • #8
                Another thing to remember is that the guard also contains some additional safety features other than the guard itself. The anti-kickback palls (sp?) and the splitter itself are extremely important to safety.

                I'm not trying to knock other manufacturers here, but one thing I don't understand is why the guards on some table saws are so hard to get off? There are cuts on a saw with which you cannot make with the guard on the saw. Why not make it easier to remove and reattach the guard so that a user will do just that, reattach the guard.



                • #9
                  Thanks Jake, Dave and DCH. I'm a bit reluctant to take the guard off being that I'm not a seasoned woodworker. I'd prefer to have all the safety in my favor. I'm going to make one of those push blocks though. I had a friend that had a push stick kickback on him and it drove it well into his forearm. Probably a rare situation but ouch.

                  I never would have thought that a simple cut like this would require so much attention.


                  • #10
                    I would also say that you should use the blade guard at all times. Hey, doctors can sew a lot of body parts on but sometimes, the damage is just too much. Why take the chance?

                    Look into other types of push blocks/hold downs as well. I've seen designs (that I still want to make myself but haven't had time) that make cutting small pieces a lot safer. One push block/hold down that I've seen that I particularly like is one that straddles the fences. So if it does slip/kick back, the fence will keep it (and your hand) from moving forward into the blade.

                    Check out this book for new guys to table saws:

                    "The Table Saw Book" by Richard J. de Cristoforo, ISBN 0830627898. It is $17.46 at It is a great book for people getting started with a table saw and shows a number of different push block/hold down ideas such as the one that straddles the fence.

                    And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS wear proper eye protection. Eyes are one thing that docs can't put back yet.


                    • #11
                      George, your comment about the capabilities of finger reattachment reminds me of something I read a little while ago.

                      It was on another forum, and one of the members severed some fingers on the tablesaw (I don't rightly remember how many, I think it was two). He was kind enough to list the cost of the successful reattachment surgery.

                      Surgery and post-surgical care ran $75,000. He was insured, so his out-of-pocket expense was "only" $15,000. He said his use of his hand was severely limited for nine months, and he was unable to use his shop for over a year.

                      Heck of a cost. Something I thought about when I shelled out four hundred for an overarm guard.



                      • #12
                        The question was asked about a dato blade, and I think that's the best way to go. You need to attach a straight piece of scrap wood to your fence first. Set your dato blade to cut just a little over the width that you want cut on the wood. Lower your dato blade below table level, slide the wood portion of the fence over the dato blade slightly, then clamp down the fence. Start the saw, and slowly raise the dato blade into the wood portion of the fence (not the metal portion!!!)
                        Once this relief is cut into the wood fence, adjust the fence back and forth so the dato blade will cut the exact width you need in your stock. The extra width of the dato blade will be in the relief portion you just cut.
                        Use large push blocks and featherboards, as mentioned, along with a lot of caution and common sense, and you should be fine.
                        P.S.- If possible, stand slightly off to the side of the blade.