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Table saw safety review

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  • Table saw safety review

    Two Dozen Table Saw Safety Tips (and one)

    (the other day some one started a thread "do you use your table saw guard" and it appears to have been deleted, but the simple answer to the question is most do not, as so many of the operations that one does on a table saw the guard is not usable in making the cut, or makes the process more dangerous, but I thought reviewing some of the basic safety tips would be good,

    ONE of the most importation ones is USE PUSH STICKS any time your fingers need to be with in 6" MIN of the BLADE, have -plenty of sticks keep them with in reach when the saw is on, (IMO 2 sticks are not enough), keep a notch in them to grip the wood, have some push blocks as well,

    If you think of a zone of safety of 6" bubble around the blade and never let your fingers or hands enter that zone, some shops actually have a red area painted on the saw to keep one reminded, Guard or no guard your fingers should be safe,

    One that is not stated in the article below is the use of auxiliary table/support to help support the lumber being cut, when nessary. Either behind or out to the side, so many saws do not have adequate table behind the blade to help support the stock being cut, and if it is a long piece of stock it is nearly impossible to safety push the stock through the blade and keep it on the table as the weight leverage is working against you, USE AXILLARY TABLES/SUPPORTS TO SUPPORT THE WORK, when needed.

    From: Woodcraft

    Table saw safety is extremely important to woodworkers because most woodworkers who use power tools use table saws as their main shop tool. Add to that the power of the saws and the dangers it presents, and we quickly understand that lots of personal damage is possible. The table saw has been in use for many, many years, so most of the problems possible can be easily foreseen and avoided. The double dozen below should help you avoid most, if not all, problems.

    Do not wear gloves while operating a table saw.
    There are several reasons, but loss of tactile sense is probably foremost, while a possible loss of gripping power is also close to the top. And some kinds of gloves are loose enough to present an item for the rotating blade to grab.

    Keep the floor in front of the saw free of cut-offs and piled up sawdust.
    Tripping or sliding into a running, or even stopped, saw blade can really create problems, but even slipping and banging your head against the cast iron table can bring on a bad injury.

    Wear proper eye and hearing protection.
    Eyes need to be protected from damage by projectiles--and no, standard eyeglasses will not do the job. Hearing protection is something every woodworker should start with, and continue. Hearing loss creeps up on you without warning, and often without symptoms, until it's too late to reverse the procedure.

    Wear short sleeves, leave the ties at the office, and junk your dangling jewelry.
    Get rid of other loose fitting clothing while operating a table saw. Any of these items might get caught in the blade and yank you into it before you can react. Stand comfortably, with your feet far enough apart for good balance. This is always important, but more so when you're cutting stock long enough to require several steps towards the saw to keep the feed going. Then, you build up momentum and want to be able to stop easily. Wear footwear with non-slip soles.

    Stand comfortably, with your feet far enough apart for good balance.
    This is always important, but more so when you're cutting stock long enough to require several steps towards the saw to keep the feed going. Then, you build up momentum and want to be able to stop easily. Wear footwear with non-slip soles.

    Avoid any awkward operations.
    If you feel like a gawky fool doing a cut, then don't do the cut in that manner. This helps you avoid losing your balance and possibly falling into the blade or table.

    Use a push stick to cut stock that is 6" or less in width.
    A hand that isn't close to a blade isn't going to get cut. Generally, a 6” minimum distance to the blade is considered safe, though some recommend 4”. (added: Push sticks, feather boards, hold-downs, etc. must be used whenever an operation is performed that would require the operator's hands to pass within 6 inches of the saw blade. )

    Use a stop block when you crosscut short lengths.
    Mount a stop block on the fence--this can be as simple as a clamped on board that stops just before the saw blade, so that cut-off pieces cannot bind between blade and fence.

    Position your body so that it is NOT in line with the blade.
    This keeps sawdust feeding back through the slot of the blade out of your face, and much more important, it keeps you out of the line of most kick-backs.

    Never reach behind or over the blade unless it has stopped turning.
    Sometimes this looks safe. It almost never truly is. This does not mean you should stop pushing your work before it finishes passing through the blade, itself an invitation to kick back.

    Always disconnect the power before changing the blade or performing any other maintenance operation.
    I like to drape the plug over my fence rail so I know in an instant the saw's unplugged…or not.

    Make sure that the blade has stopped turning before you adjust the table saw.
    The reasons are obvious. Making adjustments can get hands too close to the blade, and even a slowly spinning blade has a multitude of sharp edges that can do damage.

    Always make sure that the blade is turning free before you turn on the power:
    this is especially helpful after you make changes or adjustments. In other words, spin the blade without power a time or two to make sure there are no scraps or tools touching it.

    Keep the tabletop smooth and polished.
    A dirty or rough table requires you to use more force to push the stock through the blade. It may also rust like crazy, further reducing the saw's effectiveness.

    Keep the rip fence parallel to the blade so stock doesn't bind on the blade and kick back.
    Some woodworkers prefer to keep the rear of the fence kicked out (away from the blade) by 1/64". I believe parallel is better, but a friend of mine, with more experience than I, keeps the back of his fence kicked out. Both work.

    Use zero clearance inserts.
    These reduce the chance of slender cuts dropping into the lower part of the blade and making the round trip to speed by your head. They also reduce splintering in cuts.

    Never operate a table saw with the throat insert removed.
    Wood that is fed into a gaping hole can drop down and get caught on the blade. That can't happen if the throat insert is in place.

    Do not make free-hand cuts on a table saw.
    Guide the stock through the blade using the rip fence or the miter gauge.

    Keep the blade guards, splitters and anti-kickback fingers in place and operating freely. Check the action of these items before starting work.

    Work should be released only when it is past the blade.
    Releasing work too early is an invitation to kickback as it is possible for the blade to grab the part that has not yet gone by.

    Whenever the stock is lifted or tilted above the surface of the table, the saw is able to shake the stock.
    If this happens, and you lose your grip, duck down and hit the stop button because losing your grip on the work means it probably is going to come back at you.

    Check stock before cutting.
    Look for nails, knots, screws, or stones. Such fun items may become projectiles. If they hit, they smart, and may cause serious injury as well. Also, damage to carbide tipped blades can be major, even if all it does is scare you.

    The fence and the miter gauge are not meant to be used together.
    Under some circumstances, you can use both (see above on stop blocks), but the fence then needs an auxiliary fence added. That fence or stop must end just before the saw blade.

    Don't mess with the fence adjustment when the saw is running.
    And a general addition, which goes for all tools and all techniques in a wood shop: if a procedure feels unsafe, it probably is, so don't use it. Find another way to do what has to be done.
    Last edited by BHD; 09-07-2006, 02:54 PM.
    Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
    "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
    attributed to Samuel Johnson
    PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.

  • #2
    What can i say BHD except excellent everyone should review this post even if you are a seasoned pro

    SAFE makes a HAPPY camper



    • #3
      thanks for the safety list

      It's amazing how often we hear of stupid accidents or accidents from being lazy or inattentive!

      one thing you forgot to mention:

      Leave the beer in the refrigerator until the job is done and always use common sense [although many have no clue what common sense is]

      Cactus Man


      • #4
        Thanks for the list, it's good to get a reminder every now and then.

        In my opinion, there are two major factors to power tool (and especially power circular saw tools (portable, table, CMS, RAS):

        1. Lack of familiarity with the tool.
        2. Being "comfortably" familier with the tool.

        The first of course is not being experienced or familiar with all the things that your post pointed out, the factors contributing to kick-backs, and the failure to knowledgeable about both the tool's functions and the processes needed to make a particular cut.

        The latter is stepping into the shop, knowing that you've been doing this a hundred times or more and today is simply no big deal!



        • #5
          I don't know if this would qualify as a safety tip. Raise the blade only as high as is needed to cut the stock. I have seen people raise the blade all the way to cut 3/4" stock.
          SSG, U.S. Army
          K.I.S.S., R.T.F.M.


          • #6
            Good post BHD.

            That was me that started the table saw guard thread, then asked Josh to delete because I got something messed up while posting. It was supposed to be a poll type thread and when creating the poll you need to specify beforehand what the max number of responses will be, and I entered less than the number I ended up needing for a couple questions. For some reason the Forum software would not let me delete the post, even though after reading the FAQ it certainly sounded like a regular user should be able to do so. Maybe this forum is not set to allow that action by regular users.

            Anyway, I have not got back to creating that post as yet. I am working on it off line refining my questions and answers, and hope to post it some day soon.
            "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006



            1/20/2017 - The Beginning of a new Error


            • #7
              I'd like to add one more factor to remember: fatigue.

              When I make a mistake -- cut short, or forget a step -- I ask myself "Am I tired?" If I make a second mistake or even suspect something's wrong, I quit for the day.

              Usually the sense of relief I feel tells me I should have quit a few minutes earlier. I've never talked to a handcraftsman who didn't recognize the importance of this. I don't know if you can teach it, though -- usually has to be learned the hard way.


              • #8
                Good post. I can honestly say that I do not feel right if the guard is not in place. Ive worked at 4 different cabinet shops over 16 years and the latest is the first one to insist on the guard. Others that I have been at have guards but they are not attached, until the insu co. comes around. At home though I admit I havent used my guard. I set up the saw quickly and had the guard in place until I made my first cut and found the guard wasnt inline with the blade. The guards we have at work "float" over the blade and are awesome. I cant stand splitters.

                I realized that maybe I am to used to the guard being in place. Those other shops I worked at we would do so many things against the safety rules, and back then I didnt have any problem doing them myself, freehanding, backing pieces into the blade are the biggest mistakes. I still use pushsticks only when the piece I am cutting is less than 1 1/2" but I make sure the guard is there and the rest of my hand is resting on the fence.

                ***WARNING GRAPHIC STORY BELOW***

                One time I worked at a place where the owners 80 year old dad would putz around at. One day he decided it was allright to freehand a piece of solid oak over the table saw. I didnt see it, but he lost the board and his left hand went right into the blade. He cut himself open between the index and the ring finger to the palm of his hand. THEN the guy shut off the saw, went over to another employee (who usually was in a daze) gave up on telling him and took off to the hospital BY HIMSELF. Another guy saw "Old Joe" run out of the shop but couldnt get to him before Old Joe jumped in his truck. 10 minutes later we got a call from the other guy saying that he was at the hospital with Old Joe. The town this accident happened in had major roads that were always crowded, somehow Old Joe kept himself calm enough to take all the shortcuts to the hospital. 2 weeks later Old Joe was back in the shop, beltsanding boards with his bandaged hand keeping pressure on the front of the sander while moving the sander with is good hand. We had asked the owner why he hasnt kicked Old Joe out yet (owner was a jerk, and wouldnt hesitate to knock anyone down) he just said that Old Joe lives for this shop. The owner then said that he has gone to the shop early on Sunday mornings and has found Old Joe up there working on his stuff.


                • #9

                  Thanks for the reminders. Sometimes we forget what our hobby can do to us if were not careful.
                  I'm going to make extra push sticks tommorow!
                  Everyone thinks there problems are more important than yours!


                  • #10
                    This is a good review for all of us, but particularly for me. Knock on wood (so to speak) the closest I've come to disaster is to have a chunk of wood drop into the space along side the blade at the insert and come flying back at me under the blade guard. Knicked me on the hand but no harm no foul. This thread reminded me that I need to make a zero clearance insert and quick!

                    So far I've not come across a cut that I couldn't figure out how to make with the blade guard in place. I make my demilitarized zone about 9 inches and use all kinds of featherboards and hold-downs. I agree that cutting long or wide stock is a major problem. I think a portable circular saw is the best way out of that problem (at least a preliminary rough cut).

                    I always count my fingers before I fire up the saw and again after I'm done. So far it's always added up to 10. Blind luck I gues.

                    Blind Bill
                    Last edited by blind bill; 10-18-2006, 11:48 PM.