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Tablesaw Safety

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Checklist to follow before sawing

Checklist to follow before sawing

Of the 720,000 inuries per year associated with woodworking, 42 percent happen at the tablesaw. Yet common sense, proven practices and tried techniques will keep you from harm's way.

That tablesaws rank high as the cause of many woodworking accidents shouldn't be surprising. What woodworker doesn't have one? And it's probably the most frequently used power tool in the shop. Because of that use, it'll pay you healthy dividends to always be on guard around this indispensable machine.

A multi-toothed blade whirling at 8,000 rpm should spur a sense of caution and respect. It shouldn't instill fear. Armed with the advice, rules, and techniques you'll find here, you'll have the confidence to get the best out of your tablesaw, and safely, too.

Begin a habit-forming checklist to follow before sawing California Polytechnic Institute has developed a Code of Safe Practice for a number of woodworking machines as a guide for operators and supervisors in the industry. We've added to it, and suggest you always follow the checklist before doing any cutting with your tablesaw in the shop.


  • Remove from the saw table all scrap materials, tools, fasteners, and other debris. Also clear a 2' perimeter all around the saw (more where you'll stand if ripping long stock).
  • Use the blade that best suits the job (never a crosscut blade for ripping or vice versa), and make sure it's sharp. Check the arbor nut for tightness and the blade itself for chipped teeth, cracks, and other defects. Do all of this with the machine unplugged.
  • Set the blade height. Flat-ground blades should extend no more than 1/4" above the wood. Hollow-ground or planer blades must be raised as high as possible to avoid binding.
  • Inspect all of your saw's safety devices (the blade guard, splitter, and anti-kickback device, if present) for proper operation. The blade guard must move up and down freely to accommodate different wood thicknesses.
  • Double-check the location and condition of the on/off switch.
  • Realign the electrical cord to avoid tripping over it.
  • Set the fence to align parallel to the blade at the width of the cut.
  • Have safety glasses ready to wear, or if cutting material that tends to chip, a full-face shield.

    Because a tablesaw gets so much use in woodworking, turning it on to make a cut becomes as automatic as flipping on a light switch. But it shouldn't. Ponder this advice:
  • Never run your tablesaw when you're tired. Fatigue leads to errors in judgment and mistakes. In fact, studies have shown that many serious tablesaw injuries occur to woodworkers when most other people are getting ready for a good night's sleep. Also, stay away from the saw if you're on medication or have been drinking alcohol.
  • Don't rush. Plan all your cuts.
  • When ripping stock, always anticipate the possibility of kickback. Plan to minimize any damage from it to you or the workpiece. For instance, don't stand directly in line with the blade, but off to the side of it. To make sure your pushing hand won't accidentally run into the blade, hook the small and ring fingers of the your pushing hand over the fence to slide with the wood.
  • If you're planning to rip boards longer than 3', get a helper to support the wood after it passes through the blade, or use an off-feed table or roller.
  • All cuts should incorporate either the fence or the miter gauge. Never attempt freehand sawing. Turning the stock on the blade even slightly causes it to bind in the wood and kick back. On the other hand, never use the fence and miter gauge together. If you try to crosscut with the miter gauge using the fence as a stop, for example, the cutoff piece trapped by the blade may fly back at you.
  • Don't remove the blade guard from your saw unless absolutely necessary to make a specific cut.
  • Make sure you have a pushstick handy for any cuts that require your hand to pass within 6" of the blade. See designs on the next page in part 2 for two tried-and-true pushsticks you can make easily.
  • If you have doubts about making a cut, don't do it.

Continued on page 2:  Get in position to saw

 

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Comments (17)
8366201209
ryobi3100 wrote:

Also anytime your cut blows a breaker remove the piece and SHUT OFF THE TSAW B4 resetting the breaker. About ten years ago I was shorting barstool turned legs when brkr blew - went to reset brkr in house returned to find my leg on other side of garage and it looked like a first time lathe user had approached it with a dull chisel. SHUT OFF ALL Machinery B4 resetting breakers.

3/10/2011 03:16:07 PM Report Abuse
1973tr6 wrote:

Maybe it's just me, but I think that anybody stupid enough\careless enough to operate a ts in the manner this dude did deserves an injury. There are already too many laws on the books, we don't need any more. It is up to me to make sure that I operate all my power tools in a safe manner. In 30+ years of woodworking I have never had an injury. I have had a kick-back or two, but they were due entirely to my carelessness, and it hasn't happened in a LONG time. Were these jurors on OJ's jury?

7/2/2010 07:03:47 AM Report Abuse
r.sims wrote:

RS Plan every cut , never be in a hurry, I never take my eyes off the blade until it has come to a complete stop.

5/6/2010 09:03:15 PM Report Abuse
Roffy wrote:

To add to the list, I recommend never using a TS when you're alone. G-d forbid you do have an accident, you'll want somebody to assist you with the wound and get you to the hospital

4/19/2010 03:21:00 PM Report Abuse
wa123lb wrote:

Som 25 years or so ago I made the mistake of trying to make a cross cut using the miter gauge and the rip fence. The cut off piece did not kick back at me, but instead twisted a bit between the fence and the saw blade. The result was a bent rip fence that had about 1/32" curve and a ruined blade. Needless to say, when I am making repetitive cuts such as this, I use a 2" thick block clamped to my rip fence.

4/18/2010 01:25:04 PM Report Abuse
gibb1622910 wrote:

Never adjust your fence when the saw is running, especially when you intend to move the fence closer to the blade-i.e., to make a narrower cut.

4/16/2010 07:32:52 PM Report Abuse
bugs moran wrote:

never use your rip fence for crosscutting, if you do use a stopblock attached to the fence. bugsmoran

4/16/2010 09:32:39 AM Report Abuse
Joe G. wrote:

Shut the saw off between cuts. I was making repetative rips and was pulling the stock back to make the next rip. I turned at the shoulder and put my hand into the blade; lost my left index finger (ONE KNUCKLE). NOW I SHUT IT OFF BETWEEN RIPS AND ALWAYS TAKE A STEP BACK BEFORE ANY TURNING.

4/16/2010 07:12:50 AM Report Abuse
amainewoodchuck wrote:

Really simple. Don't stick anything you don't want cut off near the blade. I've been using table saws for 30+ years...I still have all of my fingers by following that simple rule. Also, in all that time of cutting I have had exactly 2 non-event kickbacks. Why? Because I treat every cut like it's likely to kickback and take the neccesary precaustions. People get hurt with saws because of tiredness, over-confidence and stupidity. Period.

4/15/2010 04:52:50 PM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

i use 2 push sticks and i lose one of them every little bit in the saw. so use the push sticks every time your hand is on the table top. rather tear up a push stick than my finger which i have done 2 times email address is bill2125@hotmail.com

4/15/2010 03:27:57 PM Report Abuse
woodhaug wrote:

Push sticks push sticks push sticks. Make several in size and thickness. I never cut without using one. I even use a rubber padded handle block to pull the cutoff when using my square. Never leave the cutoff near the blade while its running. 10 for 24 yrs.

4/15/2010 11:06:42 AM Report Abuse
kultsy wrote:

I also made a knee switch for my Jet TS. When making a partial cut this way I do not need to take hand off of item to turn off saw. W

4/15/2010 10:54:48 AM Report Abuse
usgrant1224610 wrote:

Never let your off hand come closer than three inches in front of the blade. Make a reminder mark on the table there :)

4/8/2010 11:34:33 PM Report Abuse
alanpigg wrote:

I use two push sticks when ripping. One to push the material through the saw and the other to keep it from rising up or binding. I have trouble using the blade guard. Alan Pigg

3/21/2010 04:41:56 PM Report Abuse
wfnickl wrote:

"Be absolutely sure that the blade never comes between your body and your hands, either front to back or side to side." How do you stand to the side to avoid kickback and not have a little of blade between body and hands (I am right handed..) Thanks wfnickl@hotmail.com

3/19/2010 10:27:23 AM Report Abuse
jrdecho wrote:

Clamp anti-kickback divices to hold both top and side of work when doing dado cuts on something like drawer slides, very few guards can protect you while doing dado cuts. Never pull any piece through from the back side of the blade.

3/19/2010 09:32:53 AM Report Abuse
meeks.gary wrote:

My comment being around machines all my life(Machinist)is have common sense, and respect for the machine you are running. From this I have a Bosch portable tablesaw, I added a Knee kill switch over the start switch without doing any modification to the tablesaw, hand free device. I beleive this one is one best safety feature.

3/18/2010 12:54:11 PM Report Abuse

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