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Splitter or riving knife–what’s the difference?


I’m preparing to purchase a tablesaw and have been researching the features of different models. What’s the difference between a riving knife and a splitter?
—Jamie Handel, Chesterfield, Va.


The goals of a riving knife, shown above, and a splitter, below, are the same, Jamie. Both sit behind the blade to prevent the two sides of a cut piece of wood from pinching or rotating into the blade. This, in turn, prevents the workpiece from kicking back at the operator.

However, a splitter typically doesn’t change height, while a riving knife raises and lowers with the blade. Also, the top of a true riving knife stands just lower than the top of the blade, so it doesn’t have to be removed for most non-through cuts such as dadoes, grooves, and rabbets.

Every tablesaw comes with a splitter (it holds up the blade guard), and you can add an aftermarket splitter, such as the one shown bottom, without a guard. Soon, riving knives will be just as common because Underwriters Laboratories (UL) made them a UL-listing requirement for new tablesaw models introduced since January 2008. Existing tablesaw models are grandfathered in until 2014, when they, too, will need riving knives for UL listing.

Some splitters feature anti-kickback pawls for an added measure of safety.

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