Almost every woodworker has a table saw in his workspace. That and a few other reasons is the cause for the close to a million woodworking injuries per year. Almost half of those are caused by table saws. This is why it is important to always follow procedures and checklists before you start working. In this article I will go through some of the best table saw safety tips that will keep you and your fingers safe.
Working on a table saw requires your full attention. Before you get to the sawing, though, you have to go through a number of processes to ensure that everything will go smoothly once you start cutting. Always make sure that your table and workspace are clean of any debris or instruments. Wear your safety equipment and respect the power of the saw. Before you get to the point where everything is committed to memory, make a check-list that you go through every time you start working.
To memorize everything easier, it is best to separate safety procedures in two groups:
- Checklist before sawing
- Safety procedures during the sawing
Before You Start Sawing
Before you make your first cut you need to clean all the scrap material laying around on top of your table saw. That also includes fasteners, tools or other items that don’t belong there. Make sure you leave a couple of inches of clearance around the blade as well.
Always use the most suitable blade for the job. That means to never use a ripping blade for crosscutting or the other way around. Another very important thing is to always remember to check your blade’s sharpness. A dull blade will ruin your day in more than one way. Also check for cracks, chipped teeth or other types of defects on the blade.
Check the arbor nut and adjust its tightness if it isn’t right. Make sure to do all those things while the machine isn’t plugged in.
When it comes to setting up the blade, make sure that its height is appropriate. Different saws have different height requirements, so it is always best to know at what height you have to be cutting.
Flat ground blades usually show a quarter of an inch above your table while hollow ground (and planer) ones should be as high as possible to avoid unnecessary binding.
If you want to learn more about table saw maintenance, head over to my special article on the topic!
Even if you have the best table saw, you still can’t truly trust it when it comes to its safety mechanisms. Check everything before you start working. That includes the splitter, the blade guard, and the anti-kickback mechanism if there is one on your saw. Make sure that the guard moves freely in order for it to fit all sorts of thicknesses while you are sawing.
You also need to inspect the on and off switch of the table saw and see where the cord is and realign it if necessary. Tripping over it while working is something you should avoid.
In order to keep your body safe, you will need to protect it from potential damage. That includes wearing adequate clothes and most importantly – have your safety glasses ready. If you are working on a type of wood that chips away easily, make sure you bring a face shield.
Always plan your cuts. And by always I really mean it. Never make a cut that hasn’t been thoroughly thought out or planned. That will protect you from surprising results during the actual cutting.
When you are ripping stock make sure to anticipate that kickback, because it will most likely come. Try to plan ahead and see if you can minimize the potential damage that the kickback will cause. One good advice is to never stand in direct line with the blade when doing that.
When pushing, stick your small and ring fingers over the cutting fence to avoid accidentally running your hand into the blade.
If you are going to work on longer boards go fetch someone to help you out and hold the board after it goes through the blade.
Never Attempt Freehand Sawing
It goes without saying that you should always use the miter gauge or fence if your cuter has one. Even if you slightly turn the stock of your blade, you will get a kickback. Still, you should never use those two things together (the miter gauge and the fence).
Never Remove The Blade Guard
Never remove the blade guard of your blade unless it is really necessary to make that cut and there is no way around it.
If your hand is going to come closer than 6 inches to the blade, you absolutely have to use a push stick.
Lastly, there is one final advice I want to give, before we move to the actual sawing – if you doubt a cut, never do it, as simple as that.
One excellent table saw model that has good safety features is the Dewalt DW744X. Click here if you want to check my full review about it.
Safety Procedures While You Are Using The Table Saw
When cutting, make sure you distribute your weight evenly between your feet. The last thing you want is running into the blade if your table gives.
Never let the blade stand between your hands and your body. It should always be to either one of your sides.
While you are sawing, never reach over the blade. If you have to come close to the blade, use a push stick, as I mentioned earlier.
Most of the accidents happen during repetitive jobs. If you have to make many similar cuts, take regular breaks and make sure that you are well aware of what you are doing.
Always let the blade stop rotating by itself. Never push anything against it to stop it from turning. Once you are done sawing, switch off your table saw and push the blade back below the table level.
Word Of Caution
Working on a table saw becomes a very common task for an experienced woodworker. Because of that reason, turning it on or off becomes as typical as flipping the light switch. It shouldn’t be that way. Because of that very reason, many people get into easily avoidable accidents.
Never work when you are tired, as this can lead to faulty judgement and potential cutting mistakes. It goes without saying that you should avoid working if you are using certain medications or have been drinking. As I earlier said, never rush anything. Take your time, plan ahead, and plan well.
Should you wear gloves when using a table saw?
One of the things that you absolutely should not do is wearing gloves while working on a saw. Gloves take away the feeling of your hands and you might misjudge a situation based on the wrong perceptions your hands give back to you.
How high should a table saw blade be?
It really depends on who you are asking. Some woodworkers say that the saw shouldn’t be more than an eighth of an inch above the cutting surface. Others think that the blade should be as height as the bottom of its gullet, which is the spacing between the blade’s teeth. In my opinion, it is all about the rake angle, although some heights do help with kickback more than others in specific scenarios. That varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, though, so make sure you check that user’s manual when you get a brand new saw.
What Can Table Saws Do?
Table saws are an essential part of every woodworking shop. They can perform various tasks such as crosscutting stock to length, ripping boards, sawing miters, box joints, bevels, dadoes, and others type of joints.
Are more teeth on a saw blade better?
If you want to achieve finer cuts, then you will most likely enjoy the results of a crosscut blade. That is because it has less spacing between its teeth and there are more teeth to work with on its blade. You will have to get used to a slower feed rate, though.
Before you get started with table saws, you will need to familiarize yourself with the table saw safety tips every woodworker has committed to memory. To do so, my best advice is to create a checklist that you will follow every time you even think about using the table saw. That will greatly improve your chances of not sustaining a serious injury in the course of time. And remember to never, ever work when tired!