How to Use a Table Saw Safely for Beginners
Did you know that table saws are the most dangerous home power tool? That’s right.
Table saws are considered more deadly than nail guns, chainsaws, and circular saws. This is mainly because there are more of these machines in schools, workshops, and workplaces than any other kind.
Table saws are powerful tools that can cause catastrophic injuries if used incorrectly. Table saw accidents account for somewhere in the neighborhood of 67,000 recorded injuries every year.
So how concerned should you be about using a table saw?
The majority of injuries within the woodworking industry caused by table saws are caused by kickback whilst cutting.
Kickback is the term for wood that suddenly and without warning is propelled back towards the operator at a high rate of speed.
The two main causes of injury from kickback are trauma from the wood striking the head, chest, or torso of the woodworker, or the wood moving so quickly that an operator doesn’t have time to take their hand off of it and it gets pulled across the saw blade.
- As wood is set against the fence and pushed across the table saw into the blade, it can begin to lose pressure against the fence.
- As it drifts away from the fence, the wood gets caught on the backside of the saw and is quickly jerked in the direction the blade is turning (towards you).
Other forms of kick-back are caused when the cutting guide or fence is not absolutely parallel with the cutting blade and is skewed at an angle towards the blade itself.
In this case, the material you are pushing through to cut would be forced into the side of the blade by the fence causing not only binding but friction that could also damage the material itself.
How Can I Keep Myself Safe When Using a Table Saw?
Startling table saw workplace injury statistics to consider before powering up your saw for your next woodworking project:
- Lacerations are the most common injury, around 4,000 accidents with table saws involve amputations as a result of direct contact with the rotating blade of table saws.
- The medical costs for treating table saw injuries have been estimated at more than a whopping $2.1 billion every year.
- Annually thousands of people sustain injuries to fingers and hands, but other parts of the body are prone to injury from objects flying from the rapidly spinning blade as well.
- A table saw with a 10-inch blade spins at about 4000 rpm and the outside edge of the blade spins at about 108 mph.
Note, the sheer devastation of these injuries is easy to imagine since the blade can make a cut about every 370 microseconds.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down
It’s important to always use the safety equipment that comes with your table saw which can include a riving knife and blade guard.
If your saw doesn’t have a riving knife, install one before using it.
Respect your table saw and its power, because if you don’t, it can give you an unpleasant very unpleasant reminder of how fast that blade is moving in the form of a nasty bit of kickback.
Before you begin…
Before you dive straight in and start making cuts with your new table saw, there are a few checks and safety precautions that you must consider.
Here are a few that you should think about:
Table Saw Safety Tips to Prevent Injury
- Always use the table saw blade guard whenever possible, and if you remove the blade guard to conduct a blade change, be sure to fit it again.
- Keep a splitter or riving knife in place whenever possible, to prevent the possibility of kickback occurring.
- Turn the table saw off and allow the blade to stop spinning completely before you pick up stock or scrap wood.
- Make sure you always unplug the saw whenever you’re conducting a changing the blade on your table saw.
- Keep the table saw blade clean and sharp and the table saw well-tuned, an annual maintenance is a must if you’re using your table saw regularly.
- Stand to one side of the saw blade when cutting; do not allow others to stand in direct line with the saw blade while the saw is operating.
- Always use a push stick when ripping wood on your saw. This tool keeps your fingers away from the blade and helps prevents the kickback of the wood.
- Clean up after yourself. Not only is it good shop etiquette, but having measuring tools or scrap wood vibrating around on the table or top of the fence while cutting is potentially dangerous.
Definitely Do Not:
- Never position your hands or fingers in the path of the table saw blade whenever the saw is plugged in.
- Do not use the fence and the miter gauge at the same time. This will likely cause the board to bend, jump, or kickback.
- Do not push the material into the fence too hard. It isn’t necessary and also spring loads the fence. You will not get an accurate cut and greatly increase the risk of the board jumping or a kickback.
- Do not use a table saw without push sticks and blocks. If it happens it is better than your fingers; that is why they are there. That said, if you are hitting them, you are not using the proper one or using it improperly. These also take material and time to make.
What Type of Cuts Can I Perform With a Table Saw?
There are three kinds of cuts that can be performed on a table saw a cross-cut, a ripping cut, and a dado cut.
A cross-cut is usually considered to be a cut across the grain, but really it can be any cut across the narrower direction of the board. A cross-cut is accomplished with the use of the miter gauge or the sled.
A ripping cut is a cut that goes down the length of the board. It is done with the fence set as a guide to the width you are wise to achieve.
A dado cut is a wide cut or trench that is most often used in joinery. It can be achieved using the miter gauge or fence, but there are special blades that will produce it more quickly and accurately.
The best thing you can do when learning how to safely use a table saw is to take your time and think about what you are doing. If you sense you are doing something dangerous, you probably are.
It’s crucial for your own safety and the safety of others that you respect your table saw, as she’s one powerful tool.
You should never have the board come in contact with both the ripping fence and the miter gauge at any time. Also, never put your fingers anywhere near the blade, always use a push device.
A table saw gives you many years of service and allows accurate cuts to be made. Many other tools cannot make the same claim.
Once you get the hang of it and treat the tool with the respect it deserves, you’ll be more than happy that you took the plunge and bought one.