The essential guide to using your tablesaw safely

All the pro tricks and tips to set up your tablesaw for maximum safety

By Scott Hood


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The tablesaw is the biggest threat for a woodworker because it’s the tool that sees the most action in a home workshop. It would seem logical that a multi-tooth blade spinning at more than 8,000 rpm should command a level of respect and caution; however, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, of the 720,000 injuries in Canada associated with woodworking each year, 42 per cent happened at the tablesaw. Five per cent of these patients required hospitalization. This figure is 15 times the number of incidents associated with radial-arm saws or routers.

Getting ready to go

The first consideration when working with a tablesaw is to ensure that there is sufficient space to work in. The floor must be clear of all debris and clutter. According to the National Safety Council, there should be at least 3′ of clear, open space on the side of the saw where you feed the stock into the blade. There should also be enough space on the outfeed side of the saw to accept the length and width of the stock being cut.

Once there is sufficient space, the problem of ripping lumber needs to be addressed. The major problem you face when ripping a long board is that it falls off the outfeed side of the table. As the board goes, there is a tendency to reach over the blade to catch the lumber. Prevent this situation by using either an outfeed table or rollers. By setting the table or rollers to the height of the saw’s table, the ripped lumber will not fall and there is no temptation to reach over the blade.

On guard for you

Most of the dangers connected to tablesaw operation can be eliminated by using a guard that completely covers the blade and also floats to accommodate stock thickness. A properly functioning guard will rise above the stock when it is being cut while covering the teeth that are coming up through the lumber. It should also be designed to cover the blade when the blade is tilted. The guard not only reduces the chance of you placing your fingers in harm’s way; it also reduces the possibility of kickbacks and prevents thrown objects or flying blade fragments from striking you.

Most saw guards are made up of three parts: a cover over the moving blade, a splitter behind the blade and anti-kickback pawls beside the splitter.

The plastic cover keeps your fingers away from the moving blade. The splitter maintains the kerf width, which prevents the wood from pinching the blade and ejecting back toward you. This sudden ejection is known as kickback.

The anti-kickback pawls on the guard have small, sharp teeth that are designed to grab the board and prevent it from shooting back out of the saw and striking you in the chest or abdomen. A piece of wood ejected from a tablesaw travels with a great deal of force over a long distance. A 2″ x 2″ x 16″ scrap has enough force to pierce a fibreglass garage door situated about 20′ from the saw.



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Mar. 10, 2012

6:49 pm

Hi Scott,

you have an excellent collection of Table Saw facts for us all in this article. Experienced or new to woodworking we all have to keep these basics front and center anytime we use this wonderful piece if equipment. So thank you for all of this.

I have one issue that you may be able to help me and other wood workers with and that is dust collection for our saws. Are there any resources in the form of plans to enable us to enclose our table saws as much as is possible and allow a vacuum hook up for efficient dust collection using a good size shop vac ? I realize the immediate problems and issues with this request but this issue is very important in any shop and there is little info readily available.

A simple plan for the major table saws utilized in many small shops would go a country mile. I have a Delta 10" Contractor saw for example and I had to develop my own enclosure which was no biggie but some insight from the Pros on how to tackle this issue would be greatly appreciated.



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