I couldn’t help but cringe when the instructor demonstrated a few cuts on the tablesaw. He was operating the machine safely, by the numbers in fact. But, his fingers just seemed too close. What is it about that machine that makes me cringe? A table-mounted router poses many of the same risks. It must be that exposed, spinning blade, which says quite simply, “I’m here to cut.”
The instructor saw me cringing and showed me his fingers. After 30 years of using tablesaw, they were all there. He assured me I’d get more comfortable around the machine, and that safety was an essential part of feeling comfortable.
There are many tips, tricks and safety procedures for operating a tablesaw. Below are some of the things in the forefront of my mind as I’ve begun to use the machine for the first time. However, the list is not exhaustive.
- Wear eye protection. (Duh!)
- Make sure the power is off before you make any adjustments to the saw (e.g. change blades, change blade height or tilt, etc.)
- If there is an offcut sitting next to a spinning blade and the wood is in no danger of getting kicked back, leave it until the blade has come to a complete stop. If you need to move the offcut to make your next cut, clear it with a scrap piece of wood.
- Never reach over the blade. Plan your movements so that you don’t reach over the saw blade.
- Use the riving knife or splitter to prevent wood from binding behind the blade and kicking back.
- Unless you are using a jig that doesn’t allow for the use of the blade guard, anti-kickback pawls and riving knife, use these safety features always.
- Never stand in line with the cutting blade. Usually, you stand to the side opposite the fence.
- No freehand cuts. Use the fence for ripping and the mitre gauge for cross cutting.
- When ripping, concentrate on keeping the workpiece against the fence.
- Always finish your cut by pushing past the blade.
Thanks to yesterday’s discussion on Facebook, I must add the following:
- Use pushsticks.
- To add to point No. 2 from the first list, make sure the blade has also come to a complete stop before making any adjustments.
- Keep your workspace clean and free of tripping hazards.
Thanks for that discussion guys. Any more tips to add?
Jeff Dundas is our resident newbie woodworker. He’ll be sharing his insights and discoveries here on the Shop Hack blog as he learns to make sawdust.