5 things you should NOT do in the shop

By Matthew Pioro

An aragment of three saw blades on a white background

Photo by iStockphoto/Thinkstock

1 comment

You treat sharp, spinning blades and bits with respect. As a woodworker, that practice just comes with the territory. You take precautions to make sure you remain safe while building and follow conventional shop wisdom. But some stuff, such as climbcutting, always comes with a degree of risk. Other practices seem risky at first or just plain dumb—such as cutting wood held vertically at the tablesaw or using a tablesaw’s fence and mitre gauge at the same time—if you don’t follow the proper techniques. However, there are ways to minimize the danger as you accomplish those risky (but sometimes necessary) tasks.

1. Running wood diagonally on a tablesaw

Conventional Wisdom
A tablesaw is designed so that wood is cut when it is pushed directly into the blade. It’s not meant to cut wood fed on an angle to the spinning teeth.

Why do it?
Cutting a board by running it diagonally across a spinning tablesaw blade is a technique called cove cutting. The process results in a board with a scooped groove down the middle. Craftsman Rick Campbell employs this cove-cutting technique to add novel design elements to some of his projects.
“Outside of industrial shops, there are no shaper bits or router bits that allow you to create this wide of a cove,” Campbell says. “Typically, I create the cove and then rip it down the middle, creating two boards with a quarter-round groove on them. Then you can use the boards as moulding or for the sides of decorative boxes.”

The Risks
When you cut a cove this way, the workpiece covers the blade completely throughout the process. A spinning blade out of sight should still be kept in mind because those teeth are still active. Also, the blade’s teeth aren’t designed to cut wood approaching from an angle, so you must feed the board slowly to be safe and to get the best results. You must remove the blade guard for this process and reinstall it immediately after.

How to do it properly
Before you set up your tablesaw for cove cutting, decide on the angle of approach to the saw blade. The wider the angle, or the closer you get to perpendicular to the blade, the wider the cove. However, the maximum angle you can effectively cut is 30°. Once you have your angle, clamp two boards to the tablesaw to create a channel to support and guide the edges of the workpiece. Set the blade’s height between 1⁄16″ and 1⁄8″. Use jointer pushpads to pass the workpiece over the blade slowly. Raise the blade in 1⁄16″ to 1⁄8″ increments until you have cut the cove to the desired depth.

A tablesaw is designed so that wood is cut when it is pushed directly into the blade. It’s not meant to cut wood fed on an angle to the spinning teeth.

Why do it?
Cutting a board by running it diagonally across a spinning tablesaw blade is a technique called cove cutting. The process results in a board with a scooped groove down the middle. Craftsman Rick Campbell employs this cove-cutting technique to add novel design elements to some of his projects.
“Outside of industrial shops, there are no shaper bits or router bits that allow you to create this wide of a cove,” Campbell says. “Typically, I create the cove and then rip it down the middle, creating two boards with a quarter-round groove on them. Then you can use the boards as moulding or for the sides of decorative boxes.”

The Risks
When you cut a cove this way, the workpiece covers the blade completely throughout the process. A spinning blade out of sight should still be kept in mind because those teeth are still active. Also, the blade’s teeth aren’t designed to cut wood approaching from an angle, so you must feed the board slowly to be safe and to get the best results. You must remove the blade guard for this process and reinstall it immediately after.

How to do it properly
Before you set up your tablesaw for cove cutting, decide on the angle of approach to the saw blade. The wider the angle, or the closer you get to perpendicular to the blade, the wider the cove. However, the maximum angle you can effectively cut is 30°. Once you have your angle, clamp two boards to the tablesaw to create a channel to support and guide the edges of the workpiece. Set the blade’s height between 1⁄16″ and 1⁄8″. Use jointer pushpads to pass the workpiece over the blade slowly. Raise the blade in 1⁄16″ to 1⁄8″ increments until you have cut the cove to the desired depth.

2. Smoothing end-grain on a thickness planer

Conventional Wisdom
Putting an end-grain cutting board through the planer will just wreck all the work that went into gluing it up. It’s best to smooth it out with a sander. Or is it?

Why do it?
“By running an end-grain cutting board through a planer, you can save hours and hours of sanding,” says master woodworker and CHW online Ask A Pro Ryan Shervill.

The Risks
Chunks of wood can fly out of the planer as the knives tearout the back of a laminated end-grain board—all your wood and hard work ruined. And, although the following advice will increase your chances of planing end-grain successfully, there is still the possibility of serious tearout. But, for many, reducing all the sanding required for a cutting board is worth the risk.

How to do it properly
The secret to performing this task successfully is a change in the regular order of operations. Usually, you sand your cutting board and then round over the edges with a router. But, if you are going to send the workpiece through the planer, you should round over the edges first. You can always rout again, after the planing, if the piece needs it.
Shervill recommends light passes through the planer.

“Take ridiculously light passes: a maximum of 1⁄32″—but 1⁄64″ is better,” he says.

Of course, you already always stand to one side when operating your thickness planer to avoid any flying debris that may come back at you, right?

3. Using the tablesaw’s mitre gauge & fence at the same time

Conventional Wisdom
You never use the mitre gauge and fence at the same time. If you cross cut wood using both of these tablesaw features, there is a high risk that the loose offcut will get pinched between the blade and the fence. Then, the blade will launch the offcut at you, which is called kickback.

Why do it?
Maybe you simply need repeatable square cuts. Maybe you don’t have a mitre saw. Maybe you need the tablesaw’s accuracy. Or maybe you are cutting a tenon with a regular blade instead of a dado set because it’s just one tenon and you don’t want to install the full dado stack.

The Risks
Kickback. Nasty, nasty kickback.

How to do it properly
If you are relying on the mitre gauge and the fence for repeatable cuts, use just a part of the fence. If you want to cut 2″-wide strips, set the fence 3″ from the blade. Put a 1″-thick stop block at the end of the fence closest to you. Get the workpiece aligned on the mitre gauge and at the stop block. Once you push the wood past the block using the gauge, there is 2″ of space between the offcut and the fence.

For cutting a tenon using a regular 1⁄8″-thick kerf blade, begin by putting a sacrificial backerboard on the mitre gauge. Set the fence and stop block to the desired tenon length. Set the blade to the proper depth and then make multiple cuts in the wood, as you might if you were making a lap joint. To remove the remaining material on the tenon, clamp the stop block on the fence adjacent to the blade. Then, with the blade spinning, slide the workpiece along the mitre gauge so that the wood approaches the blade from the side, like a 90° cove cut. (Yes, you were advised not to use such an angle when cove cutting, but the practice works in this situation.) This step cleans up the tenon’s side nicely.

4. Routing in the direction of the bit’s rotation

Conventional Wisdom
When you cut wood at the tablesaw, you go against the rotation of the blade. Same with a planer’s cutters. Ditto for a mitre saw. So, always cut into the rotation of a router bit at the router table…unless you are climbcutting.

Why do it?
If you are routing tricky grain patterns that tearout easily, you might be tempted to consider cutting with the rotation of the router bit.

The Risks
If you are pushing wood in the direction in which the bit is spinning, that cutter wants to grab the workpiece and launch it. Lumber missiles, needless to say, are very bad. Your fingers might get pulled into the bit too. Even when done properly, this process remains risky—so, avoid it.

How to do it properly
We’re not going to tell you how do this one. As we said, this manoeuvre is always risky. Find an alternative.

5. Cutting wood held upright on the tablesaw

Conventional Wisdom
A tablesaw supports the length of a board during cutting. But if you were to stand that board on its end, it’s just your two hands holding that narrow bit of wood over the blade—
a pretty precarious arrangement.

Why do it?
If you want to cut a tenon at your tablesaw without using a dado set or the method mentioned in Practice No. 3 on the pervious page—both of which leave pretty rough shoulders and cheeks—you’ll have to stand the board on end. Also, if you are cutting a tenon for curved stock, such as a chair back, or an angled tenon, you won’t be able to do so with your workpiece lying on the tablesaw.

The Risks
Cutting a board freehand on end is not only incredibly inaccurate, it’s dangerous. You position yourself over the blade without proper support for the workpiece or yourself. Don’t try this—unless you have the proper jig.

How to do it properly
A tenoning jig can be shopmade or store-bought. It rides in the mitre slot on the tablesaw and holds the workpiece vertically with clamps. It is often micro-adjustable on the fly, making for clean, accurate cuts. The jig turns a dodgy situation into proper woodworking practice, something you should definitely try at home.


1 comment

Sort order:

Oldest Newest

JohnMc88

Apr. 20, 2015

10:34 am

Thank for the article, it would be great if everyone is aware of the risks when doing woodwork. http://hqroutertable.com



To leave a comment, please log in

Don't have an user account? Register for free

Poll

How do you heat your home?

Loading ... Loading ...

Recommendations