Table Saw Safety

Important tips to save your fingers

As an industrial arts teacher with years of experience, I know table saws can be used successfully, without incident, by adhering to these common safety standards:

  • Be sure your blade is sharp. Dull blades require the application of more force on the workpiece, meaning less control and more danger.
  • Make sure you set the fence parallel to the blade. Loose fence clamps allow the fence to sit at an angle, causing the wood to pinch as it travels past the blade. Check for parallelism by measuring to the table edge at the front and rear of the fence.
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  • Before powering up, adjust the blade height so it extends no more than one-eighth of an inch above the wood surface. Less blade exposed means less chance of injury.
  • Take care of loose clothing or long hair that may catch in the blade.
  • Never stand directly behind the material when pushing it into the blade. If the wood binds on the blade, the motor's force can cause the wood to kick back into you.
  • Feed the wood slowly into the blade. Pushing harder is not going to make the saw cut faster; rather, it will likely cause kickback. Always feed into the blade with the wood flat on the table surface.
  • If the wood jams, turn off the power with the wood still in the blade; wait for rotation to stop, and remove your piece. Determine why the wood jammed. Wood can spring closed on itself due to the grain, or a knot may have come loose and caught in the blade guard. Restart the motor and start the cut again, moving through the existing cut and back into the uncut area. Never restart with the piece still in the blade or lower the piece onto the blade.
  • Get someone to help you with large, unwieldy pieces: plywood, paneling, long boards, etc. Only the main operator should push the wood. The other person is only a moving support for the piece.
  • Use a piece of scrap wood or a push stick to push narrow pieces past the blade or to clear small cutoffs from near the blade. In general, you should never have your fingers closer than 4 inches to the blade.
  • Never use the fence and the miter gauge together. This will trap cutoffs between the fence and the rotating blade.
  • When miter cutting, maintain a firm grip on the wood, holding it tightly against the miter gauge with both hands. Pushing with one hand on the cutoff side and one on the miter gauge dangerously sandwiches the two halves against the rotating blade.
  • NEVER cut round stock, tubing, etc. on the table saw. The material's round surface against the rotation of the blade will cause it to spin out of control, which may cause injury.
  • Read your safety manual that came with the table saw.

By Robert Birnschein

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