How You Can Protect Your Table Saw from Accidents and Build a Safe Workshop in Your Home!
This note is geared towards beginners and hobbyists which I count myself as one. But don’t fear, I researched this topic thoroughly! Those of us starting on our woodworking journey are always looking for woodworking tips and woodworking ideas. You may have purchased a table saw or just thinking about it, but either way the table saw is probably the most critical tool in your workshop. Although this note is geared towards those who already have a table saw, for those who don’t have one yet, there’s a lot of decisions you have to make once you decide to purchase a table saw. But don’t forget these:
Do you have a permanent spot to put it? If not, where will you store it and how much room do you have? If you go with a worksite (portable) saw, will it be powerful enough to cut the wood that you need to cut?
Know the danger before you begin
Table saws are one of the most dangerous tools in a workshop. They are also one of the most versatile power tools a woodworker can own. It is important to know how to use them safely to prevent injuries and accidents. Table saws can be dangerous for two reasons:
1) they have a spinning blade that can cause serious injury, 2) the table saw itself is heavy and has a large surface area, which makes it easy for someone to lose their balance and fall onto the blade.
People often don’t know how to safely use table saws because they assume it’s too complicated or there is no need for safety guidelines. Just fire it up and start cutting right? WRONG!
There are some simple and basic safety tips that every beginner should know before using a table saw:
- Never wear loose clothing while operating a table saw.
- Wear good fitting work gloves especially when milling rough material.
- Hearing protection is a must, this is a high decibel device.
- Eye protection is another must, splinters, chips and dust will be flying.
- Never stand directly in front, or directly behind a table saw while it is running – more on this later
The best woodworking tip is starting off with safety in mind
Take the time and always read the manual. Most of us just want to pull it out of the box, put it together, plug it in, and cut something. I get it, I’m the same way. But the reality is if you spend some time reading the manual upfront, you’ll definitely learn about all the safety features as well as some woodworking tips and tricks on running your new saw that will make you more efficient as a woodworker.
Don’t make any adjustments on your saw, even basic adjustments with it plugged in. Because even though the on switch is usually protected and hard to punch, it’s still possible. You want to be ultra-careful as you’re figuring out blade height, angle, and other adjustments that you’re going to need for the different woodworking projects you’re about to take on. We don’t want to be lazy or rush when it comes to doing a woodworking project anyway. Take the time to unplug the saw as you measure for a new board, as you slide the fence back-and-forth or as you move the wheel up and down that changes the height of your blade. That way you’re always covered.
Extra devices to help control the material
The blade guard is a safety device that prevents contact between the blade and the operator’s hands. It is important to mention that a riving knife is not a guard, and it does not protect the operator from injury. The riving knife is used to prevent kickback of the saw blade. and splintering of the material being cut.
The blade guard should be used when making a cut at a 45-degree angle to the left or right, as this will provide clearance for the operator’s hands as well as preventing the saw from contacting an object coming into contact with it.
Anti-kickback paws also come with every new Table saw and prevent the material from being “pushed back” by the spinning blade. Wet or moist material, out of square material or tricky grain patterns will cause the material to bind between the blade and the fence sometimes forcing the material back at you.
Another woodworking tip as well as a safety one, when cutting a long length of material, have a roller or outfeed table that holds that piece level as it moves beyond the saw blade. You don’t want the backend rising up, forcing you to control the material by having to push down while pushing it beyond that running saw blade. This is an extreme safety hazard and one of the things I didn’t do starting off. But I bought a cheap outfeed roller at one of the big box stores, and that has made my life so much easier. I use that outfeed roller all the time now.
That brings us to pushing work through the spinning saw blade. Common sense tells most of us we need to keep our hands and fingers away from that spinning blade (Saw Stop claims to be able to sense human flesh near the blade, but they’re the only ones!). Therefore, using a push stick or block really does provide a great way to keep your hands and fingers away from those spinning blades. Every new saw comes with one. If you’re buying a secondhand saw, look on YouTube and look at the different push sticks people have made. A simple project to make, but make sure you make one that stays on the work piece and has a way to control it going through the saw.
Lots of pros use a crosscut sled and that will enhance your table saw safety. I have yet to build a sled, but I do have the intention of putting one together as one of my next projects. I recently built some projects where I had to cut dovetail joints into a box and had to assemble a minor sled that fit on my miter gauge, and that was really a big help.
If you have a worksite or portable table saw, hopefully you have a stand made specifically for your brand of saw. These stands will secure the saw much better than generic stands. Leveling the table saw is also very critical for your safety but also from a work, comfort, and performance perspective. I don’t have much of a leveling issue in my garage obviously but getting the saw in the stand and locking it in is another big safety positive. If you have a tabletop saw, take the time to either clamp it or screw it down to your workbench so the saw doesn’t slide as you’re pushing material through.
Never stand directly behind a piece of wood that you’re pushing through the saw. The reality is most of us don’t use the safety equipment on top of the saw surface that comes with saw that prevents kickbacks, so reduce your risk of injury from kickbacks by standing to one side of the work piece or the other until it’s completely through the sawblade. The side of the saw you choose to stand on should be based on what side of the material you’re cutting off. Let me explain:
For instance, if the side of the material your trimming is up against the fence, you should place yourself opposite the side being trimmed, keeping the remaining material between you and the spinning saw blade. The opposite is true if the side of the material being trimmed is away from the fence, then you want to position yourself on the fence side of the material keeping the remaining material between you and the spinning blade.
Storing a worksite or portable table saw
When putting your table saw away, and in my case in this closet where it is stored, make sure the blade is dropped below the surface of the saw. That way if you ever have to move the saw around, reaching for a better grip or simply getting your saw in and out of the closet, you’re unlikely to get caught on a protruding blade. And always handle your saw with care so it doesn’t get out of square. Just because it’s a worksite saw doesn’t mean it can take that much abuse.
Conclusion and recap
It is important to remember that table saws are dangerous and can cause serious injury. It is important to learn about the safety precautions that one should take in order to be safe. Beginners should always wear safety glasses, gloves, and ear protection when using a table saw. They should also make sure that they never use the table saw without a guard installed. It is also crucial for beginners to read all of the instructions before using the table saw for the first time.
If your interested in woodworking and are looking to learn at your own pace but with a pre-defined guide, download our app on the homepage. https://hobbyhack.com
For some additional information here’s a short video from Woodworkers Guild of America on Table Saw Safety