We all love the convenience and versatility that a table saw offers when it comes to woodworking. However, the design of this tool can often mask the dangers that one faces when operating it.
If you have just purchased your first table saw, you might ask yourself what are the safety tips you must follow while operating a table saw?
- Wear proper safety equipment
- Position yourself properly
- Prepare your stock for cutting
- Keep your work area clean
- Watch for kickback
- Use a push stick or push block
- Take extra care when it comes to the blade
- Use safety devices on your table saw
- Use an outfeed table when required
- Stay focused and look for trouble
All of the above mentioned tips are a result of my many years of experience with power tools. Do read on as I explain each one in detail. This will help you understand why they are so important to follow while operating a table saw to ensure maximum safety.
I hope by the end of this article, you will be able to use this wonderful tool in your workshop with more confidence and skill while ensuring you and those around you are safe.
Wear Proper Safety Equipment
Safety equipment was created with the sole purpose of protecting the user from injuries or even fatal accidents at the workplace. Wearing the proper safety equipment is the most important safety tip that one must follow while operating any power tool, big or small.
The most important safety gear one must wear while operating a table saw is safety glasses. They offer complete protection to the eyes from flying debris and splinters created during the cutting process. Do not confuse them with regular eyewear that has sufficient space around the frame for the splinters to sneak in and cause irreparable damage to your eyes.
Wearing hearing protection like earbuds or earmuffs is also important. Table saws are noisy machines that can cause permanent hearing loss over the long run. This is a must if you spend multiple hours in a workshop operating power tools that produce high levels of sound.
Do not wear loose fitting clothes and shirts with full sleeves to avoid the possibility of having your clothes getting caught in the blade and dragging a part of your body towards it. Also avoid wearing gloves to ensure better feel and control over the stock you are cutting.
Keep a first aid kit in the workshop or your nearby vicinity to be prepared for an accident. Ensure that you have sufficient gauze, antiseptic washes and creams and bandages to be able to administer immediate care before professional medical help arrives.
Position Yourself Properly
It is important to have a correct and comfortable stance to ensure you can conveniently operate the table saw. It will also help prevent accidents due to slipping or loss of balance.
Keep yourself away from the centre of the blade. This helps you avoid any flying debris that may be ejected due to kickback. Also keep the floor clean and tidy to avoid accidental slips or trips which might cause you to strike the work table or the blade as a result.
Have a wide stance with the feet placed apart at a comfortable distance. This will help you maintain your balance and operate the table saw comfortably. Position yourself behind the workpiece to help you build momentum, which is very important while cutting long stock.
Another ideal practice is to wear non-slip soles and have anti-slip flooring material around the table saw to help you have better footing. This will also minimize the risk of slipping or tripping while operating the saw.
Prepare your Stock for Cutting
In my early days, I was operating a table saw when the blade suddenly seized and kicked back the entire workpiece. On further inspection, I noticed a nail that had been used to fasten the stock was the culprit for this incident.
It is important to inspect your stock beforehand to ensure it is fit to be cut using a table saw. Ensure that there are no foreign objects like nails and staples within the wood, which can cause damage to the workpiece, blade and yourself when.
The possibility of such metallic objects is much higher when you are working with recycled stock. In such cases, confirm with your supplier that these objects have been removed. Use a metallic scanner to confirm the absence of these objects to be sure.
Keep your Work Area Clean
Dust and wood chips from the cutting process are a lot more dangerous than you may think. Not only does it ruin the physical appearance and hygiene of your work environment, but increases the risk of accidents and your table saw malfunctioning.
The main concern with loose chips and stock is the risk of kickback. They can get caught up in the blade, resulting in them being thrown back at the user at very high speeds. These projectiles can cause serious injuries while damaging the blade as well.
Dust on the table can also affect the smoothness of the table, affecting the quality and precision of cuts as a result.
As mentioned above, users are also at a risk of slipping or losing their footing due to dust and chips on the work floor. This can lead to contact with the table or floor that can injure them as a result.
The dust can also get trapped in the internal mechanism of the saw, speeding up the wear and tear as a result.
In such cases, having a table saw with a dust port or a dust collection system helps you maintain a great level of cleanliness while operating the machine. However, you can also ensure proper cleanliness around the saw by using a broom or vacuuming the floor.
Watch for Kickback
Over 60% of injuries caused while operating a table saw are caused due to the workpiece being kicked back. In this situation, the block is caught by the rear end of the blade, as a result of which it is thrown upwards and towards the user. This has the potential to cause severe injuries to the user’s chest, abdomen and head.
While many newer table saws come with safety features that help minimize kickback, it is always a good idea to be aware of when kickback to occur. In most cases, it is when the stock pinches back onto the blade after being cut, making contact with the rear end of the blade as a result.
Also read: How To Cut 2×4 With Circular Saw
It can also be caused when the stock is moving away from the fence, which reduces the pressure on the workpiece. As a result, it can be turned and result in the piece being kicked back by the blade.
In such cases, watch for how much the piece is moving away from the fence. Try to stop the blade as soon as you can and correct the alignment of the piece or the fence as required.
However, if you realize it is too late and the stock is going to be kicked back, take cover by ducking down and away from the centre of the blade. Ensure you have no contact with the workpiece in any manner and hit the emergency button to stop the blade from causing further damage.
Use a Push Stick or Push Block
A push stick and push block are very important accessories that help you safely move stock across the surface of the table. It helps you avoid having to push them with your hands, which puts your fingers and palms at risk of coming in contact with the spinning blade.
Push sticks are also very helpful for short users to allow them to comfortably control the workpiece from a safe distance. Both push sticks and push blocks also improve the control a user has, allowing them to push the piece into the table for better stability.
Push blocks are preferred when cutting thinner blocks of wood. These have an abrasive surface that helps grip the stock better and push it into the surface of the table. This reduces the risk of the piece kicking back as a result.
While using both these tools, ensure that they are placed centrally on the work piece. This will prevent a turning torque being exerted on the piece, which can cause inaccurate cuts or even kickback.
Take Extra Care when it Comes to the Blade
The blade is easily the most dangerous part of the table saw. One has to take extreme precautions while maintaining and operating the blade to prevent any unfortunate incidents.
Keeping the blade sharp is one of the most important aspects to ensure safe operation. A dull blade will have a reduced ability to cut through the wood, causing incomplete cuts as well as burning of the wood.
Also ensure that the blade is the correct speed and material to ensure it is capable of cutting the material.
Also read: Things To Know Before Choosing A Suitable Chainsaw
Place the blade at a comfortable height such that the blade is just above the workpiece. This will allow you to cut through the wood smoothly and minimize the chance of kickback. Also ensure that the blade is not being powered when making changes or adjustments.
Use Safety Devices
Most modern table saws come with a host of safety devices to offer better protection and user safety. If not, there are provisions and after-market tools that one can add to their table saw for better safety.
Anti-kickback pawls are placed at the end of the blade. They ensure that the workpiece moves in one direction away from the blade and digs into the workpiece in the event of a kickback.
Blade guards are a hard plastic mold placed above the spinning blades. They help prevent accidental contact between the blades and limbs, which can cause serious damage.
A riving knife helps separate the stock and diverts them away from the spinning blade. This reduces the risk of the workpiece getting kicked back due to pinching of the wood, which can cause the two parts to bend inwards and get caught in the blade.
Use an Outfeed Table when Required
Table saws are a commonly used tool thanks to their rip cutting facility. As a result, you may encounter numerous situations where the workpiece is longer than the table that comes attached to your saw.
In such situations, having an outfeed table will help the workpiece flow smoothly. Not only does this help improve the smoothness and accuracy of the cut, but also prevents the piece from falling down or shifting due to an imbalance. These can lead to the stock getting caught up in the blade resulting in kickback.
Stay Focused and Look for Trouble
Irrespective of the safety precautions one takes before operating a table saw, they must ensure that they are aware and prepared for any situation that is thrown their way.
Make sure that you are physically fit to operate the table saw. Avoid operating the machine if you have any illness, which may include a mild cold or cough. These can be distracting, which can cause a lapse of concentration that can prove costly.
Be sure of the cuts you are planning to make beforehand and do all the preparatory work without fail. This will help you be aware of how your stock should move across the blade. It will also help you spot unnatural movement that may be an early symptom of a possible kickback.
If you are sure that the kickback is unavoidable, take the necessary precautions and get your machine stopped at the earliest. Inspect the blade and the inner machinery to ensure no additional damage has been done before resuming the operation.
I hope the tips explained in this article gave you a better idea of how to be safe around a table saw. I can say with full confidence that following these tips will lead to a hassle free experience while operating this amazing power tool without compromising your personal safety.