by Kelly R. Smith
This article was updated on 10/14/20.
By its very nature, woodworking is a dangerous hobby and profession. There are 720,000 injuries each year associated with woodworking projects and about 42% of these occur on the table saw. No surprise here; almost every project needs stock ripped or crosscut. How can we do better? Let’s look at these top 10 table saw safety tips.
- Using your blade guard. Yes, they come from the factory installed and recommended but who actually uses them? Ahem, yeah, I thought so. I use a push stick or another woodworking jig to get the job done. Should I use the guard? Yeah, but usually… no. Still, I recommend it.
- Table saw blade selection. It is tempting to use the same table saw blade for every job, but should you? No. You need a separate blade for cross-cutting and one for ripping Why? A crosscut blade makes the rip cut much more difficult. It can burn and bind.
- Use a zero-clearance insert. Yes, there are two schools of thought on this one. Safety says a supported piece is a safer piece.
- Woodworking dust collection. If your table saw offers a port, use it. You will guard your health, keep your wood shop clean, and lower fire risks. Wood dust not only irritates your throat and nose, but some species can be poisonous. Keeping a clean and clutter-free work area is important.
- Use your PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Yeah this stuff is front and center because of the Covidid-19 Pandemic but truth be told, it was always a big deal. Use safety glasses and ear protection. Gloves? Personal decision.
- Keep your hands out of harm’s way. Use push sticks, push blocks and other safety devices to help guide and control work pieces.
- Don’t stand directly in front of or in back of the blade. Always stand to one side or the other. Even with the guard in place, the odd chunk of wood might kick back.
- Make adjustments before powering up. Make all adjustments with your blade stopped, with the single exception of changing the speed. Never try to change the configuration of the table or the power plant before the machine has stopped.
- Keep your hands safe. Do not reach under the table to make adjustments, remove scrap, or make adjustments while the blade is turning.
- Use your accessories. Make use of your miter gauge or rip fence to guide your work. Free-hand cuts are very dangerous, inaccurate and not recommended. For larger pieces, such as plywood, use table saw extensions or rollers. Ideally, you should have a helper, but realistically that’s not always going to happen.
Keep these 10 table saw safety tips in mind each and every time you enter your shop. It is easy to become complacent with this and other tools. None of us came with spare body parts.
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About the Author:
Kelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.