We can all agree that the table saw is one of the most versatile tools in any woodworker’s arsenal. However, it should be approached with both fear and respect due to its dangerous nature. The journal of Trauma reports that approximately 31,400 people visit the ER yearly due to a table saw related injuries. Most of these injuries result from kickback. In this article, we will discuss essential tips on how to prevent a table saw kickback while cutting wood.
What Is a Kickback?
When you are working with a table saw, a stock that you are feeding through the blade can get thrown back at you at high speed. This is known as a kickback. It usually happens when a board gets stuck between the rip fence and the blade. Kickback injuries may vary from minor injuries to gut-wrenching ones. You may lose fingers or even a hand. What is more, is that it happens fast, leaving little to no time to react.
As a woodworker, kickback is the last thing you want to experience. Fortunately, there are some ways to ensure it never happens. Before we share with you how to avoid kickback, it is crucial to understand what causes the table saw kickback in the first place.
What Causes Table Saw Kickbacks?
An important step of knowing how to prevent kickback is by understanding what causes it. It may happen because of several reasons. The most common cause of a kickback is when the stock gets caught between the blade and the fence. The force that squeezes and pinches the wood is so intense that it launches the wood piece back at you. Usually, this happens when the fence or blade is misaligned.
Another reason for kickback can be as a result of a board misaligning during a cut. Instead of the wood sliding through the blade, it may move from the fence towards the blade. If the stock gets caught on the back tooth of the blade, it lifts on the blade. Therefore, the blade may lose track and throw the board at you at a fast speed. It is nearly impossible to avoid a harmful effect. Your hand may get drawn into the blade, causing amputation.
Tips to Prevent Table Saw Kickbacks While Cutting Wood
Now that you know about kickback and their possible causes, it is time to know essential hacks to avoid them. By following these remedies, you will use your table saw smoothly without any incidences.
Rip Fence Alignment
Aligning the rip fence is the first step in preventing the table saw kickback. When the distance from the fence and blade is less at the back than at the front, it can cause a funnel effect. This can cause the wood to rise at the back teeth.
When it comes to aligning the fence, it is all about measurement. First, you need to mark one tooth and rotate it to the front. From there, you measure the distance between it and the fence. Proceed to the next tooth and the one after, performing the same procedure. Use the first measurement as a reference.
So long as everything is parallel and properly aligned, your work piece should not get pinched. Make a routine of checking the alignment of your table saw.
Keep The Safety Features in Place
Nowadays, most table saws come with safety features to keep you safe. Some of the features include:
A Riving Knife
When it comes to preventing kickback injuries, a riving knife may be your best choice. It is an arched shaped piece of metal that locks in the back of the saw. It functions in such a way that it prevents wood from pinching the blade if it drifts from the fence.
What is incredible is that the riving knife goes up and down with the blade, thereby offering protection regardless of the height of the blade. You should use a riving knife at all times, even when making singular cuts. Most table saws manufactured since 2008 are fitted with riving knives.
If you have an old table saw, there is no need to worry. A splitter is an excellent alternative to a riving knife. Just like a riving knife, a splitter keeps the wood away from the blade. However, they are not as effective because they don’t rise and fall with the edge when adjusting the blade height. More so, you have to remove them when doing non-through cuts and grooves.
Use A Push Stick
A push stick is an anti-kickback device. It is not advisable to feed the wood to the blade with bare hands. Instead, use the push stick to do the job. Not only does it provide adequate control of the stock, but it also ensures that your hand does not get drawn into the blade in case of a kickback. Do not take it lightly as this simple device might just save your life. You can buy push sticks from woodworkers or make your own.
When working with push sticks, make sure you place it in the middle of the stock. Pushing the stock from the sides may make it twist and get to the blade. Also, applying downward pressure on the edge of the wood can get it lifted at the back teeth of the saw.
Using Crosscut Sled
Do you know that a crosscut sled helps to protect your hand from the blade? By using this device, the fence stays in position. It prevents kickback by maintaining the fence to the front of the blade.
Avoid Crooked Stock
Using crooked, twisted, or warped board prevents continuous contact with the rip fence. It might lead to the wood pinching the blade causing kickback. Check to ensure that your stock is uniform to avoid any accidents.
Proper positioning of your body when making a cut goes a long way in avoiding kickbacks. As an amateur, you may find it comfortable standing directly behind your work piece. Unfortunately, you will be in the line of fire. It is better to stand beside the wood and use a push stick to feed the blade.
Kickback has proven to be the most cause of all table saw injuries. These accidents are preventable by taking proper safety measures. Always ensure that you use safety devices where applicable to avoid unpleasant incidences like kickbacks. We hope that this guide will help you to maximize the table saw safety in your workshop.