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Using Table Saws

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Table Saws


The table saw is one of the most commonly used stationary power tools in any woodworking shop. Safe usage requires that it be hand-led with care and specific procedures be followed to prevent accidents.

Read and understand the warnings and instructions on the saw and in the owner/operators manual.

Always wear safety goggles or safety glasses with side shield complying with current national standard, and a full face shield when needed.

Use a dust mask in dusty work conditions. Wear hearing protection during extended periods of operation.

Do not wear gloves, loose clothing, jewelry or any dangling objects that my catch in rotating parts or accessories. Tie back long hair.

Keep the saw table free of tool and debris.

Use an auxiliary work support when sawing long or wide work pieces to assure firm control of the work piece at all times.

A table saw should be equipped with a rip fence, miter gauge, blade guard, spreader and anti-kickback device. The rip fence must be parallel to the line of the saw blade to prevent binding and possible kickback (See "Preventing
Table Saw Kickback").

The blade should project only a minimal distance above the cut - 1/8" to 1/4" is plenty - check your owner/operators manual carefully.

Never reach over or behind the blade with the table saw operating.

Use the guard on all operations where the saw blade cuts through the thickness of the work piece.

When using the table saw for dadoing, grooving or shaping, use a push-block to keep your hands and fingers well away from the saw blade in case of kickback or other unexpected event.

Check often to assure that guards return to their normal position quickly. If a guard seems slow to return or "hangs up," repair or adjust it immediately.

Do not cut freehand (cutting without the use of a miter gauge or rip fence).

When crosscutting, use the miter gauge to assure a straight cut, not the rip fence. The cut off piece can bind between the fence and blade, causing kickback and possible injury.

When ripping, always use the rip fence to assure a straight cut.

Make sure the blade and fence are parallel to each other. Pressure to feed the work piece (stock) should be against the direction of blade rotation and between the blade and the fence. Use a push stick to keep your fingers
away from the saw blade. For special operations (whenever the blade does not cut through the thickness of the work piece) such as dadoing and rabbeting, consult your owner/operators manual.

Use a feather board to firmly hold the work piece against the fence and table when ripping narrow stock.

Keep your tool blades sharp. Dull blades can cause binding, possible kick-back and injury.

Use the correct blade for the job you are doing. Watch for overly heated or vibrating blades. Correct the condition before continuing.

Make sure the blade is installed to rotate in the proper direction. Do not use grinding wheels, wire brushes, or abrasive wheels on a table saw.

Onlookers should be kept out of the work areas. They distract the operator and make him more accident prone. A kickback or a broken carbide tip could send the stock or the tip flying with unpredictable results.

It is recommended that you turn the tool off after each completed procedure.

The saw should always be turned off and unplugged before making adjustments of any kind.

Turn off, unplug when possible, and lock the table saw after each use.

Remove and store the switch or lock key.

Kickback is the ejection of the work piece from the saw back towards the operator.

Table saw kickback may be caused by: 

The kerf of the work piece closing up and pinching the rear of the saw blade.

Wedging of the work piece between the fence and the rear of the saw blade (fence not parallel with saw blade).

A crooked cut which causes the work piece to bind against the
sides of the blade as it passes through.

Edge of a work piece against the fence not straight.

When binding, pinching or wedging occur the motion of the saw blade tends to lift the wood and may hurl it back toward the operator.

Specific safety precautions in preventing kickback when using table saws are given below:

Always use the spreader (splitter) when it is functional. This prevents the kerf from closing and pinching the blade. Make sure the spreader is properly lined up behind the blade.

Always use the anti-kickback pawls (fingers). If a kickback should occur they are designed to grab the work piece and prevent it from being thrown back toward the operator. Keep the teeth of the pawls (fingers) sharp.

Anti-kickback devices may not work when cutting smooth or hard surfaces.

Therefore always cut with the smooth, hard surface next to the table.

Always use the rip fence to guide the work piece in a straight line when ripping.

Never freehand cut a work piece. Free handing causes crooked cuts and potential kickback. Crooked edges on the stock can also cause crooked cuts.

Make sure the fence is parallel to the blade. If the fence closes in toward the rear of the blade it will tend to wedge the wood against the blade and may cause kickback.

Never tilt the blade or saw table such that the work piece is trapped in the angle between the blade and the fence. This is a condition which has high potential of causing kickback. Use the fence to the side of the blade that results in an angle greater than 90 degrees between the blade and the table.

Keep the angle between the blade and fence open so that the work piece is free to absorb any misalignments. (See owner's manual for cutting techniques).

Avoid standing directly behind the work piece when making a rip cut.

Always use the miter gauge when crosscutting, and hold the work piece firmly against it to assure a straight cut.

Other precautions which should be taken to prevent kickback while using a table saw:

A dull blade may cause a kickback. Keep blades sharp.

Make sure set tooth blades have adequate set. Tooth set provides clearance between the plate of the blade and the work piece, thus minimizing the probability of binding. Some saw blades are hollow or taper ground to provide clearance.

Keep saw blades clean. A buildup of pitch or sap on the surface of the saw blade increases the thickness of the blade and also increases friction on the blade surface. These conditions cause an increase in the potential of a kickback.

Do not cut wet wood. It produces higher friction against the blade. Also the blade tends to load up with wet sawdust, affecting a much greater probability of kickback.

Be very careful of stock which is pitchy, knotty or warped. These are more likely to create pinching conditions and possible kickback.

Never use a bent, broken or warped saw blade. The probability of binding and creating a kickback is greatly increased.

Overheating a saw blade can cause it to warp and create a kickback. Buildup of sap on the blades, insufficient set, dullness, and unguided cuts can all cause an overheated blade.

Do not use more blade height than is required to cut the workpiece - 1/8 1/4 in. greater than the thickness of the stock is sufficient. This minimizes the amount of saw blade exposed.

Never use miter gauge with the rip fence.