Of the 720,000 carpentry-related injuries that occur every year, 42% result from the use of a table saw. However, the presence of mind and proper working methods will keep the woodworker safe from harm.
The table saw is presumably the most commonly used carpentry machine in the woodshop. Unfortunately, it’s also the most dangerous; using the table saw appears to cause more serious injuries than any other power tool.
But does that mean that a table saw can’t be used safely? Obviously not. By taking precautions, a carpenter can significantly reduce their chance of injury when using a table saw. Here are 12 safety tips that every carpenter should review before using a table saw:
1. No Safety Without Safety Equipment
When using power devices like a JET table saw, wearing the correct safety gear is essential. The woodworker or carpenter must wear protective goggles and earmuffs. Baggy garments, ties, and jewelry present hazards and should not be worn while using a table saw.
2. Keep the Workstation Clean
When working with a table saw, keep your workstation and the surrounding area clear from stock, cutoffs, and extra sawdust. Any of these can disrupt the general workflow or hinder the carpenter’s ability to make safe, clean cuts. A wayward piece of stock could turn into a projectile if it comes into contact with a moving blade.
3. Know the Saw’s Safety Features
Before starting any woodworking project with a table saw, always ensure that the saw’s safety features are set properly and working as they should.
The blade monitor, riving knife, and anti-kickback pawls are intended to protect the carpenter, and must be adjusted before the table saw is turned on.
4. Use Outfeed Tables or Extensions When Needed
When cutting a large piece of stock (for example, a full sheet of pressed wood), use an outfeed table, or extension table, to support the whole piece. Using these supports will steady the wood and make the cutting process easier.
5. Disconnect the Power Before Changing the Blade
Prior to changing the blade or making any other adjustment to the table saw, the woodworker must disconnect the table saw from its power source.
This will eliminate the possibility that the saw will turn on unexpectedly.
6. Switch On the Table Saw When the Blade Is Unobstructed
When ready to begin working with the saw, the carpenter should ensure that the blade is spinning freely, without any obstruction from the stock. When the power is turned on, they should wait for the blade to reach full throttle before making the cut.
7. Never Reach Over a Moving Blade
This is one of the most important safety tips for the woodworker to remember: Never reach over a moving blade to make adjustments or move the stock. This could result in a serious accident. They should turn off the power and wait for the blade to stop spinning completely. Only then should they reach over to make any adjustments.
8. Use the Proper Inserts
When using a table saw, the woodworker must use the best possible zero-clearance blade inserts. If they’re using a stacked dado blade, they should make sure they’re using the right insert with it. Without a blade insert, a piece of the plywood can fall into the saw cabinet.
9. Never Make a Freehand Cut
When using a table saw, the carpenter should never attempt a freehand cut. It is best to use the fence or miter gauge to direct the stock. However, they should remember that the fence and miter gauge should not be used together, as the end grain of the stock can clash against the fence.
10. Check the Wood for Hidden Fasteners
Before starting a project with new stock, it’s important for the carpenter to visually examine plywood for any external or foreign objects. These might include a screw, nail or staple, or even a loose piece of wood. Any of these can break free and become a dangerous projectile if they come into contact with the blade.
A high-quality metal detector can be used to find hidden screws and fasteners.
11. Push Sticks Save the Fingers
When there’s only 6 inches of stock between the operator’s fingers and the blade, a push stick comes in handy. It should be used to push the board into the blade. This will keep the carpenter’s fingers away from the blade and out of danger.
Table saws are an indispensable tool for woodworking projects. Still, woodworkers should exercise caution while working with them. The sharp blades and high speed can easily become hazardous if the proper safety precautions are not taken.