It’s time to address the most important issue related to any power tool and that is . Think SAFETY first, last and always!
The table saw can be an especially fierce tool. Think about it, the blade is spinning at between 1,000 & 5,000 RPM’s. That is faster than the brain can react. By the time you realize your mistake your fingers are history. Pack them in ice and hope for a good surgeon to sew them back on. Hands, eyes and ribs are vulnerable to the table saw’s power. How can you minimize the danger? It’s easier than it may seem.
- Eye Protection – don’t even go near a saw without good safety glasses. Your eye glasses are not safety glasses unless they are impact resistant. Ask your eye glass vendor. P.S. – No excuses, safety glasses come in bi-focals!
- Hearing protection – power tools are very loud and can damage your hearing; muffs or plugs, it doesn’t matter just use something.
- Push sticks – invest in a couple of good plastic push sticks, bright orange or yellow so you can find them easily.
- Blade guard – keep it on! It protects your hand from the blade. If you don’t like the one that came with your saw buy another one. The Excalibur (below) also picks up dust from above the table through it’s boom arm. And, it looks cool in the shop!
- Splitter – the splitter is the thin metal piece behind the blade, usually with spring loaded wings on each side, it keeps the wood from binding behind the blade and kicking back at you at a velocity that will break your ribs. Again, if you don’t like the one on your saw, get another one. There are many from which to choose.
- Feather board – A feather board sits on the left hand side of the table and pushes against the work piece to keep it snug to the fence. The feathers, or fingers, are angled to allow the board to move easily forward but to stop it from coming back at you. I like the type with a magnet in them so you can set and lock them anywhere on the table.
- Dust Collector – in addition to keeping your work space cleaner and your lungs healthier a dust collector helps to keep saw dust from flying back up into your face and temporarily blinding you or causing you to be distracted as you try to blow it off. I’ll discuss dust collectors in more depth in another article.
- Your brain! Your brain is the most important piece of safety equipment you can bring to any job. Look around; is your work space clear of potential hazards? Is your saw properly set up for the job at hand? Do you have good lighting? Are you awake and alert? Proper planning can make table saw work safe, productive and fun. Take your time, do it right, do it safely, do it enjoyably.
A final note: There are a couple of new technologies to consider in your table saw purchase. Many companies are now using a riving knife behind the blade instead of the traditional splitter. This knife rides up and down with the blade and does not have to be removed for non through cuts, as in grooves. Riving knives have been standard on European saws for many years.
Another company, Safe Stop has developed saw blade systems that can detect your finger, or other body part. Here’s how it is described on their website:
“The blade carries a small electrical signal, which the safety system continually monitors. When skin contacts the blade, the signal changes because the human body is conductive. The change to the signal activates the safety system. A heavy-duty aluminum brake stops the blade. The blade stops within milliseconds of detecting contact, quicker than a car airbag deploys. During this time three things happen:
- 1. An aluminum brake springs into the spinning blade, to stop the blade.
- 2. The blade’s angular momentum drives the blade beneath the table, removing the risk of subsequent contact.
- 3. Power to the motor is shut off.
Resetting the saw is easy. It takes about five minutes to replace the $69 single-use brake cartridge and blade. “
It’s an amazing breakthrough in table saw safety and you can read more about it at their website SawStop