The table circular saw is one of the most useful power tools for the garage-carpentry workshop. The versatility of this electric saw allows you to make longitudinal and transverse cuts with great precision. In addition, by tilting the disc, you can make miter cuts on the edges of the boards for bevel joints.
Why is the table saw more dangerous than other woodworking saws?
When carpenters joke about the number of fingers left on their hands, it is likely that these missing fingers have to do with being in an accident with a serrated disc power tool.
Of course, any power tool with moving parts is inherently dangerous but within the machinery used in carpentry, saws cut using tooth disks are much more dangerous than tools leaf as the vertical band saw , or the saber saw .
Unlike the vertical band saw, in which this danger does not exist even if it has others, the circular bench saw is susceptible to producing what is known as kickback . English carpenters call the kickback kickback . Kickback literally means ‘kick’ and in English this word also means ‘bribery’, but that’s a separate matter.
What is kickback, kickback, or kickback?
Kickback is a phenomenon that occurs when the piece of wood touches the back of the record . If we divide the saw blade by a vertical axis, that is, by an imaginary line perpendicular to the saw table, the rear half of the blade, the one that is farthest from you, is known as the zone or region of backlash .
If, during the cutting motion, the piece of wood tilts and comes into contact with the kickback zone, the table saw will violently throw the board towards you. It goes without saying that if your hand is close to the record at that moment, you run the risk of a serious accident . We are talking about losing fingers of the hand or even the whole hand, or part of the mobility if the disc cuts you at the wrist. Of course, this is something you can avoid by observing proper security measures.
Understanding why kickback occurs and how safety features work is essential to avoid accidents.
Why does the backlash occur?
In a table circular saw, the rotation of the blade always goes forward, that is to say towards you. If you look at it from the side, you will see that, in the first half of the disk, the teeth go downwards, that is, towards the table. In contrast, the cutting disc teeth in the kickback area move upward , that is, away from the table.
Therefore, if with the disc spinning at its maximum speed you bring a piece closer to the kickback area, it will be projected towards you either towards your body (just in the diameter) or towards your face, as you approach the end of the disc.
The kickback also occurs in hand-held circular saws , but in this case it is not the part that is projected, but the saw.
In this video from the YouTube channel Enredando no garaxe you can see graphically why the backlash occurs:
To reduce the risk of suffering a kickback or kickback, the circular bench saw has a safety element: a plate that separates the boards, called a wedge or separating knife .
What is the separator for and why does it prevent kickback?
At the exit of the cut, the separator, as its name indicates, keeps the already cut wood separated and prevents the board from binding on the disc.
Sometimes, depending on the design of the table saw, the protective cover is also mounted on the separator itself, but it is important that you bear in mind that the separator is itself an active safety element .
The spreader is quite effective and prevents kickback to a great extent but not entirely. On the other hand, the casing that covers the disc prevents you from accidentally touching it with your hand while pushing the wood. However, there is another essential safety element: the pusher .
The wood pusher for electric table saws
If you look at the image above, in the section of the parts of a table circular saw you will see that, on the side of the heel of the square guide, a piece of plastic is hooked. The pusher is a hand tool used to push the wood without bringing the hand closer to the blade.
When you cut the boards, you should feed the back of them using the pusher. The pusher is also essential for cutting narrow strips of wood where the angle stop is very close to the blade (and the hand is very close to it).
For the above reasons, you should only work without a spacer when it is strictly necessary , for example, to make a through slot in the bottom surface of a board or wooden strip. By the way, if you look at the image above you will see a piece with teeth on the sides of the separator. On the other side of the disk there is another one like it. That’s another safety measure that some table saws include. This piece has a spring that keeps it glued against the table. The board at its exit lifts it and slides under it, but if it suffers a kickback its teeth prevent it from rising violently against you.
And so far the general safety tips for cutting wood with the table circular saw. In the next section I’ll show you how to do it correctly.
How to Cut Safely on the Bench Saw – Additional Tips
Here are some additional tips and techniques for cutting wood on your woodworking projects with the table saw.
By removing the splitting knife, the woodworking table saw becomes a useful tool for carving recesses . In this sense, on some occasions and saving distances, since the finish is not the same and the fibers are much more evident, the circular bench saw can replace electric hand brushes .
With the help of the parallel guide and setting the cutting disc at the correct height , you can prepare profiles to make wooden doors and windows, for example. You can also lower slats for picture frames or mirrors, profiles for wooden shutters, etc.
Unless your table saw does not use the riving knife to support the guard, you will need to remove it in order to make this type of cut . The reason is that the highest part of the separator will hit the wood when it comes out. That is, the wood must pass over the splitting knife. To remove it, you have to unscrew the oval cap that covers the disc housing and unscrew or uncouple it with the quick adjustment that some bench saws have.
Proceed as follows to prepare the cut:
- Mark with a carpenter’s pencil on the end of the strip the part you want to remove
- Set the height of the disc and adjust the clearance of the edge guide making sure that you are removing the desired part
- Lock the guide and check that it does not move
The problem with this type of cut is that the hand has to pass very close to the blade . Therefore you will need to help yourself with the pusher. A tool that you should always have on hand when using the table saw. You can also make your own pusher from a piece of wood.
To cut the recess you must:
- Slowly feed the wood, gluing it well to the parallel guide (at first by hand)
- With a narrow pusher, press the wood against the table (at the height of the disc) being extremely careful not to touch the disc
- Continues to feed the slat pushing it towards the guide and forward at the same time
- The end of the profile must be fed exclusively with the pusher (or pushers)
- If the wood is long, be sure to find a support or roller to prevent it from lifting up during the outing.
Finally, configure the other cut by repeating the same steps. Obviously, take the opportunity to lower all the profiles you need before changing the configuration of the machine.
By longitudinally cutting pieces of wood whose fibers have accumulated tension, the tension can be released upon exit and cause the wood to ride over the kickback region of the disc. This is avoided (in part) by the separating knife.
However, in the case of the example in the previous section (through recesses in wood), the riving knife cannot be mounted, unless it is independent of the guard support, which is not the case in all bench saws.
Therefore, it is best to avoid using the bench saw to cut wood with built-up stress. Instead:
- Use a bandsaw to cut
- Use the electric hand brush or a wood router to make recesses
A good table saw is able to keep the fence completely parallel to the blade . However, it is very common for mid-range table saws to fail to do so. For example, a common complaint from buyers of mid-range Bosch and Makita bench saws is precisely the slack in their parallel guide.
If the guide of the bench saw is closed from behind, that is, the gap between the disc and the guide is smaller in the area of the kickback, the wood will tend to move towards the disc .
In other words, you need to make sure that the guide is parallel to the puck, especially if your table’s guide is not fixed at the front and back (which largely eliminates this problem). Two of the best brands of professional bench circular saws are DeWALT (especially) and Bosch (but only high-end). Their guides are especially effective and reliable.
When making small cross cuts with the protractor, it is common for residual cuts to collect near the disc. These can come out projects at you at high speed due to their low weight. Therefore:
- Prevent pieces of wood from accumulating next to the disc.
- Make sure to always wear safety glasses when cutting with the bench saw.
- Resist the temptation to push these chunks away with the pusher while the saw is running, as there is a risk that you will touch the blade, or do the opposite: pull them towards it.
Conclusion and additional information on table saw safety measures
In conclusion, the table saw is the cornerstone of the carpentry workshop garage . It is an extremely useful tool that allows you to make many types of cuts in wood. But this versatility is accompanied by a greater risk compared to other woodworking tools. Therefore, when buying your bench saw you must bear in mind that you will have to follow the safety measures that I have just explained to you to cut the pieces of wood for your carpentry projects without suffering an accident.
In the prevention technical note Nº96 (PDF), entitled “Circular saw for construction: protection devices”, published by the National Institute of Safety and Hygiene at Work , you can learn more and expand the information on the safe use of this tool .
And now that you know how to cut safely, you no longer have an excuse to keep delaying the purchase of your saw. So take a look at the buying guide to discover wood table saws from some of the best brands on the market.
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