Anyone who’s into woodworking or carpentry knows how essential a table saw is for their projects. Also, they are aware that any tool with a blade can be extremely dangerous when not handled properly. As such, it’s imperative to understand the tools or machinery you’re using, and that you take all the proper safety precautions prior to using them.
If you are a novice in the world of carpentry, you may want to look for a workshop or course where you can learn how to properly utilise all the tools you need, as well as the many vital safety precautions. With that being said, here are important steps to ensure you use a table saw effectively and safely.
1. Actually Read the Instruction Manual!
Seems obvious right? But you would be surprised about the amount of people who don’t read the manual properly. So if you’ve never worked with a table saw before, it’s best to first go through the instruction manual before attempting anything on your own. Ensure you read it from the first to the last page, paying attention to the safety instructions.
These are particularly crucial and could prevent injuries, including the loss of limbs and even death. Consider asking a salesperson at the hardware store to explain how your specific model is used. If they are incapable, they might recommend someone who can or some literature on the topic.
2. Understand the Tool
Once you have thoroughly read the instruction manual, the next step is to look over the table saw and learn about the different parts and how to use it. Prior to any job, ensure you are wearing safety gear and avoid jewellery or baggy clothing that can get caught in the machine’s moving parts. Also, consider earplugs or any form of hearing protection.
When you’re all geared up, the next step is to check the blade guard and ensure that it’s functioning correctly. If your table saw doesn’t have a blade guard, you’ll need to be more careful when using it to avoid injuries. Also, ensure the saw blade is positioned at a low height. The lower the blade’s height, the lower the chances of a kickback. Kickbacks are the primary causes of injuries when working with table saws and can also occur when dealing with defective wood. So, also check for knots before you start sawing.
3. Keep The Workbench Clean
When working with a table saw, you’ll want to keep the table and surrounding area clear of cutoffs, excess sawdust and stock. Any of these can easily get in the way and hamper your ability to make clean cuts. The last thing you want is a piece of stock turning into a projectile when it comes into contact with the blade.
4. Use All the Safety Equipment
When you purchase a new table saw, chances are it will come with a riving knife, blade guard and anti-kickback pawls. All this seems like exaggeration, but when you are just starting out, they are vital for your safety.
As you gain more experience, you can start to remove some of the safety equipment to make more complex cuts. However, ensure you always have a riving knife as it will prevent kickbacks and severe injuries.
A kickback occurs when the workpiece twists, binds or turns in the middle of a cut and becomes unparallel with the saw blade. This causes the blade’s teeth to grab onto the workpiece, flinging it back towards you in a violent manner. Given the speed that table saw blades spin at, the force directed towards you is certainly dangerous.
A riving knife ensures this does not happen and keeps the wood from twisting, binding or turning during a cut. Anti-kickback pawls are also ideal and work as a failsafe to your riving knife. They dig into the wood if it starts to kick back and stops it before the blade flings the wood in your direction.
5. Use Outfeed Stands or Tables Where Appropriate
When you are working on large wood pieces, like a full sheet of plywood, you’ll want to position an outfeed stand or table in order to support the piece. Utilising these will offer more stability to your workpieces and make the cut easier to complete. For more info, you can read our guide on the best table saw for your home workshop
6. Never Start the Saw while the Blade is Engaged
When getting ready to start the table saw, you should ensure that the blade is spinning freely and not engaged. Once you turn on the motor, allow the blade to reach maximum speed before starting the cut.
7. Make a Habit of Disconnecting the Power Before Switching Blades
>Before you switch the blade or make any adjustments to the tool, ensure you disconnect the power. This will eliminate the chances of the saw being inadvertently switched on while working on the table saw.
8. Never Reach Over the Moving Blade
This is an obvious one, but worth stressing. You should never reach over the blade or make adjustments while it is still spinning. Instead, wait until it comes to a complete stop before reaching or adjusting anything.
9. Maintain an Ideal Position
It is always vital that you maintain a good stance with a wide base when standing at the table saw in order to keep a good balance. In addition, avoid standing directly in front of the saw blade. This ensures that if a kickback happens, the piece won’t kick back into your body, but move past your midsection.
10. Visualise & Rehearse Before Making Cuts
More often than not, as the workpiece moves through the blade, you need to readjust your hands. Failure to know where to position your hands next can be disastrous. As such, it is imperative to visualise and rehearse cuts before you actually make them, particularly on new types of cuts. Simply imagine what the whole process will look like and where you’ll need to put your hands or push the stick. Next, practice the motions on the side to ensure it will work out.
With time, you will become more experienced to a point where you can make most cuts without practising. However, when starting out, ensure you put some thought into the process.