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Despite improved guards and the addition of riving knives, tablesaw injuries are still alarmingly common. A new report shows that an average of 31,400 people are treated in U.S. emergency rooms every year for tablesaw injuries. This figure doesn't include accidents on the job.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Trauma, a professional journal for ER staff, roughly 31,400 people are treated in emergency rooms every year for tablesaw injuries. This is based on ER reports compiled from 1990 to 2007 and amazingly, that figure doesn’t even include folks who are injured on the job. Those statistics are kept separate and aren’t included in the study.
As you might imagine, roughly 93 percent of those injuries were to the users’ finger, thumb or another part of their hand. 66 percent of those injured had lacerations while 10 percent had amputations. Other types of injuries include soft-tissue injuries to the head, face and neck, presumably from flying lumber or debris caused by kickback.
Back in January 2005, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) required that new tablesaw models include a riving knife and modular guard to prevent these injuries. Since that time injury rates have remained virtually unchanged, which begs the question: “Why are so many people hurt while using tablesaws, despite improvements in guards and splitters?”
The article makes a number of suggestions. Among them, tablesaws are the cornerstone of most woodworking shops and the machine is easily the most versatile power tool for woodworking. As a result, the study’s authors suggest that tablesaws aren’t inherently more dangerous, but the saw gets more use than any other machine and there are lots of tablesaws out there. Just how many? Nobody really knows, as manufacturing and import figures combine tablesaws with other types of power saws, so no useful data exists.
The authors also suggest that any new safety measures can take a long time to make a difference, because a new tablesaw will likely be in service for 10 years. I think that figure is actually low. I’m betting it’s closer to 20 years or more, especially for contractor and cabinet saws.
Reading the study brought to mind my first and only close call (knock on wood) with a spinning tablesaw blade. I was 16 years old and ripping framing lumber for my uncle’s contracting business. Fortunately, I only got a small nick on my thumb and I never even told him or anybody else about it. But the outcome could have been very different.
Why do you think so many people are hurt using tablesaws? Have you ever had an injury from a tablesaw? What caused the injury and how could you have prevented it? Do you think government regulators or the power tool industry should be doing more to protect users? I’d love your input.
We were surprised to see our own articles cited as references in this academic study: Mastering the Tablesaw, Woodworking Injuries, and Tablesaw Kickback.
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Thank you for sharing it.
Thanks for sharing your suggestions with us.
I have been a woodworker for 35 years .I use old machinery that has few is any safety devices on them. I do not own anything that will not kill you. I have been hurt a few times due to my careless actions. I have been super lucky more times than I can remember. I still have all my fingers but that does not mean anything. safety is in your head not in the machine.
Legislation for Tablesaws? What's next a waiting period for buying a sharp chisel? Where the hell does it end. I dont want the government in my shop, telling me how to run a machine. It came with guards and a riving knife. both work good.
The Saw-Stop is a very nice, over priced, device that does work. When it doesn't who's going to sue them. They have been the basis for a lot of lawsuits, especially when a worker is put on a Table saw and told to run it with maybe an Hours worth of instruction. Of course the Contractor who hired the worker off the street didn't have any insurance, so suing him was out of the question, for these slip and fall lawyers.
Whatever happened to PERSONAL Responsibility. You bought the saw and if you refuse to use it as it was designed its your own damn fault.
Seumas McCombie has his anti-kick-back devices placed up front and over head of the blade or cutting tool to prevent the deadly kick-back will easily revamp any table saw without replacement. It is named the Original Jimmy Jig, incorporates a combination splitter/riving and automatic hold-in.
According to http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100113172150.htm, the accident statistics stayed steady 1990-2007: "... there was no change in the rate of injuries per 10,000 US population."
That means is the stupidity rate hasn't changed, and you just cannot legislate stupidity.
I appreciate your comments about inherent design problems with the typical table saw. I've been saving my pennies to purchase a Sawstop, but recently started thinking more about a sliding tablesaw such as the Hammer product.
I'd like to here more thoughts from you and other readers about the pros and cons of Euro type sliding table saws such as the Hammer line.
I'm wondering what will I give up with a sliding table saw? Does a typical cabinet style saw have more versitility than a slider?
Any comment would be appreciated.
Hello woodworkers, I hope this message will clear up some points regarding Whirlwind Tool safety which is shown on my website. I do not have, and likely never will have, any hardware to sell. Instead I hope to get the machinery manufacturers interested in Whirlwind as a win-win and I now have five operational prototypes and each new one is an improvement over the previous versions with still more designs cued up here in the shop. Of course the manufacturers will probably not move until my patents issue, but we are getting closer each day.
My original design goal was to develop a user-controlled and multi-tiered hazard-avoidance system approach with a suitable balance of end-user cost vs. safety features benefit for the various table saw stakeholders ranging from the machinery manufacturers and retailers to the wide spectrum of table saw operators from the novice to the most advanced users. I hope also to curtail some of the table saw litigation that we see by establishing identifiable responsibility for most table saw related injuries, which I believe is to the benefit of all. To that end I now have five operational prototypes with additional models under development.
This particular table saw hazard avoidance concept is designed to offer hazard protection through a series of FIVE simple steps:
First, the operator must easily and conveniently make personal safety-related decisions prior to operation of the saw, by first choosing to use, partially use or to override and even remove the hazard avoidance system with the use of a keyed switch.
Second, if the saw is operated in safe-mode, the operator must quickly and simply acknowledge that safety checks have been completed before each and every start of the machine or the saw will not start. This is not some long aircraft-like pre-flight checklists; instead it is whatever the operator wants it to be – or not to be. The point is that once the operator arms the brake to start the saw, (s)he owns the safety responsibility for the following operation. If there is a resulting injury, there is unlikely to be litigation blaming the manufacturer of the saw.
Third, through electronic flesh-sensing, an extra margin of safety is provided the saw operator by non-destructive blade braking if the operator’s hands enter the “danger zone” which should always be avoided.
Fourth, each emergency braking event serves as a learning experience and a warning to novice saw operators that they have crossed into dangerous proximity of the saw blade and must rethink their operating practices to insure their personal safety.
Fifth, if the blade-enclosure hazard avoidance system is used, the dangerous, long-feared, and unpredictable table saw “kick-back” phenomenon is eliminated.
Each time the saw is stopped, either through a normal stop or a flesh sensing emergency stop, the saw will revert to the amber light safe condition. The emergency flesh sensing stop is completely non-destructive. Neither the blade, nor the circuitry, nor the saw are damaged during the stop and the operator may simply correct the dangerous condition, rearm the flesh sensing brake circuit and resume sawing. Think safety twice, cut once.
In their love for tablesaws, no one seems to recognize an obvious fact: The design concept is wrong.
Most people have enough sense to not stand down-range on a shooting range, yet they never consider the obvious absurdity of standing in front of a spinning blade.
Another obvious flaw: rip fences are too long.
There is no good reason to have the rip fence extend beyond the cut. Doing so invites kickback.
Saw Stop is not a solution, it is merely a fail-safe.
The clever but expensive saw stop device will undoubtedly save many fingers. But it is no substitute for good design.
By contrast, European saws all have sliding tables, so the operator stands out of the line-of-fire, the work is securely held and riving knives ( not splitters) can do their jobs. Integral hold-downs, finger-boards and guards on European saws contribute far more to safety and safety awareness than any fail-safe mechanism could.
One could easily argue that, like an over-sized car or air-bags, a saw-stop device might make users cavalier or careless. People get careless when they let machines protect them. They might be protected on their saw-stop equipped machines, but what happens when they work elsewhere, on a job-site or on a neighbors saw? Their lax habits may then cause tragedy.
From my perspective, table-saws are an inherently flawed concept, since the blade spins toward the user, the work is held by hands not adjustable jigs, and users must lean over the table to finish cuts, see marks or make adjustments. American style saws are only beginning to catch up to European standards, but even those machines suffer some basic flaws inherent to the design-concept.
It's your fault. Your illustrations should all show the proper guards in place and/or the proper workaround. Use photoshop to make the guard mostly transparent if it important to convey that info. Beat safety into the reader.
Most table saw accidents -- like most equipment accidents -- result from operator error. When we read about airplane crashed we are not surprised to learn that in most instances the crashes are the result of pilot (i.e., operator) error. Woodworkers are no more perfect than pilots.
The air safety records of airlines have improved not because the air safety programs have perfected pilot performance but because the air safety programs have sought to improve the safety of the airplane system as a whole.
Shop safety works the same way. We can't improve shop safety by perfecting woodworkers. We can expect dramatic safety improvement only by perfecting the system as a whole.
One obvious improvement to the shop system as a whole would be to require the Saw Stop device on all new saw and provide retrofits to install the Saw Stop device on existing saws. There are newly developed devices that are highly effect in reducing if not eliminating kickback.
Unfortunately, the Saw Stop device is patented and, as long as the patent remains in force, Saw Stop is unlikely to license its device to other manufacturers or to market a retrofit system.
In the 60 years I've been around saws and other potentially dangerous machines, I've never had to go to emergency for treatment. Naturally, I received the occasional nick and even a kickback or two, but never so bad that I needed more than a bandaid. I can attribute the kickback to carelessness on my part; either a dull blade, the wrong blade, fence not aligned. At 75, I still spend many hours a day in my shop. I confess that I don't use a blade guard and my fingers sometimes get too close to the blade for comfort.
Let me submit an incident that happened to me last year that sent me to emergency. I took the chain off my chainsaw to sharpen it. It was rusty and dirty, so I started to clean it on a wire wheel on my bench grinder. The wire wheel grabbed the chain and wrapped around the wheel. The chain was now whipping around and made some nasty cuts on my fingers. I had to go to emergency for stitches. As I reflect back on why it happened, I come to realize this was a procedure I had never done before (cleaning a saw chain on a wire wheel). Having never done this before, I was entering an area of new and unknown hazards. I never thought a wire wheel would grab the chain. What causes accidents on saws and other machines? I would say it's unfamilarity with the tool or procedure, something which in my case is learned through experience. I learned never to try this again and conclude that cleaning a chain with a wire wheel is a no-no.
Strict attention to what you are doing around tools and a full knowledge of the tool will lessen a chance of an accident.
ANY power tool in the shop can bite the hand or fingers that feed it! In 8th grade shop, one of our classmates decided to cut a colored pencil in to two pieces AFTER the cleanup bell had sounded. You guessed it: He pushed it through the blade and sawed his thumb off at the first joint. Think thinking on the part of our shop teacher and the hospital being only 3 blocks away and this thumb, but not his thumbnail, was saved. He was rightly expelled from class and got an F for the year. He violated EVERY shop safety item drummed into our heads by our instructor.
Cars and shop tools do not attack people, unless directed so by people, including yourself. I have a permanent scar across my thumb nail proving that even a hold-down stick might not be the right solution. I nicked my thumb with my miter saw, trying to cut too short a piece of material. Moral of the story, I had a perfectly good HAND SAW in my drawer but was too lazy and too rushed to use it. I lost a couple of hours and worked one-thumbed for two weeks as payment for my stupidity!
The Ryobi suit is frivolous and should have been thrown out before it even got started. We need to make people take responsibility of our own safety. I know this from first-hand experience!
If you look carefully at the statistics, these injuries were recorded in Emergency Rooms between the years of 1990 and 2007. If you remember this time period this was BEFORE the ANSI standard of a riving knife behind the blade.
I had spent 4 years working in an Emergency Room during the years of 1970-1974. This was BEFORE Air Bags, Collapsing Steering Columns, Safety Glass for front windshield. What I am saying is that there is always improvements in the "safety technology". Automotive Industry or Machine Guarding, I don't care. Tecnology "must" improve the safety of table saws.
I would also like to ask these same Emergency Room workers which has more hazards. A "TABLE SAW" or driving drunk, or slightly under the "legal" limit. I have seen many DEATHS from drunken driving. Do you want me to talk about Motorcycle riding without a "safety" helmet and the death rates....
There is a perception that band saws are inherently safe, table saws much more dangerous. I can't quantify how much more or less dangerous one is than the other, and comparing how many accidents there are with one or the other is misleading, different people use them and for different purposes.
But I can say the only serious injury I got from a power saw was from a band saw. Trip to emergency room, stitches, etc., luckily nothing worse.
I am always worried by this attitude, it can lead to being careless at the band saw. It is still a power tool that can cause real injuries!
I have to say that probably the biggest reason for injury on a tablesaw is the "I gotta get it done" attitude we sometimes get when trying to finish a product to sell. It causes us to get in a hurry and to forsake safety precautions we would normally be taking or maybe (should normally be taking). The riving knives and the blade guards are well and good, but they do nothing if left in the cabinet instead of on the saw. I have a home made riving knife on my saw, but I bought it used and it had no blade guard. It is an old contractor 12" direct drive saw, and it still runs like a charm. When I approach it I do so with caution. I keep it clean. I keep a sharp blade in it. I make sure the pitch and sap are cleaned off fairly regular (both the table and the blade), and I make use of feather boards and hold downs whenever possible. I take my time to consider everything I possibly can when I approach the tablesaw. So far the Lord has kept me safe.
I definitely appreciate the post. We need to be reminded regularly about safety. If we're not some of us tend to get the idea that "that can't happen to me". Thanks for contributing Patrick.
McDaniel's Woodworks & Crafts
Hi, the common item in many table saw accidents where a person makes contact with the blade, is that there is no blade guard.
TV shows, and publications such as FWW continue to show people operating table saws without blade guards.
My approach to machinery safety comes from a 30 year career in industry, which has also kept me accident free at home.
Most table saw guards are only suitable for through cuts, because they are supported by the splitter or riving knife.
This prevents you from using them for dado, rebate, grroving or tennoning operations.
The correct approach is to then not use the table saw for those operations, use another machine such as a shaper which does have suitable guards.
The other correct approach is to change the guard on the saw, I happen to have an Excalibur overarm guard, however any overarm guard will allow grooving rebate and dado work, while protecting your hands. They also provide better dust collection as an added benefit.
Removing the blade guard must always be consider o non option.
We wouldn't be allowed to run a saw at work without guards, splitters, riving knives etc., yet we seem willing to risk such poor work practises at home.
TV shows, publications, and the experienced wood workers on this forum need to tackle this issue.
Show guards in place when using machinery on shows and in publications, answer questions on forums for people with an emphasis on safety, and the correct guards, jigs and training required to use such machinery safely.
SawStop is the only significant safety improvement in decades, yet is a secondary safety system. The correct use of guards and jigs is the primary safety system, SS is meant to provide a failsafe for that extremely rare incident where the primary safety measures failed.
When it comes down to it seems to me it is always carelessness. It's disregard for safe practices or lack of knowledge as to what safe practices are. Any thing that cuts can hurt you be it hand saw chisel,band saw razor blade,etc. Really can't expect the manufacturers or the govt. to make "fool" proff tools. And fools we be when we are careless. Trying to tink of a senario where an accident wasn't caused by someones' carelessness or ignorance. As to the ignorance I would like to see Saw Stop saws in all school woodshops. One thiing to be an adult and hurt yourself another to be a kid. Although the Saw Stop isn't going to keep a piece from kicking back.
I'm very happy to see the manufacturers putting riving knives on their newer products. I believe these additions will prevent many of the common kick-back injuries.
One rule I do my best to follow is that if it feels uncomfortable don't do it. I have the crowns on my two front teeth to remind me.
So far, I've had no injuries in my shop. My friends and I 'grew up' using the cheap, crappy tools we could afford at the time, and as such were more cautious of them and their limitations than we might have been in a shop bedecked with the latest-and-greatest. We hardly ever get complacent, and often pantomimed the more precarious setups before plugging the tool in to make sure we knew what we were about to do and where each of our hands would be at all times.
While I admit to doing some things without the PPE I should, even those times I still try to be very cognizant of possible kickback trajectories, safe zones, blade paths, etc. I intend to enjoy this hobby for a long time and not ruin my enjoyment of everything else.
If I could afford a SawStop AND it was the best tool for my projects, sure I'd get it, but I'd still use all the push sticks and safe techniques I do now. Sadly, the SawStop price is several times higher than I can afford for a single tool when a little free prevention and cheap push sticks have been just as effective in keeping my hands away from harm rather than limiting the harm they would endure.
"tablesaws are the cornerstone of most woodworking shops and the machine is easily the most versatile power tool for woodworking"
Really? Ever try cutting curves or resawing a 12" wide board on one? My bandsaw will do that AND rip straight. Several FWW authors might disagree with the above quote, including Gary Rogowski and Michael Fortune, both advocates of the bandsaw. The people who sell us machines, however, have us conditioned to believe that we absolutely need the largest, heaviest tablesaw that will fit into our shops.
After a tablesaw accident in my late twenties (it took seven years to get all the feeling back in the tip of my index finger), I finally returned to woodworking at age 41, equipping my shop with a large bandsaw, foregoing the table saw. Other than rip miter cuts and cutting shoulders on joints, I don't miss not having one.
I lost a finger to the first nuckle a year ago. I was pushing a board across my dado blade, and it was riding up. I pushed down on the board past the blade, and it kicked back, along with my hand. I had stitches in three fingers, but realize how lucky I really was. Three surgeries later, I'm back in the shop, but am terrified of that saw. I use push sticks to the point I probably look silly, but it's not going to get me again...
As far as I know, there are no guards that could have protected me, other than proper use of a feather-board. I do know that I now take the time, every time, to think about my setup.
I regularly see the pros on TV pushing over the dado just as I did, so it seemed safe. I've written to one asking him to set a better for us wanna'-be's, but haven't seen any changes.
The moral of my story - never, never, NEVER put your hand on a board past the blade.
As has been mentioned many times, cabinet saws will remain in use for decades. And yes, there have been standards for table saw safety for quite a long time. But how many table saws have been sold with inferior/unsafe blade guards that were more dangerous to use then an exposed saw blade? How long did it take OSHA to force manufacturers to correct this issue? It really is no wonder that the common sentiment among older professionals that any bladeguards are dangerous and that they will not use them?
When I got my first unisaw 12 or 13 years ago I did try to use the guard that came with the saw. I actually worked on that guard many times trying to get it to work properly before I realized that the guard would never stay in alignment with the blade no matter how carefully I might readjust it. I came to the sad realization that an exposed spinning saw blade was safer then the manufacturer's supplied blade guards.
I did hurt myself several years later using that same tablesaw, and installed an overarm blade guard as a result. When I called Delta to ask why they didn't offer the unisaw with the overarm guard as an option they all but laughed at me. To this day I have a buddy who I will not let use my unisaw because he will not use any blade guard.
There are many reasons for injuries however there are four that stand out in my mind.
1) Low quality equipment. People buy cheap products to save money. However poor quality tools, regardless of type, will flex and move under pressure. The table saw is such a machine. With poor quality table, poor quality blades and particularly poor quality fences, wood will bind and a spinning blade will cause kickback.
2) Noise. One effect that can happen while operating the saw is dizziness caused by the noise. The dizziness can be only momentary but just enough to cause an accident. I can vouch for this because it happened to me.
The high pitch sound from a saw can and will cause temporary and some permanent hearing loss. Again, I have first hand knowledge.
3)Removal of safety items such as blade guards.
4) Dull blades. Blades are like any other tool, if they are not sharp it requires extra effort to push the wood through. This can cause binding, people get off balance, hands get closer to the danger zone; all because we are concentrating on the extra effort rather than the safety factor.
My recommendation: Buy the best you can afford but never waste money on dangerous junk.
Of course the guy in the video could have used a puh stick :-)
Someone below suggested a video to explain kickback and the dangers therein. Here is a video on YouTube that does a good job:
Elsewhere, a number of individuals rationalized removing the anti-kickback cauls because they score the wood as it runs through. I have found that putting some blue masking tape on the cauls prevents the scoring but does not impair the function of the cauls (this is an evidence-based comment :-))
Thank you FWW for this thread. One thing I will NEVER do again is reach past the blade to pull wood or remove a piece. Too many instances of hands getting pulled back into the blade (shudder...).
The injury issues discussed are always the same, I was distracked, tired,...yada-yada-yada.
I have read most of the postings here and sit in stunned silence at how little is mentioned positvely if it's mentioned at all about existing technology that prevents serious injury---ie the sawstop tech. You know guys/gals there is no getting around it. The technology exists to eliminate this as a work/hobby place issue.
Enough time has elapsed since SStop's tech debue that if it was universely adapted at the time it would be relativly cheap by now and a non-issue. It's also silly to think that just because having this SStop Tech that my or anyone elses procedures to safty will change, an exposed rotating blade has a way of commanding respect no matter how much safty is designed into a tool of this nature.
When legistlation for mandatory seatbelt compliance was passed, I too was initially anti-compliant SOB but it's a known common sence now topic now. This tablesaw issued is relatively the same dung with a differant smell.
I’ve read a lot of possible reasons here on the forum about how some of these injuries are happening. Reasons like lock outs procedures, complacency, fatigue, distractions, guard removal/ bastardizing , inexperience, deadlines etc, are contributing factors for a visit to the hospital.
It would be considered due diligence and good mentoring leaders on our part, to compose a list and or safety category section to pass on that knowledge to the next generation of wood workers. I would hope Fine Woodworking site Web Masters may also see the prudence to include it, within its already great format. Making my living in heavy industry as a tradesman demands everyone’s safety as first and foremost, with Occupational Health & Safety (OHSA) on my mind every minute of the day.
Still injuries will still continue to happen but hopefully at a lower number of instances. It’s what Fine Woodworking is all about and is continuing to do extremely well.
Thanks to all
I would bet that most accidents happen when the operator is distracted, tired or doing boring, repetitive work. I have a few rules I follow faithfully - I quit using dangerous equipment the moment I feel tired even if I am on a tight time constraint, I turn off my saws when anyone is in the shop with me to avoid distractions, I always wear safety glasses and ear protection, and I always have an assortment of pushsticks on hand.
The quality of equipment is also a factor. When you purchase a cheap saw you are also increasing risk of harming yourself. A good fence, decent deck and stable stand make a lot of difference. Ensure your blades are kept sharp as well!
I don't mean to be glib or to discount the importance of table saw safety. But I just don't see these kinds of numbers as making a compelling case for being overly concerned about the current state of table saw design or standard safety procedures. There are more people dying of diseases that you and I have never even heard of than are getting seriously injured by table saws. That is the problem with reporting the gross figure as opposed to a per capita basis. The general public simply has no way to intuitively grasp the relative insignificance of the data in the context of the many millions of people using tablesaws.
The report mentions 31,000 injuries, of which 10% are the kind we all fear and have nightmares about (i.e., amputations - we've all probably got that Uncle Vernon who likes to scare the kids with his stubbed finger). That means that ~3,100 amateur carpenters and woodworkers have had fingers amputated while using table saws (remember, this study did not include trained professionals in the construction trades). Simple math, and it sounds like a lot of people, right? But if you consider how many millions of DIY weekend warriors and hobbyist woodworkers there are in the US, this number would count as an extremely rare occurrence by any reasonable standard.
It is hard for me to find statistics online for how many people actually do carpentry or woodworking on an amateur basis (the number of professionals is around 15 million). But let's start with an estimate of 2% of the population, which is probably conservative in this Home Depot age. With this estimate, about 6 million people would be doing carpentry outside of the workplace in the US. The total number of table saw injuries would represent .05% of this figure. The number of accidents causing amputation would be .005%. If only 1% of Americans do carpentry on an amateur basis, that would still mean that serious dismemberment (among untrained individuals) only happens in one one-hundredth of a percent of individuals.
To beauty of the table saw is that its inherent dangers are readily apparent and naturally induce the appropriate sense of caution. Use a push stick, keep the material against the fence, clear the work area of any obstructions, take reasonable precautions. That's it!
I have been injured twice over a period of 30+ years, both were kick backs on my table saw and both were do to carlessness on my part. I am much more attentive and safety concious. The articles in FWW have helped a great deal in my practice of shop safety
Okay, time for some honesty:
I have 4 table saws, none with guards of any sort installed. My dad was a journeyman who turned me loose with all his tools when I was in Jr. High. He must have done something right teaching me. At 54 yr old, with all my injuries, none are tool related.
I agree with most here. Never use a table saw tired or distracted. I stop an hour early with the big tools on a jobsite. The last hour of the day seems to be when everyone is tired, rushed, and distracted. I do not let any unskilled labor use cutting tools. I focus and use push sticks 100% when required.
I know, I know, I will get a guard on the unisaw when it is set up in the new shop this fall!
Get up to speed with handtools (ok, you can have a bandsaw for resawing)and, as a hobbyist woodworker, you won't need one, or miss one.
"Why do you think so many people are hurt using tablesaws?"
I think the biggest reason is demonstrated right here in this article - look at the accompanying photo.
The entire woodworking industry, from Fine Woodworking and the other magazines, to Norm and the other TV show presenters, to the online blog sites, constantly role-model dangerous, unsafe Table Saw practices. When was the last time you saw a Table Saw being used that hadn't been dangerously modified with the removal of manufacturer-installed safety gear; modifications that would be illegal in an OSHA-jurisdiction professional shop?
Hobbyists, especially beginners, get the constant message that "real" woodworkers, especially the "cool" ones, all use their saws in safety-compromised configuration. So they do, too. And 31,000 of them pay the price every year.
BTW, I regard the "guard removed for clarity" as a lame, after-the-fact cop-out, about as effective as the "do as I say, not as I do" style of parenting.
With my first table saw, I didn't have the correct table insert for a molding head. The saw grabbed the stock and threw it and missed my head by fractions of an inch. Fortunately, I knew enough not to stand directly behind the blade.
---Be sure to read, understand, and follow your power tool instructions....how many times have we heard that.....
I am one of the statistics but was fortunate enough not to lose any fingers. I did receive stiches in my left pinky finger. In anlayzing the events that lead up to the injury I was able to be objective about the event and my actions that caused it.
1. I was too tired to be working in the shop: I have a basement shop and work outside the home to support my family. Like most of my fellow work workers, I had several projects lined up and wanted to finish one before starting another. Thus, after a 12 hour day at the office and dinner, I went down stairs to "make some progress and get something done every day on that project." While making repetitive cuts on several pieces of the same size, I was reaching over the blade to help keep it against the fence. I had removed the safety guard to cut smaller pieces and had not reinstalled it. For just a few seconds, I lost my attention to detail, got to close to the blade and was injured.
A. I now use two push sticks. This keeps my fingers far away from the blade.
B. At the time of the injury, I allowed the blade to extend too far above the piece. I now an very deligent about blade extension.
C. I do not reach over the blade.
D. I keep the table top waxed to allow the piece to move smoothly through the saw and cutting zone.
E. I stay out of the shop when I am tired or do not have the attention to detail that I need to keep the quality of the project as high as my skills can achieve.
2. What I have not done: I will admit to my fellow wood workers that I have not re-installed the safety guard beacuse it is too cumbersome. I cannot aadequately monitor the piece as it moves through the cutting zone. I do use a splitter most of the time to facilitate the process but find that the kick-back grabber mars softer woods like pine and that the chip deflector totally obscures my view of the cut and is not very functional while cutting smaller pieces. I think that on my Delta that it is "over engineered" and that a simpler version could be just as effective.
I've been an avid woodworker for 21 years. I started with a cloth tape measure and a sears circular saw. I've been injured many times. My table saw incident was caused by not paying attention. There was no setup that would let me make the cut with the guard on. I didn't know about push sticks yet. I'll never forget the feeling of my finger tips as they started to bounce over the spinning blade. The bounced because it was hitting bone. OUCH! I recovered.
It's amazing. I agree the Pro's need the SawStop technology but I think we part timers need it more. We see our table saws once a week. We have to get used them again and rethink our strategies. We're more likely to make mistakes. Of course, I understand companies like Delta and Jet needs to maximize their profit margin and if they have to pay for SawStops license that might not work for them. They're short sighted however and should look at the refill money! We're bound to screw up again sooner or later...
(btw: I have at least five different push sticks now).
There is peace in working wood.
I hope it's the same for you.
It's amazing too me that the sawstop tech has not been implimented across all brands by this time---for gods sakes how foolish and stubborn can one be. To my knowledge, almost all production shops have moved to Sawstop machines for the simple reason that accidents will happen, you cannot stop or predict it so head it off at the past and save big $$$$ on issurance costs, workmans comp. It only takes one claim to send your insurance and workmans comp thru the roof. I simply cannot understand the muchismo and bull-headedness of sum of my fellow woodworks against implimenting Sawstop's tech in their home.
I will bet anyone that when the pat runs out on SawStop's tech we will wonderously see across all manufacturers the technology introduced and a stream of law suits will more than likly follow for obvious reasons given that the Sawstop tech will have been around for some time and no action was taken by manufacturers ... The writing is on the wall, Penny wise pound foolish.
As was properly noted, making changes in the required safety equipment on table saws will be very slow to have an impact. Good table saws, particularly name brand cabinet saws can be in use for decades. Therefore, the best approach is to re-emphasize good safety practices and the use of available safety equipment.
Are you aware that safety standards for tables saws (guards, anti-kickback devices, etc.) are over 100 years old? They were first developed by the ASME and distributed to businesses for voluntary compliance. Not until the OSHA Act in 1970, did these become mandatory for businesses.
Frankly, I think table saw manufacturers have done a horrible job of making their tools as safe as possible. Talk to saw users, for example, and with few exceptions, they hate the stock guard supplied. A big part of the reason is the guard takes time to install and remove for non-through cut operations, like dados or cutting tenons. In my experience, only one manufacturer came up with a simple removal method--involve one thumb screw on a self centering pin.
Finally, of those 31 thousand injuries, I would have to ask how many occurred to people using the guard, feather boards and/or push sticks????? I'd venture to say, not too many.
Yes, the table saw is versatile, but as such, not every operation, in my opinion, has been properly designed/developed, from a safety perspective. A good example is cutting thin strips of wood. Most users incorrectly set the thin distance between the blade and the fence, allowing little room for a push stick, and making an OEM guard unusable. However, there have been any number of articles and even a couple of new fence designs, to allow the user to safely cut thin strips without getting near the blade or risking kick-back. I for one, don't think the table saw is necessarily the best tool for the job. I do much better work with a band saw and thickness planer or drum sander.
Obviously, the answer rests with educating users in safe practices. But where will they get this training? Shop classes in public schools are some of the first victims of the budget ax, and even with the few remaining, due to insurance and liability, often students are not allowed to use the table saw.
TV icons like Norm Abram rarely if ever used the guard so people could "see" the cut. At first they put a disclaimer on the screen, but even that soon stopped. Congratulations to Scott Phillips for consistently using guards and safety equipment on his show, but that is just one out of many shows and even magazines that omit using the guard for "clarity".
I doubt anyone expects there to be an instructor dispatched to a woodworker's home. But safety engineering is not an infringment on the bill of rights!
Anasthesiologists know this. Changes in their hardware cut errors and patient deaths by 70 percent. I believe that should be the inquiry made by tool makers.
Neither the government nor the manufacturers can "fix stupid". I don't expect representatives from either to visit my cabinet shop to coach me on safety and common sense.
Normally, I am very careful in using all of my tools, both hand and power. With my first table saw, however, I let my guard down one time and nearly lost a thumb. The saw was powered off; I was using a quality crosscut sled; I moved across the still-spinning blade for just a second. Thank goodness for quick reflexes! Now I have permanent nerve damage in the thumb which is there as a constant reminder that powering off does not mean "safe".
Safety is a personal issue.
Repetitive cuts are a danger point I think,when ever I start to feel too casual is another. This is probably going to get me in trouble but this is the reason I'm not really interested in a Saw Stop TS. I don't want to get the idea that this thing can't hurt me. I have a very healthy respect for what can happen if I'm not focused and considered when I use the TS and its inherent danger provides the impetus.
Also, I don't get push sticks, I use a rectangular piece of scrap plywood with a notch in the corner. This allows me to not only push but apply pressure to the front of the board. I also installed a shop made emergency stop, hinged board with a hole cut out for the on button. This allows me to turn the saw off by leaning into it with my hip if something squirrely starts happening wit the cut. My hands never have to leave the board.
Because woodworking is our passion, we will work through a meal, lowering our blood sugar. We will work to a completion point rather than shutdown for the day (or night, regardless of fatigue levels.
Both of the above can influence concentration.
I think table saw is over-rated. I only use tablesaw to rip a long pice of wood. For cross cut, I always use a sliding mitre saw, with the object clampped down. The table saw is dangerous because you move your hands toward the blades. Even with a push stick you may slip. Plus there is no easy way to turn off the machine in the process if you have both hands engaged in pushing the objects. All the safe devices are cumbersome and inflexible. I have some close call, and am thinking of acquiring a Festool for long, rip cut..
I've been around enough table saws and seen so many close calls from students that my take on this is that personal safe practices not guards or regulations are what's needed regarding woodworking equipment. I agree that splitters etc are necessary but by developing safe practices injuries can be kept to a minimum. If you look at every accident mentioned here you will notice that they did something unsafe or forgot what they were doing. I have personally felt the pain of kickback and wasn't using a splitter nor was I standing to the left of my work. Use as many guards as necessary but alway be aware of what you are doing. Lots of fingers are lost to jointers as well and they have guards also. Bandsaw injuries are also plentiful and this is considered a relatively safe machine. Use pushsticks, keep hands clear, stay to the left of your work and work sloooowly with your brain engaged and you'll be ok.
I think a major cause of serious injury is . . . too MUCH experience. Many people tend to equate safety with how many times they've gotten away with something in the past. If you've done it that way for years without a problem, it has to be safe, right? You have to keep in mind that if you play Russian roulette with a six-shot revolver, the odds are 5 out of six that you'll come out OK. Thing is, you never know when that 1 out of six event might show up. A table saw (band saw, router, etc) is a dangerous tool; even if used properly and with all safety equipment and protocols there's a (thankfully small) chance of serious accident. Not using all the safety equipment and protocols tremendously increases the odds of a serious adverse experience.
Like Tom Triola wrote, the accompanying photo shows a plethora of bad safety practices. (To add two more, when ripping a thin section from a piece of lumber, the thicker section should be between the blade and the fence, not the thin sliver, and I don't see any hearing protection.) Unless accompanied by a caption stating that the intent is to show how NOT to do things, there is NEVER a reason to publish such a photo in your magazine, regardless of how experienced or famous the contributor is. Regardless of how expert Jones normally uses his saw, when FW's photographer is there, they should be required to don ALL recommended safety gear, and follow standard safety practices. And your editors should separately examine all photos to make sure nothing "bad" gets published. Regularly seeing the experts using eye/ear/hand protection, standing out of line with the cut, etcetera, can go a long way towards convincing the "up and coming" that that's the way it's done.
I'll finish up by saying that I see no excuse for ever omitting any of the safety equipment except for the three most often mentioned - the riving knife, splitter, and guard. Depending on your saw model, there are times they must be removed to do something, dado's for example. In an ideal world, all saws would come with splitters that were slightly lower than the top of the blade and guards would be easy to see through and mount from above so non-through cuts could be made without removal. Perfect anti-kickback pawls would be surfaced with "sticky" rubber instead of barbs that leave deep scratches on stock. And all would be removable and replaceable in seconds without the need for tedious re-adjustment. That not being the case, many of us will sometimes (or most of the time) skip using some or all of them. If you must, however, you must keep in mind that you're doing something with a significantly higher risk and heighten your FEAR AND RESPECT of the saw, from the time you start the blade, until it completely stops spinning. Be like those hunters that insist that a shotgun must stay pointed at the ground even though the breach is open and the shells removed. The day you lose that fear and respect you start increasing the chances that one day you'll be telling your story in a forum like this.
The old rule is take ten, as in minutes and not be in a hurry. The one time I did get nipe was when I failed to double check some one else's installation and set up. It wasn't even on a table saw but a large orbital sander.
If it doesn't look or feel safe it isn't so take ten, keep your fingers and don't do it.
I have been working with power tools my whole life. I have seen so very bad injures. Two months ago it was my turn. Had just made a cut, and had hit the stop button. Someone opened the door to my shop behind me I turned to look, and somehow put my thumb in a 10" 40 toothed, carbide tipped, rip blade. Are you alright my sons girlfriend asked, as I grabbed my thumb. yes I said, but we need to go to the hospital.
I don't know may be at 63 I had forgotten about not looking away from a moving blade, but trust me it will be 63 more years before I stop thinking about it again. We need to keep reminding ourselves that we are the most dangers tool in the shop. The others only do what we do with them. If we choose to put our thumbs in the saw blade when it is moving it will cut deep, and long. I still have a thumb, but have no feeling in the top 1/2. I am a lucky man.
I got an early lesson that I still adhere to.I was working with my cousin to build some speaker boxes using his radial arm saw.A piece was cut and I grabbed the piece before the blade had stopped.My finger was 1 inch from the still moving blade.My cousin pointed out how stupid I was and now I always keep my hand away from blades until FULLY STOPPED.A sharp,slow moving saw blade can still shred a finger.Make sure to count fingers after working for the day.If you still got 10,you had a good day of woodworking.Keep your blades and mind sharp.
In the 40 or so years that I have been actively woodworking the only causes of injury to myself have been the result of either taking shortcuts or not paying attention.
This is not to say that the machinery manufacturers can't do better. It would certainly be better for their image to look to Europe or within themselves to design and provide integral safety improvements such as riving knives and easily accessible cutoff switches and design them to be retrofitted to existing equipment before it became legally mandated.
In the end, safety in the shop is a personal responsibility that we all need to take seriously. Machinery manufacturers can only be influenced by legal mandates and loss of sales.
I've been doing woodwork on and off professionally for 25 years and more as a kid years before that. I still have all 10 but I'm getting more and more squeamish about the table saw.
Last fall I was splitting 1 x 2 edge up, (push sticks, no guards) and a piece fell over at the end of the rip, caught and kicked back. The 12' long 2 x 5/16ths piece hit me in the hip with a force that I never care to experience again. I was lucky it didn't hit me in the gut or worse. It was a month before I was walking w/o pain and I can still feel it if I try.
Oh man. The guard went on as soon as I got back to work and stays on mostly. One common theme is the speed that it happens. Same for me. In the blink of an eye...
There are some terrible stories here. Share them with your friends. Maybe our experience can help prevent some future injuries...
Last year Popular Woodworking ran a series of Power Tool Safty atricles authored by Marc Adams .... everyone should read, print a copy and refer to from time to time.
March is owner of Marc Adams Woodworking School in Franklin, IN
Many people take off the guards. I've witnessed many a contractor with theirs removed. I even recall a "This Old House" episode where a cabinet maker operated his saw without the guard. He was missing part of his thumb too.
During more than 50 years of working with power tools I have only once actually been cut by a table saw. This was a large (18") commercial sliding panel saw and all of the employees at this millwork shop used it unguarded. In use, one moves sheetgoods, on the sliding part of the table, through the blade and at the completion of the cut one is standing about 10" from the whirling blade at one's side. about hand level when your arms are at your side.
After doing this for about 6 hours straight I became somewhat mesmerized by the task and while replacing my tape measure on my belt, swinging my hand over the blade as I stood next it, I removed the ends of two fingers before I even noticed.
In conclusion, my feeling about industrial accidents at the workplace or in a home shop, manufacturers and government agencies may do whatever they feel compelled to do but I think the main reason for table saw accidents, or just about any other accidents, besides lack of skill and experience is operator loss of concentration. We all know the hazards, and preventions, Keeping focus on our task at hand is the real issue. There really aren't that many really stoopid people.
My advice to anyone working with power tools is that because they do our work so easily and quickly and they don't care what they cut, bend, spindle or mutilate, is to SLOW DOWN, think things through before you begin, and try to visualize and appreciate the forces at play before you proceed. Of course if you have three hands, keep one behind you with the fingers crossed.
I got into woodworking a little over a year ago, in order to finish the interior of our house. I did some research (not enough though!)on small jobsite saws and didn't want to spend too much. Bought a small Craftsman model, and even as I was assembling it began to realise it was poorly designed and unsafe. It was too lightweight for big cuts, throat plate was a joke, and the fence was never parallel. Used it for 2 months then sent it back to Sears.
Then after a few months of more in-depth research ended up buying a Jet ProShop. Couldn't afford a full on cabinet saw but this was a good compromise. I figure my fingers are worth it. I always use the blade guard. When a cut won't allow it, I use the Medium or Low Profile Splitters from LeeWay. I always use a Bench Dog push stick, a featherboard when required, and made a high profile add-on fence for resawing boards on edge. I replaced the stock blade with a Freud GlueLine rip blade, and always wait for it to come to a full stop after a cut. Always wear eye and ear protection. I figure the few seconds of time it takes to do these things far outweighs the loss of an eye, a finger, or my hearing.
My own stupidity cause me to cut my fingernail off. No guard, thin strip of hard maple, no push stick, dull blade = kickback.
Didn't realize the blade had gotten so dull. It was fine with construction lumber. Funny thing was that it didn't hurt or bleed much.
I'll never forget what the hand surgeon said. "If you cut one finger off we won't sew it back on. You'll be fine with nine. If you cut your thumb off or multiple fingers off we sew them back on."
The ER nurse said mine wasn't so bad, they had a guy come in with his hand in a plastic bag.
I do not think you can yet judge if riving knives are helping to reduce injuries, as they have only just been released on to the market in the USA/Canada. One thing is for sure they are a lot safer than the old splitters, and probably will remain fitted for more different types of cuts.
Oner of the biggest attributes to injuries has to be the use, or rather the lack of use of blade guards and I am one of the offenders. A well designed, quick release/fit blade guard would certainly help in the reduction of injuries. Also 99% of all demonstrations, the demonstrator has the guard removed (for "clarity" & photographic purposes"), even when instructed not to do this at home, we all think "if he can do it so can I"
I will continue to use my uni-saw, hopefully for a lot longer than 10 years, but I am considering a second newer style saw with riving knife.
A comment above was "Only 31,000/year, If there are XXX woodworkers that's . . . .
Interesting way of looking at it but really not the point.
Say, on average, most of us woodworkers started in our twenties, (Some younger, some older) and do it, say till we're around sixty (and many do it much longer) then we're in for about 30 odd years each. Over the 30 years that's about 930,000 accidents (to someone,) (granted some have more than one, but we haven't even counted those who suck it up and don't go to hospital.
Let's say the population North of the USA/Mexico border, is, just for convenience, 330M and a very, very generous guess says that 10% are regular amateur woodworkers, that's 33M, then in the thirty years you use your saw you have bout a one in thirty three chance of being hospitalised for something very painful and a one in 300 chance of losing a digit.
I like flying amphibian aircraft. For several years our group discussed and wrangled over the best procedures for having the wheels up or down appropriately for land or water. Some pilots said it was all about procedure, and if we just stuck to it we'd no longer have the two or three planes dunked (wheels down in water) per year. It may have been true. I reckoned I was a good 'proceduralist.' Then one day coming back from a jolly the air was rough, I was getting thrown around a lot and I desperately needed to pee. Just as I was doing my checks another plane called he was in the circuit and I needed to look around for him. I left a long white line down the runway and suddenly realised, if I'd been on water I would have lost my plane (not to mention a risky swim in ice cold water.) I didn't do water again until I had designed and fitted an alarm system.
So far, in forty odd years of woodworking I have kept all my digits but before I use my saw again I am going to organise a decent guard, because when we finally added up our group stats we had lost about nine out of three hundred planes and a one in thirty chance doesn't look too good for planes or fingers.
It's always possible to show how things are done, even if we stop the saw to show how jigs work or cuts are made, especially in still photography. It's a small thing, and we're all adults, but if Fine Woodworking really care then maybe they will undertake, here and now, never deliberately to accept another article that shows a dangerous practice.
All I can say is: so far I have been very very lucky, more often than not.
I recently ordered a replacement riving knife/splitter/blade guard ass'y for my Rexon JT2501A jobsite table saw from JET/USA. The JET JBTS-10MJS is basically the same machine, but the knife, splitter and guard are much better than the very basic parts that came with my machine.
I keep wondering why the Bosch, DeWALT, Metabo table saws mainly sold here in Germany still haven't got the kickback pawls etc. Decided to get the Taiwanese-made Rexon/JET because of a test in the annual issue of FW. Quote: Blade guards are better than ever and I wanted my tool to have that advanced safety feature. But I had to order it separately in the States.
I also own a now 22-year-old DW8103 radial arm saw, which in my view is a very safe machine. Especially if you're on your own and you have to work large pieces of wood. I enlarged the saw's table and also changed its support (the only real drawback of DW's radial arm saws was the adjustment of the sawtable's flatness).
One more quote: The guards … install and remove easily, making it more likely you'll use them. I will.
Enjoy your tools!
I think that if we ask the same question about hammers or screwdrivers for example there would be even more stories of bad injuries, and horific accidents. One of the worst injuries I ever had in the shop involved a pair of pliers! But do we need to add more safety regulations to the tablesaw - my opinion is no. Sawstop is an amazing product. I'd like to have one on my saw. Tool manufacturers know there is a huge market for safer tool design, features, etc. Let them offer new ideas and let us choose the good ones - or not at our own risk.
My brain falls asleep at somewhere between 2:30 and 3:00 pm every day ... no kidding. I have had five accidents in the shop, all between 3:00 and 3:30.
The last 'accident' was my tablesaw accident. I was learning to cut tenons and needed to turn the saw off to adjust the fence for "one last cut" of the day. I turned the saw off then reached across the table to unclamp a fence without being aware that the blade had not run down and dragged my thumb, vertically through the blade. Needless to say, I have since learned several safer ways to make tenons and now respect my tool shutoff time of 2:00 pm.
The tablesaw is my favorite tool and actually the one I feel most proficient with. I've been working with tablesaws since 7th grade woodshop - 30 years ago.
I've had two incidents in 30 years, both kickbacks, neither caused injury. Both scared the heck out of me. One was in 7th grade - ripping 2" or so from a piece of 1/4 ply about 12"x12" with most of the wood on the left side of the blade. It pinched probably because of fence misalignment. I remember in slow motion the vibration causing the wood to chatter violently, rotate - wham! Right in the chest. I didnt use the table saw again until high-school. That 1st kickback taught me a LOT however.
I've never used a guard or riving knife and have a simple craftsman 10" model with an inaccurate, clumsy fence. I do use a variety of hold-downs and anti-kickback gadgets and of course push sticks when necessary. Its not a "good" table saw, but it does the job and, its mine and I love it - like an old pair of jeans.
I attribute my good safety record to 1) the wake up call from that kickback 30 years ago 2) experience 3)love of woodworking and the use of my hands to do so 4)set up (outfeed tables, proper fence alignment, etc.) 5) ALWAYS wear eye protection, 6)mental check list: before every cut, I remind myself that I need to focus, focus, focus on the cut, the sound, feel and always make sure my hand(s) would not move toward the blade if it slipped or if the wood came apart, whatever. The trick is to do these on EVERY cut - even the simplest, easiest ones - the ones when you think to yourself, "I dont need my safety glasses on this one little cut". But I dont think I could forgive myself for getting an eye put out cutting a paint stirrer in half.
All this stuff only takes a few seconds when you get in the routine.
Oh - I also lock the door to the garage while cutting so nobody can come in and accidentaly startle me. I learned that trick from #2 - experience.
I've enjoyed reading the posts and learned a few things too.
I had an accident with my table saw i needed an out feed table since my accident i have made one solved my problem with the table saw and i got my thumb and first finger thank god i did not cut them off
From reading most of these posts, I see one common theme: a blade guard would have prevented most of the injuries described here. If not prevented, it would at least provide some warning, as your thumb would hit the guard first. I think I'm going to put my blade guard back on and just get used to it.
I've also noticed on woodworking shows and online videos, the blade guard is typically removed so the viewer can better see the action. Maybe its time someone start setting a better example, and leave the guard in place? I don't need to see the blade cut the wood to believe it works.
Not everyone who is a hobbyist woodworker can afford a Saw-Stop. Of course, they can't afford not to.
why are there accidents? because people are stupid!
The above picture says it all! IN ORDER FOR YOUR GUARD TO WORK IT MUST REMAIN ON THE SAW AT ALL TIMES! A riving knife is only half of the required safty aperatous. My trick is to, KEEP MY GUARD ON MY SAW, never look away from the blade until it stops. The only time that a guard isn't required is while dado cutting, and what do you know the board itself acts as a guard. It's not rocket science guys!!
First off let me say that we don't need the government in our garages just as many others had already said. Cause we all know everything else they control is working out so good! LOL!! Anyways, I'm not really sure where to start, cause in my 17 years in the construction/woodworking business I have fortunately kept all my fingers and have never had an accident where I cut myself. Knock on wood! But, I think it might also have something to do with the fact that I always use push sticks and featherboards when possible. I beleive if more people would just slow down and use more safety precautions there'd be alot less accidents. I know several people that have had accidents where they have cut theirselves severely or either lost fingers. Everyone of them I have ever asked how it happened they always say somewhere in there about not using pushsticks or not using featherboards. To everyone out there using any kind of powertool. Just take your time, be cautious and use your safety equipment that came with your saw when possible. Stay safe and happy woodworking!!!
My comment: It doesn't matter how many safeguards are added to a saw by a manufacturer. Most users, especially the ones getting hurt either ignore them, or remove them on one pretense or another and simply forget to put them back or simply choose to not be 'bothered' to put them back.
Most table saw inserts are painted red. Instructions say stay out of the red zone if you're not playing football.
Well designed safety equipment on all power tools is a must. They do in fact help keep us safe sometimes. However, we are human and not infallible. Therefore, no matter how good any piece of safty equipment might be, we as humans still make mistakes. We always have, and we always will. Unfortunately mistakes are as much a part of life as anything is, that's just the way it is. When we do make a mistake we pay a price, and sometimes that price can be astronomical in more ways than one. The way I see it, safety is in ones education. If you don't know, or are not sure how to safely use a power tool, or any piece of equipment for that matter, find out how before attempting to use it and then proceed with caution. Always be attentive to what you are doing and always be careful. Safety comes with experience. Experience comes with doing. In doing anything there is a certain amount of risk even after one becomes experienced. If we should choose to do something, we should also be willing to accept the risk, and pay the price if it comes to that. If your are not willing to pay the price then don't take the risk.
So even though well designed workable safty equipement is important, and helpful. Good safety equipment will not always stop acidents from happining. Why? Because we as humans make all kinds of mistakes in varying degrees. We are not infallible.
A number of great points by everyone! What I have a hard time accepting is that a person should expect to have an accident and leave it to luck whether it is a nick or a missing digit(s). One of the great lessons in wood working is the planning experience. Not only does it make the project go smoother and improve the final output, but it forces you to conceptualize and think about the steps of the project. No, we don't need the government in the garage with us. Many have mentioned the large number of simple yet effective safety items such as push sticks and pads but point out that nothing is fool proof. What does work and I have seen it in action is to include planning not to be injured while using any tool. Planning each part of your project, no matter how simple should include a step of how not to be injured. It will change the way you do the setup, it will make you take the time to create that jig, fix that guard before you make the first cut, or replace the push stick that broke last week. It is the first thing to teach a new wood worker and should be a well practiced habit. If you walk up to a saw and have not made any plans to prevent being injured, don't turn it on!
About 8 months ago, I ran my hand through my table saw and re-organized 2 fingers from their original specifications. The good doctors managed to save my fingers and all things considered, everything turned out pretty good.
How it happened was I was ripping some 6/4 purpleheart and hit a reflex board. Before I could feel the board pinch the blade and bear down, I heard what sounded like a gunshot. (the blade cracking off a chunk of wood). Instinctively, I turned my head (even though I was wearing a full face shield) and my left arm followed the arc of my turning head. You guessed it, the arc of my turning left hand went right through the blade.
Being a Construction manager I had an interminable number of safety topics to give to our folks, and I used my own experience to do a "Job Hazard Analysis" with a bunch of our site carpenters. With about 200 years of experience behind us, the only thing we came up with is using a clamping jig for future ripping of boards over 4/4.
I had on all the safety gear (form fitting cutters glovers, head shield, canvass apron...the lot) and I was focussed on the cut and the cut brought my hands nowhere near the blade. All that said, I still earned 40+ stitches and a bunch of rehab.
The point I'm trying to make is that no matter how safe you think you are there is zero chance of getting to zero risk. I made and use a ripping jig now, but I gotta be honest, I doubt I ever would have thought of this prior to my JHA with our carpenter shop.
...it's tough to be perfectly safe, but you have to keep trying!
My story is of the accident that did not happen. And I believe it is quite telling. I work in an industry that is seemingly immune from OSHA, in fact, the only real experience I have had with them was when they were granting us waivers to use equipment in ways that it was decidedly not designed for.
My friend and I had been set the task of building a thirty foot long ramp, from lumber, that a hook and ladder truck could drive up in order for the driver to stay level with the camera for a shot in a movie. as my buddy was ripping a long plywood wedge shape, a gentleman in a suit and tie hurried up to him, and, mid cut, tapped him on the shoulder and started berating him for not wearing safety glasses. My pal was flabbergasted (and he was wearing special prescription safety glasses that were kind of stealth), but, as his direct supervisor, I had the distinct pleasure of explaining to Mr corporate safety officer
just how dangerous his own actions had been.
I have seen many posts regaling the need for more safety features, but I would like to point out that the most important thing is to know the limitations of the tool. A little Makita seven inch tablesaw is a great thing to have in your back pocket,but on a pair of sawhorses on a slope it is not the optimum tool for ripping a stack of one inch MDF into a pile of fascia substrates.
And I have cringed at every single posting below from people who have "discovered" or "just built" or are thinking that "maybe it would help" to have an outfeed table. For goodness sake!
You put yourself in danger when you are working with unsupported loads, be it crosscutting the center of a two by six (circular saws kick back too) or trying to hold a sheet of quarter inch luan down on to the blade when you are trying to rip eight feet without an outfeed table. it should be the first thing you build, hell, if you build it right, you won't need a bench in your shop until you are experienced enough to build your own.
Wood working has a long and shallow learning curve, but it is so satisfying. if you are not sure you need a tool, or if you are a little uncomfortable with it, wait. A good cabinet saw is a big investment, and it is something you will never use if you are making whale shaped coat racks for your grandkids' room. If you are inspired by FWW to new heights, work with tools you are comfortable with until you can no longer keep up with your own work load. Then, buy the heaviest, or at the very least, most stable stationary machines (stationary is what I am talking here) that you can, and find some one who knows how to use it and have them show you. Better yet, use theirs and see if you will be comfortable with it.
Most industrial accidents occur the first year, or after twenty. This means while people are learning a machine, or after they have become too comfortable with it. Most D.I.Y.ers will never pass that first year mark. a year of Sundays is still only a fifth of a work year, and who's training you, anyway?
Best of luck...
My entry into woodworking was 29 years ago with an Inca 259 with riving knives - there were two, one for an 8" blade and one for a 10" blade. My wife bought me a hold down, hold against the fence accessory called "Ripstrate" which I found worked equally as well on my small Davis & Wells shaper. I have transferred that Ripstrate to every saw I own or have owned and have just installed it on a General 650. Somewhere along the line, I bought another Ripstrate. Unfortunately in this world, many of the smart things disappear all too quickly and the product is no longer out there. Riving knives, Ripstrate,push sticks and simple care and alertness have paid off for me.
The best thing is to keep the table saw from hurting you (besides brain farts) is to keep it in the best shape possible!
The few times I've been hurt by a table saw it was because the table wasn't parellel, the blade was dull, the adjusting wheels were stiff and hard to use, the belt was loose, ect.
Just like a knife, a well oiled and maintained machine will work with you and not against you!
Luckily the few injuries were minor with no loss of parts.
Best of cuts!
Don - 42 years of sawdust!
When I first started taking woodworking classes table saws terrified me. I swore my own shop would be designed around a big bandsaw and the table saw could go hang. I have finally gotten used to one and bought a Powermatic 2000 as soon as they were available. I still treat the thing with great respect. I am inclined to believe that most of the injuries are due to hurrying, especially when the woodworker is tired. In my own case, as soon as I start finding myself doing dumb little things, I close down the power and go read a book. Fatigue is much more the danger than the machine itself.
BTW, I love the riving knife.
THE LAST THING WE NEED IS THE GOVERNMENT IN OUR SHOPS. There is no amount of regulation going to protect stupid from stupid or anyone from the occaisional the occaisonal brain fart. In my 45 years in the construction industry and as a woodworker I have all my fingers and have had only a few close calls. Those occurred either at the end of a very long day or when I was working with a fool. All involved kickback which may or may not have been prevented by a riving knife or anti kick back protection.
My success stems from a healthy emotional attachment to my fingers and other working parts, as well as good early carrer training, taking the occaisional co worker to the emergency room, and once, having a co worker's thumb whack me in the side of my head. None of these injuries happened in my shop.
Power tools are inherently dangerous. Built in and or attached safety features are great, but none are or will be failsafe.
i have been fortunate in not experienceing a table saw accident in over 35 years of use. i do not use a guard or riving knife.i do use a hold down if i feel the board might rise while cutting. i feel that the most important safety precautions are- use a push stick,do not cut small pieces while holding by hand,use flat lumber,do not stand directly behind the board you are sawing, adjust feed rate accordingly,pay attention and shut down if you feel much resistence and always use the correct blade.that is all i can say about that. good luck.
I use the GRR-Ripper accessories for almost everything I do on the table saw. These provide an excellent shield for my hands and fingers and I've never came close to cutting any thing after I started using them. I'd give these 5 stars for safety.
I have been fortunate in that I have had good instruction and have also been very lucky when I have decided not to follow instructions. A kickback or two, a thwang with a disc sander attachment and a couple of bruised fingers are the extent of my unlucky encounters in my 40 years of working with table saws.
Red paint, properly-adjusted saws, plenty of rest, minimizing distractions, clean shop, no alcohol or drugs, good instruction...these are the points I put stock in today. I have used a Sawstop in a woodworking class. I hope I will be able to buy one before I need it rather than after I wish I had.
It was last April. I had just finished a raised panel black cherry toy box for my nephews son. I grabbed a 2x2 to rip for a couple of pieces of trim for my grand daughters club house. Half way thru the rip I lost my index finger and half of my thumb. The next day when I got home from the hospital, I grabbed a beer and went out to evaluate what I had done. As I sipped my beer I just stared at the tablesaw, blood and bone chips still on it, to try and understand how I could have done something so stupid. It didn't take too long. It was a multitude of sins. No government regulations, no instruction manuals and no one else can overcome a moment of my stupidity.
I will be upgrading to a Sawstop cabinet saw as soon as possible. I was back in the workshop a week later with bandages and all. We all have "brain farts" once in awhile.
I forgot to mention that the SawStop allows you to change from riving knife to blade guard in under one minute without the use of tools.
"kmoore01 writes: my only injuries related to table saw use have been with kick-back. nothing I see with SAW STOP would have avoided these" As a SawStop owner, I disagree. The riving knife and anti-kickback pawls on the blade guard make it pretty hard to get kickback.
Others have commented that the improvements built into new saws can lure folks into a false sense of security. This is not true for me. When I'm in my shop, my SawStop is a constant reminder of the importance I place on safety. More than once, I've changed the way I'm planning on doing some routing or jointing because of the SawStop. Why? I look at the saw and think "I spent $3300 to save my fingers / abdomen and now I'm considering not using a push pad when jointing this piece. Duh...." Same story with the router.
I have to wonder if the so-called "improvements in guards and splitters" are as good as hoped for. I bought a very nice hybrid tablesaw a year ago, but the guard/splitter that came with it is awful, so I rarely use it. The problem is the guard will not ride up over a work piece that is an inch or more thick; instead, it binds. I have to reach over and lift the guard in order to continue pushing the work piece forward---ironically, there is a sticker on the guard that warns me not to get my hand close to the blade!
It can't be a good thing that I feel safer NOT using the safety equipment.
I have been a professional woodworker for 35 years, 30 in my own studio. I have gotten more and more safety conscious over the years and have all ten fingers. I began using an overarm Exaktor guard on my Unisaw 8 or 10 years ago for the dust collection and the safety. Before that I never used a guard or worked in a shop which used guards. Even the Exaktor takes some getting used to but once you do it seems quite odd not to have it available.
Last year I replaced my trusty 30 year old Unisaw with a Sawstop and also put an Exaktor on it. I also use the riving knife.
Every tablesaw accident I have ever seen or been around has been the result of doing something stupid or being inattentive. That being said, you're still left with an injury. All of the "the best safety device is your brain" crowd can still find themselves with an injury, How much is that worth? I decided that the cost of the Sawstop and Exaktor was money well spent. Of the injuries described, who wouldn't trade $4000 or so to not have the injury.
I don't want the government in my shop either but who else can address those issues? The riving knife is a relatively inexpensive and effective safety device which I am glad is now required. Go look at 100 year old bandsaws and tablesaws without any guards whatsoever and then bitch about the relatively minimum safety requirements on tools.
I've cut my left thumb three times and two times were with my tablesaw. Both times I was finishing up doing repetitive cuts and I was about to finish when my concentration slipped. Now I make a strong effort to guard against these lapses in concentration.
the idea that safety equipment can make you safe when using machinery is ludicrous on its face. i'm an amateur woodworker, 68 years young and was taught in all building skills from my youth. he cut off the end of one of his fingers, my brother in law, a residential contractor, cut of his thumb. i never us a blade guard and have never had any accident or even close call. it all has to do with respect for your tools. at least 95% of my cross cut activity is done with shop made sleds which i design with care to promote safety. i use a micro jig splitter when crosscutting. how have i wracked up such a safety record in the face of all of the safety advice i don't follow. one word. RESPECT!!!
when working with electricity, my father taught me to always work is if the circuit was live. good advice in all fields of endeaver. i never work when fatigued, an advantage amateurs have. i never put my hands anywhere close to the blade until it completely stops. i am currently upgrading my general 650 cabinet saw with a riving knife retrofit kit. i do see the merit of riving knives. i not opposed to attempting to make equipment safer, i think adding a blade brake on table saws could be profitable, but safety is more about individual aditude and focus than gadgets.
the wood worker who dies with the most fingers and thumbs wins. i plan on placing first in that contest.
My close encounter with a edge jointer was due to a lack of knowing that what I was doing would was dangerous and would get get me hurt. That and loosing respect for power tools and the foolishness of youth, I now have one finger tip that is flat on one side and the memory of watching the Doctor sew the remaining slices back onto my finger.
Sometimes experience is a good teacher, other times it can be tragic.
I wonder how many of us, in the haste of wanting to unbox and start using a new power tool, fail to sit down with a cup of coffee and READ THE OWNERS MANUAL?
Legislation and all the safety gadgets in the world don't work if they are removed and cast into some corner to collect dust.
I can't help but wonder what those 31,400 people where thinking about or focusing on when they pushed their hand into a spinning saw blade.
All together now: Saw Stop
Less than $2000 which is way cheap compared to hand surgery or loss.
I've had two "incidents", well covered above, plus a kickback that flew 12 ft and embedded itself in a wood garage door, again well described above.
These led me to become a believer in the European style "short" fence as well as riving knive/splitters. I wrote a letter to FWW about one of their "Tools Special Issues" which completely ignored this approach. They promised to rectify the situation and have (after 3 years) failed to do so.
Check out the short fence approach-
or search [european table saw fences] you'll see this url in the first few positions
go down several emails to one from Niki. Check out the 3 url's,the video and a 4th url. The ride down should give you several views to juggle.
One year sixteen days ago at 4:00 p.m. I too had a 50 year old craftsmen table saw that was my dads. While cutting door panels for my brand new shop I was walking alongside of the running saw to straighten up a roller that was tilted. I was wearing ear protection and apparently did not here the saw running in the back of my mind. I dragged my right hand into the blade and severed six tendons, six nerves and two arteries. After four operations and approx. $150,000.00 . I have eighty percent strength in my right hand and to this day I am still going to physical therapy three times a week
Do I still use that saw? Yes, but I am three fold more conscious of what the blade is doing, and when I save enough money I will buy a safe stop saw.
It would be interesting to know the history of table saw injuries. Both in the sense of number; but, more importantly, the type or circumstances around the injuries.
I suspect, based on a fair amount of experience, that a majority of injuries are routed in lack of respect, carelessness, distraction, etc.
I don't care what the machine; or, how many safety features ANY machine has ...... if you don't know how to use it; and, you are not focused during its use, there will be injury.
I think it is a BIG mistake to be trying to promote a "perfectly safe" table saw. First, the more safety measures, the more cumbersome it will be to use the table saw CORRECTLY; Second, machines like the Saw Stop can lull one into thinking they don't have to be careful using the saw.
The problem is mostly people getting these machines and not knowing how to use them. I would bet that a majority of injuries are from the DIY'er type that wants that great craftsman table saw just because it's the thing to do. Just watch the DIY channel or watch a few of the YouTube videos of the IDIOTS using a table saw or other machinery that they have NO business using!!!
Perhaps it is time to require a "license" to operate a table saw? Okay, I don't like that idea, but it would be nice if the common sense, and respect, of my dad's and grandfather's generation were a little more prevalent today. Just because your "a guy" doesn't mean you know how to properly use a table saw, or any other equipment.
Couple of nasty bruises from flying off-cuts. One scar on my nose from a piece of a staple that was embedded in the lumber. I wear a full face mask now, but I never use the blade guard. I do as much cutting as I can on the bandsaw, which seems safer. I want a SawStop, but I do love my old Powermatic 66.
I have an old craftsman contractor saw and it works great. while making a entertainment center, i had to trim off a small piece 1/8 x1/8 x 36 inches long. I was using an old push stick and not paying attention to where i was standing. Well when that piece kicked back it went through my carhart and into my stomach 2". Lucky for me i'm as big as i am and was whereing the carhart or it would have perferated my bowles and i would have been in bad shape. Please pay attention at all times and watch where you are standing.
Norm said it best. "The most important thing to remember about working with power tools is SHOP SAFETY..
No-one is going to protect a carpenter better that the carpenter himself. The injuries I have sustained have been caused by breaking (well-known and established) rules---usually more than one at a time. Anything with a power cord should be treated with respect and diligence.
I think government regulation and oversite is a mistake--unless you want someone who has never turned on a tablesaw spending a billion dollars of OPM--other-people's money--to figure out what carpenters taught by carpenters already know---you are the custodian of your own safety.
If you've got the desire to buy a power-tool and put it to use----take responsibility to know how to use it..to maximize the mechanical advantage and minimize the disadvantages.
If you tie the guard back on your skil-saw (I did it for many years---don't anymore---story for another time)--expect, at some point, to get the idea "Oh, that's why they put a guard on that contraption."----for some of you, Blood may be involved.
First, I am amazed that there so many cranky comments here disparaging Federal safety legislation. Calm down, guys, nobody is going to take away your old tablesaw. You'd show your intelligence and good judgment by deciding to ditching it yourself.
I have a 40-year-old Craftsman that I inherited from my dad, who taught me to have proper respect for it. It has never bitten me yet ... HOWEVER, I am going to get a SawStop machine as soon as I can scrape the dough together. Simply because I am bright enough to recognize the old Craftsman as an "avoidable risk".
Yeah, there are lots of comments saying "no cuts yet". Once upon a time I was into hang gliding, and after I acquired a middling big gouge on my knee, my instructor commented that he'd been flying for years, without the first mishap. It only took ONCE, six months later. He's no longer with us.
Bottom line to me is to BE SMART and to RECOGNIZE that one might be working tired or distracted one day. Nobody has perfect judgment, nobody _plans_ to get injured. You CAN plan to NOT get injured, using safe practices and the safest tools available. If a couple grand reduces possibility of serious hand injury, I'm all for it. (Now where's my checkbook...)
Okay, I rarely use the guard and splitter, and I know that I should. I make no excuses. I will say that for at least half of the work I do on the table saw, it tends to get in the way. I do not stand where a piece of wood kicked back can hit me. I also use push sticks that I make myself. These pushsticks get replaced often because they get chewed up by the blade. Imagine if I didn't use them! I use fences, finger boards, and am constantly aware of the blade. I once worked as a machinist and saw many terrible accidents occur to co-workers. I never had one. Why? because I was terrified of the machines. I still have a healthy respect for the machines I work with.
I have had one accident with my saw. I was too tired, too overwrought, and upset about something while I was working. In other words I had no business in the shop in the first place. The saw was powering down and I thoughtlessly reached down to brush away debris. I nipped the end of my second finger. Thanks to a skilled surgeon, the only evidence of the mishap is an indent on the end of that finger.
Something else that needs to be stressed. Wear your hearing protection! Table saws generate a lot of decibles and can permenently damage hearing. Tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears) is a growing problem with people who work around noisy environments. Yeah, you're probably saying that it's only a few minutes here and there, but trust me, an instant can produce ear damaging tinnitus, and once you get it, you have it for the rest of your life.
Several years ago while making a cradle, I had a 15 deg cut to make. My saw is a left tilting blade. After the cut, I reached over to take of the piece, and the still turning blade nipped the tip of my little finger. About a 1/2" from the top, and lots of bleeding. Fortunately, a good micro surgeon and splinting for a month, and just an indentation is all that's visible. Lesson that I learned: wait until blade stops before retrieving cut piece.
As a surgeon, I face an issue: I want to be a better woodworker, so I avidly watch the great videos the pros do on Fine Woodworking, Wood Whisperer, etc. The learning is great but I see them do some things that I would never do. The comment from the person about his instructor saying you can control better with your hand than with a pushstick or jig: yes, I see these pros move wood past the blade with just their hands and I am sure they feel OK with it and that it saves them time, but there are times when I get a bad, nervous feeling about what I am about to do on the tablesaw and I try to listen to that voice because I really need to keep my fingers. Once, I was cutting a dado on a board, going with the grain, and I wanted it to stop before the end. I was just a tiny bit shy of my mark, so I shut off the saw and while it was still spinning, I reached over the blade and tried to push it that little bit more to line up to my mark. It came back at me, along with my hand and nicked the end of my finger deeply - that was with no power and the blade slowing down. Very painful and took a long time to heal and seriously affected my ability to deliver healthcare. The main thing I have learned (hopefully) is don't be in a hurry cause whenever I am, bad and stupid things happen.
I received my tablesaw as a Christmas gift about 16 years ago & although I don't get to use it often these days, I have a huge respect for the spinning blade. I always use the splitter & guard, have an awesome magnetic feather board from Lee Valley, several types of push sticks, a crosscut sled and always stand to the side rather than directly behind the blade (when a 3" x 4" piece of wood kicked back about 10 feet and became lodged into the gyproc in the wall behind me it drove that point home rather well).
My husband however (who has recently taken over MY shop to do a major reno), always takes the guard & splitter off, never makes sure there's outfeed room, never puts tools or wood away so is always working in CHAOS, on occasion doesn't wear eye or ear protection and wants to use the tablesaw for every cut (even when it is not the right tool for the job) and thinks that knives should be stored in the "safety equipment" drawer in the shop. He's an accident waiting to happen and the reason that it takes me an hour just to get the shop ready & safe for me to work in again.
my only injuries related to table saw use have been with kick-back. nothing I see with SAW STOP would have avoided these. I have a DELTA Uni-SAW about 5 yrs old which came with the worst blade guard and splitter I have ever seen. I replaced them both with an overhead blade guard with dust collection and a good snap in splitter. Unfortunately, there are times when both of these can't be used. My most recent experience was with some BIG BOX store premium sanded 1/2" plywood. the material was so warped that it caught the blade and threw it back at me, significant deep bruises across my abdomen. Lesson learned: don't buy plywood from big box stores and warped materials should be used for firewood.
I consider my old B&D radial arm saw the most dangerous power tool in my shop and I use it with trepidation. It was sold without a blade guard. They can't do that anymore.
I recently lost half my middle finger and the end of my ring finger on a 3/4" dado blade. I've been using table saws for 40 years without a nick and have done the procedure that caused the accident many times but did something you all should learn from.
I was cutting a 3/4 stopped dado in a 3" thick piece of hard maple. As I have done before, I lowered the board onto the spinning blade about 2 inches from one end then cut the groove just shy of 2" from the other end then shut the saw off before removing the board off the blade. All went well except the groove was a 1/2 inch short at each end. This is when I made the big mistake. I repeated the cut not thinking that now I had to lay the board down on the spinning blade precisely in the exact position to prevent it from binding, which I now realize is impossible. With my hand on top of the board above the blade pushing down, the blade jammed in the grove kicking the board back while the momentum of my hand pressing down continued into the blade. I'm just grateful now that I didn't loose my whole hand.
Next time I'll make up a custom push stick to have something between the blade and my hand(or use a router) but I'll never try to re-cut a stopped dado again. And my next saw will be a SawStop.
Mark Fredericton NB
I totally disagree with comments that instructionals from FWW can be responsible for an increase in table saw accidents. Any article with photos that I have read clearly states that "guards are removed for instructional purposes only, and should be used whenever possible". As a matter of fact, I still occasionally read my black and white printed back-issues, which by the way contain the same warning messsage.
Logically, the rising figure in table saw accidents is probably due to an increase in "do-it-yourselfers", many with little or no woodworking experience. Rising labor costs are enough to discourage anybody from hiring a job out, including myself. Hence, we visit the nearest box store or discount warehouse to shop for tools - hopefully at a great price!
Absolutely nothing wrong with that, but let's consider a few things, especially if we're inexperienced. How well the saw is constructed? Is the motor adequate for ripping a 2-by piece of lumber - without bogging down? Is it a brand-trusted tool?
Many table saws that I have seen with "off-brand" names, at bargain prices, appear to be cheaply built with a bare-minimum of metal, mixed with and an abundance of plastic. Yes, it may be a 2 h.p. motor, but is the amperage adequate for ripping thick stock? The price may be right, but will the saw stand up to its many demands? If not, prepare for kickback, non-precision cuts and an abundance of safety hazards. That's why I always consider brand-trusted tools that I will be using for hopefully many years to come.
As far as safety? I have always chosen the brain as the most invaluable safety device in existence.
I have used a table saw for three decades: no guard, no riv, no injuries. The keys are:
The work should be well supported. You, personally, should not be part of the support system.
Long, straight fence which stays parallel to the blade.
Sharp blades, preferably carbide tipped.
Well waxed table and fence so that the works slides effortlessly. I like dance floor wax.
No unsupported cross cuts using the fence as a stop.
Good push sticks for small pieces. Hang them on the saw so they are always ready.
The depth of the blade should be as shallow as possible for a given thickness.
Most importantly, rely on your experience and common sense. If a cut violates your "dangerstat," don't do it. You should always have a feeling of control and comfort.
I lost the last joint of my left thumb (I'm right-handed) to my brand-new Bosch job-site tablesaw last September. The blade guard was not installed. I was ripping a long 2 x 6 and pushing the board on the fence (right) side of the blade with a push stick. The cut was finished and I was stepping back from the saw to turn it off when somehow my left thumb hit the blade. I still do not know how my thumb got in the way of the blade.
Excellent advice from my hand surgeon led me to forgo an attempt at reattachment. My recovery and acclimation to my amputated thumb have gone exceptionally well. The stories I have heard of about the arduous process of recovering from re-attachment surgery and the low probability of success confirms that I made the right choice. My biggest losses have been the absence of a fingernail and a deranged sense of touch. I'm hoping the latter problem will improve over the year as others have experienced.
I consider myself very safety conscious, and I recall many instances when I would not proceed with a cut because it felt unsafe. That unease was absent on this occasion. I've been using tablesaws for home improvement and cabinetry for 30 years, and the cumulative odds of having an accident caught up to me.
I replaced the old Craftsman saw in my home shop with a SawStop. I may replace the Bosch with a second one. I use the blade guard at all times now, even though I am still getting used to it. The Sawstop technology should be mandatory, just like airbags in cars, and if it takes regulatory action to make it so, I'm all for it.
Table saws are sold to the public as a "recreational" or "Hobby" power tool.
They have specific inherent dangers that amateurs/beginners are not aware of.
Operators of table saws must have 100% safety awareness and training. Any thing less than that will eventually result in an accident. Shortcuts to safety are not allowed.
I'm going against the grain. A master carpenter taught me this many years ago and it works. Do NOT set the fence parallel to the blade for ripping. When establishing fence alignment, skew it out away from the back of the blade >< .003 of an inch and then lock it down. This helps to relieve binding pressure most common to kickback and will have no negative effect on the finished cut. In 45 years I had never met anyone who had heard of this and was more than surprised to hear a Forrest blade rep at a recent woodworking show recommend this very thing. On general safety I don't want my hands anywhere near that blade. They cannot react in time to prevent contact and serious injury. Push sticks don't have to react. Use them. Lastly; In a hurry? Wait for another day.
I watched with interest the video on riving knives. Can they be installed, after market on existing table saws, or are they available only on new ones?
Several years ago, when the SawStop mechanism was invented, the inventors used it on a converted saw just to demonstrate. Their plan, if I remember correctly, was to sell or license this technology to all the major table saw manufactures, but of course all the big-boys rejected it saying it cost to much and not that many people were interested in safety.
Well finally the SawStop table saw was release (as developing their own saw was the inventors only option).
If we would just stop buying other brands, maybe the industry's big players would wake up and realize that safety is a concern to the general public.
I sold my Delta and bought a SawStop, my hands are too valuable to me to use anything else. yours should be to.
Why is finger or thumb amputation by blade contact not considered a solved problem? It is. Get a sawstop. This does not solve everything, of course, but many of the injuries cited in the paper would be non-injuries with a blade brake.
FWW is doing its readers a tremendous disservice by not taking a strong stand on this issue. I believe that the review of the latest Unisaw a few months ago failed to even mention the lack of a blade brake (clear negligence on behalf of the reviewer) and certainly did not state the obvious: the new Unisaw was outdated the day it went on sale. No one should buy it until Delta brings it up to date with a blade brake.
Information like this is always helpful. My new saw is a SawStop. I have been lucky over the past 30 years with my only injuries being due to hand tools. I have actually found myself being more careful since I got the new saw. My children and grand children may well end up with this saw and I feel good about the margin of safety it provides. No one is immune to an accident (as a retired physician I have seen many strange ones by careful people).
I have no fear of Government Regulation and hope we continue to strive for safer products and practices.
I purchased my first table saw in 1970 from Sears. I read the manual but had little appreciation for the safety warnings because the terminology was alien and, without experience, somewhat meaningless. For example, the term "kick back" is a difficult phenomena for the novice to understand when his/her knowledge is limited to the fact that a saw blade cuts wood and the novice is not expecting the blade to throw something back at him.
I stuck my right index finger into the blade in 1978 while trimming or shaving the edges of decorative, indoor window shutters because I moved the fence within fractions of an inch of the blade AND DID NOT KNOW WHAT A PUSH STICK WAS. I also did not appreciate that I could accomplish the same cut by moving the fence farther away from the blade and shaving on the outter edge of the work piece rather than the edge closest to the fence.
In 1994 I upgraded to a Delta cabinet saw with the overhead Uniguard. With the improvement of my skills, I have abandoned the Uniguard because it interfers with good sight to my cut lines and, over time, has become nicked up through use. The nicks hang up on the work piece and often create a more dangerous situation clearing the hang up while the saw is operating. The guard has since been laid up out of the way but I continue to use the original splitter to avoid kick back.
Improved Safety Suggestions: Manufacturers should include CDs or videos that demonstrate the dangers assoiciated with the use of table saws. While written warnings are satisfactory for liability purposes, the visualization of an actual kick back coupled with a verbal explanation of what causes kick back would drive the point home in dramatic fashion in mere seconds. The new product owner would not have to wait for a kick back to happen to know what it is and the danger associated with kick back. The same is true for the use of push sticks. Any number of scenarios can be demonstrated with the use of a push stick in order to inform the new owner of their importance to operator safety. (Push sticks and feather boards could be included in the package at the time of purchase, especially to a first time buyer of any table saw.
Using a cabinet saw or table saw to rip large sheet goods should be discouraged until the operator has provided for sufficient infeed, outfeed and lateral support of the large sheets during ripping.
The contact edges on all plastic guards should be trimmed out with a hardened steel band that will not nick or ding and cause a hang up of the work piece on the guard during a cut.
Finally, the power switch should be mounted a bit proud of the front edge of the table with a large paddle that can be hit with the operator's knee or thigh to de-energize the saw when the operator encounters a particularly dangerous situation in the middle of a cut. These assemblies are available as after market items, but should be standard equipment on all newly manufactured models.
I do not believe that the federal government should become overtly involved in table saw safety. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to make dangers and avoidance clear to the consumers to whom they market these wonderrful machines. I dare say that a vast majority of the 31,000 accidents attributable to table saws are either the product of ignorance or carelessness. The manufacturer is responsible for making the consumer less ignorant of the dangers of use, but neither the manufacturer nor the government can eliminate carelessness.
I had a severe laceration of my left thumb a number of years ago. Thumb has healed but nerve endings never totally recovered, and a certain area of my thumb is still without feeling. During discussion with a friend later, he gave me the best tip I can imagine. He said that everytime he uses his table saw, he asks himself 2 questions: 1) Where is the blade?, and 2) Where are my fingers. Always keep track of those 2 things and never, never loose sight of the absolute necessity to keep them apart. Since that time, I have thought of those 2 questions with every cut I have made. I'm not saying that I can't have another tablesaw injury, but those 2 focus questions help a lot. (My first injury was because I was just not paying attention. I had just completed a cut and turned the saw off. The ball of my thumb contacted the still - rapidly - spinning blade. So, even if you're not actually making a cut, you can still be badly injured.)
I've done a couple of major remodels in the past few years. I am novice by carpenter standards, but enjoy working hands on side by side with the men when I can.
Long story short, I fell in with some great carpenters (brothers) in their 60's. We were using my contractor saw for ripping. I watched ho comfortable these guys were around the saw and it made me extremely nervous. Then, I read an article about saw injury stats - that these experienced men were in the highest risk rate of injury.
A buddy of mine ended up in surgery after leaning down to pick up a piece of wood after the saw had been turned off but the blade was still spinning - the surgeons managed to save his finger, because the cut went up the side of his hand. That's all I needed to know. I bought a SawStop.
The carpenters thought I was nuts for spending that much money, until they started working on it, best saw they've ever used. Now, the only people they think are nuts are the other saw manufacturers that don't use this technology to protect woodworkers. Though it cost about $1k more than the nearest competitors saw, it's cheap insurance against tragedy.
Over 95% of injuries can be stopped, how? Replace your present tablesaw with a Saw Stop brand. This saw is unbelievable check out their web site for pics of the "injuries" on these saws. While they aren't cheap it's worth the investment considering the severity of injuries. The present saws are always going to be dangerous, I'm going with saw stop, after 30 stitches and loss of tissue in my left thumb due to a dado blade there is no other choice for woodworker safety. This magazine should due a story on this product you owe it to your readers to let them know.
I believe that these injuries are due about 75% to pure machismo (only sissies or inexperienced people need safety accessories); 15% to lack of knowledge (HOW a featherboard, splitter, guard, etc. make sawing safer); and 10% to carelessness (distractions, being in a hurry, lack of planning the cut).
I even cringe at times watching Norm Abrams make what I consider to be dangerous cuts on his tablesaw. In doing so, he only reinforces the macho thing.
In over 15 years of serious woodworking, all my fingers are intact - not because I'm a better woodworker but only because I take the time to understand what the hazards really are and how to avoid them.
Tha aboslute LAST THING we need is MORE GOVERNMENT LEGISLATION to keep us "safe". Power tools are DANGEROUS, They always have been, they always will be. It is up to the individual to seek out training and or experience before that person starts any power tool. The last thing I want is some Washington moron in my shop looking over my shoulder.
Unfortunately I was unable to read the study as I do not have an account with that zine. However I did read the abstract and am left wondering if I shouldn't get a Sawstop which I have been against for my own purposes. See, I was injured two days ago on the saw - my second power tool injury. The first was with a miter saw that I was operating while very tired and have a large laceration on the back of my left hand to show. This last one was not as bad and I have no idea how it happened as I was utilizing all safety measures I could. While cutting rebates in a lid for a small casket using a sled, somehow the small board slipped out and careened into my belly (no damage, Buddha belly) but my forefinger fell into the blade which was only exposed about 1/8" above the sled. So I have a 1/8 inch deep by 1/8 inch wide laceration to the tip of my finger that has yet to meet homeostasis. My doctor of 20 years recommended a Sawstop and my wife recommends no power tools. I did not go to the hospital so I will not be one more in the stats on this one.
May as well share in the hopes that even a single person can learn from my idiocy.
I sit here now with my left hand in a splint after an accident almost 3 weeks ago; ring finger was cut through the top of the 2nd knuckle and almost totally severed. Middle finger is missing the tip, the rest of it looks like it went through a meat grinder. Index finger is now half the length it was. One of the earlier posters was absolutely correct in saying that not all saw cuts are clean, a blade can also mangle quite efficiently!! In my example, the blade not only cut, but also pulverized bone and tissue.
I had completed a cut, and for some ungodly reason, something possessed me to reach down with my left hand to push the cut off piece away from the still spinning blade onto the floor. In my 20+ years of owning a saw I've never done such a stupid thing. As my hand touched the piece of wood, the piece contacted the blade and pulled my hand into it.
Lack of focus for the task at hand was my undoing...coupled with a level of complacency.
On the wall above the saw I now have the specimen jar the ER gave me which contains my cut-off wedding band as well as some bone and nail bed fragments I found after coming home from surgery to serve as a reminder of the dangers of a wandering mind.
I am a hand surgeon with 10 years of experience doing primarily hand surgery, and 19 years of experience treating orthopaedic injuries of all kinds. I have operated on dozens of patients who had power tool injuries over the years and followed them through the rehab process.I always quiz patients when they come in about how their injury happened. The variety of injury mechanisms never ceases to amaze me. Yesterday I saw a 16 year old girl who was cross cutting tree limbs on a table saw and became distracted when her grandmother began to drive away on her 4- wheeler. I couldn't have made this up if I tried.
The girl lost half her index finger, and had an open fracture of her small finger, along with multiple other lacerations.
I have been an avid recreational woodworker for 25 years. I am paranoid about safety. I owned a Powermatic Artisan table saw for 23yrs and just bought a SawStop. I would agree with much of what has been written above, and would like to add a few comments below in no particular order:
1) Buy a SawStop
2) My experience has been the following in terms of injury frequency:
Tablesaw blade contact injuries either due to poor technique or kickback causing wood and hand to be pulled across blade when ripping - most common by a mile
Hand held circular saw
Router/jointer roughly equal and both quite uncommon
Body impact from tablesaw kickback hardly ever but bad when it happens
3)Be careful about where the blade exits the back of a crosscut sled if you use one
4) Most handheld powertools have 2 handles- use them both- more control and hands are on the tool and not on the wood holding it down. Use clamps.
5) In reference to #4 above I have found myself more tempted to be "casual" with a laminate trimmer, which I have begun using more on small routing jobs and I have noticed showing up more in photos in magazines and on the web. Bad idea to be casual about any tool.
6) If you do the math for Blade RPM x tooth number on blade x 3/4 second human reaction time it becomes clear that at least a few thousand teeth have passed through your hand before you can get it out of the way.
7) I crosscut long heavy timbers to reduce their length using my Bosch jig saw (I don't have chop saw). This was suggested by Michael Fortune in a recent FWW and is way safer than trying to use a hand held circular saw and clamps to hold the wood. The wood is just too heavy to balance perfectly with the clamps and it shifts at the end of the cut, binding a circular saw blade. The jigsaw is more analagous to a small band saw for this application and is far safer.
8) I am just as paranoid with a SawStop and it is a very high quality tool. The riving knife and guard system are superb and add a lot to improving the safety of a still very dangerous tool.
9) If you think it is annoying to "waste time" changing blades, guards, making jigs, using push sticks, etc, consider the cumulative time and dollars spent that have appeared above in this thread for those who were injured. We have all waited in a doctor's lobby longer than we wanted, (my own patients too, unfortunately) and that time could have been much better spent at home doing what we enjoy with all our fingers.
10) I have no financial relationship with SawStop whatsoever- buy one. The cost will be less than one operation.
Would enjoy meeting you all at a woodworking show and not when I'm wearing scrubs and under some very bright lights.
Also to add to Cadabra's comments.
The guy who discovered Dilantin for seizure control did not patent the use of the medication as he thought it should be free for all to produce which dramatically reduces cost. Maybe Saw Stop take his or her led and allow other manufactures to use the technology. I am aware that the inventor is angry about the attempt of the other tablesaw manufacturers to block the use of his product but safety should super-cede.
I have 40 years of furniture making and (of course) table saw operation in my history. I have never had a close call - never even a kick-back. I know this is not common and I don't mean to boast. I've heard from fellow woodworkers thak kick-backs are inevitable, and one 9-fingered fellow told me that I wasn't a true woodworker because I still have 10 fingers. I disagree with both of those perspectives.
This is how I attribute my safety:
1. I keep all of my equipment in precise alignment. I think misalignment is the beginning of many table saw accidents
2. I keep every blade, knife, etc. sharp. It makes woodworking less like work and a lot more fun. It also makes equipment and tools much more predictable.
3. I never ask my table saw to do anything it wasn't intended to do.
4. I make really good jigs and fixtures for special operations and I save them for the next time I need them.
5. I equipped my table saw with a Bret Guard. This guard makes contact with the blade virtually impossible, it can be used for nearly every tablesaw operation, and it is easy to set up. Granted, it is a little pricy - but I feel it is well worth it.
Accidents will always happen - that is why they have a name for them and even though we try, the right circumstances combined with a dose of fatigue and the need to finish that last bit of cutting so we can start on another part of the project the next day.....
Two words - Saw Stop.
Also I do not see why congress has to mandate the riving knife - we knew it was necessary and produced aftermarket models for our deficient saws. I do not think the European saw makers needed a law to force them to make a safe tablesaw. I just don't get it. If the saw companies voluntarily added safety features more people would buy the saw and the industry would follow.
Again accidents will always happen. Saw Stop helps and will save fingers - kickback - well that is preventable will the guards and the riving knife and watching for thin potentially warped plywood.
We accept the safety attributes of mandated air-bags, smoke detectors and sprinklers which are integrated into our vehicles and buildings. Seems to me that the safety of Saw Stop type technology should be mandated into new table saw sales. Easy to do that. Easy to live and work with it.
I'm dissapointed that companies like WMH, Delta, Grizzly, etc. have not picked up on this on their own. Did they all get their engineering "pockets" picked? Oddly, they can engineer and develop left-tilt, front crank handles, improved dust collection, etc., etc., but they can't pick up on the single biggest quantum leap in table saw safety?
Or is it the risk of patent infringements? Or the greed that goes with avoiding fees to license Saw Stop's intellectual property? Maybe good old fashioned "Pride of Ownership" keeps them from offering somebody else's innovation along side their own brand name. Even as a cost plus-up option!
Face it, no amount of cleverly designed covers, guards, and safety equipment can prevent the pain and suffering of 31,000 debilitating hand injuries and amputations like Saw Stop can. Truth be known, most of that safety gear is probably discarded when new.
I guess Saw Stop is the exception to the old saying.... you can't idiot proof anything.
I do not own a SawStop, but when I can afford it I will buy one. I was not aware that these existed a few years ago when I first started buying woodworking tools, or I would have bought one at that time.
That said, I think the editors of the various woodworking magazines out there who seem to have a tablesaw comparison article every year or two deserve to be taken to task. Fine woodworking has been going on in this country since the 17th century, and the saws available at that time had little resemblance to the tablesaws available now.
When the question is which tablesaw is better, the point is that almost any saw can make a square, straight cut but only one saw saves your hand if you have a momentary lapse of attention or slip. The SawStop safety device is invariably described as an expensive feature of the SawStop rather than a deficit of the competitors.
Why aren't the other saw manufacturers adopting the available safety technology or designing equiavalent safety devices? I expect manufacturers to put their profit before my safety, but I feel that Woodworking magazine editors should exercise their unique ability to influence manufacturers to do the right thing by criticising the safety deficit. I have not seen this. I hope it is because this point has somehow eluded editors. I would not like to think that my safety takes second place to some perceived risk to advertising revenue.
What if only one car manufacturer provided seatbelts? Oh, wait, that was the way it used to be until consumer protection laws were put in place.
I think it's the same concept of why they say most auto accidents happen close to home. You get in a comfort zone, and you loose a certain level of awareness for safety when it comes to the tool you're using. In this case the table saw. I know my Jet is the cornerstone in my shop. I use it on every project at some point. There have been a couple of times I've made some cuts before turning in at night and then realized that I forgot the guard, or forgot to roll up my sleeves and could have really hurt myself. I think it's just something we do as human beings. Or we get in a rush. It's the same concept of a seat belt when you're just "running up to the corner gas station for a drink". But in the end, all it takes is a few seconds to change your life forever. We should always "respect" the power of our machines and what they can do to us.
I never thought that i would have a acsident on the table saw until last week. You can have all the safety features thinkable but if you do not consentrate on what you are doing you wil have a acsident. I let someone els destract me while i was buzzy cutting a dado and i must say that i was in a hury. The next moment my hand jerked AND NO MORE THUMB. Consentrate on what you are doing, that way you will make use of the safety features that is available.DO NOT BE IN A HURRY!!!!
And beware the spouse! There have been many times I have had close calls at the table saw when my wife yelled down to me from upstairs or suddenly appeared at the shop doorway.
I think perhaps the main reason there hasn't been significant change in the number of tablesaw accidents is because, although the regulation was introduced in 2005, it affected only new table saws -- new models. Consequently, it took some time for riving knives and modular guards to actually hit the market.
Secondarily, many users still ditch the guard as soon as the get the saw. This is still all guesswork though. The only way to know what at the root of these injuries is to conduct a survey of all victims when they are treated. Not likely to happen.
There's a paragraph and conclusion in this FWW article that makes no sense to me: The article makes a number of suggestions. Among them, tablesaws are the cornerstone of most woodworking shops and the machine is easily the most versatile power tool for woodworking. As a result, the study’s authors suggest that tablesaws aren’t inherently more dangerous.... As a result of what? The fact that their versatile?? Poorly conceived, that.
Other questions....I believe people are injured because they ignore, if even briefly, needed safety procedures; they lose focus; they have NO idea how quickly things happen on this tool. I personally know of users ignoring (a) don't leave the saw running when you're not using it (4-finger amputation); (b) use a push-stick (1-finger amputation) (keep the firing-lane clear (extremely bruised abdomen); use a splitter (no injury -- this was me spacing out after removing the splitter for a dado cut -- but the square of plywood spun off the stop of the blade, nicked my side and flew 20' across the shop at high speed).
And beware the spouse! I can't count the times I had close calls at the table saw when my wife yelled down to me from upstairs or suddenly appeared at the shop doorway.
Last October I had a serious table saw accident. I am 79 yrs old and have had a basement workshop all my adult life. The saw I was using was purchased in 1981. I follow all the safety rules except one. My saw came equipped with a steel sawblade guard. Had I been using it, I probably woul have cut my hand off. As it was I cut tendons, nerves, muscle and through a bone in my little finger. Surgery included repairing the above and inserting two metal pins inthe back of the finger toward the palm, since it was a diagonal cut from the base of my index finger, through the palm and the outside of my hand. My hand surgeon said he sees this type of accident often. I am still undergoing OT and will be for some time. I have since ordered and received an after-market-fence but haven't installed it yet. I was doing a simple trimming operation on a 1- 1/2'x 8" x 12" basswood. I since have heard and seen a lot about the Saw Stop Machine which seems to solve a lot of problems, however I discovered that you can not use a dado blade set up with it. I checked with the Mfg.of my saw (Grizzly) and was told ther was no after market bladeguard (plastic-seethru) for my machine.
In January 2010 I committed the classic safety sin..Complacency!! I have been woodworking for 45 yrs moving from hand tools to a respectable machine laden shop. I had never had an accident that could not be taken care with a band aid and so@#$b. That is until last month. I was reduce a knife handle scale for a carving knife. My band saw was not operational so I stepped to my jointer. The stock was a little over 6" x 1/4" x 3". The first couple of passes went smooth and then bam! What I'm not using a hammer (what it immediately felt like) Oh look at the pretty red blood. I did something to cause my left ringfinger tip to come in contact with the jointer blade. Well neither a band aid or curse word were going to fix this. Off to emergency room. Long story short they attached the skin back to the tip and it is healing nicely. FYI insurance was billed $6300 for the care. My point is I KNOW BETTER!! EXPERIENCED! OBVIOUSLY HAVE A DEGREE IN DUMBASS! NEVER BECOME COMPLACENT!!
This article, and its links, provides a great training ground for new table saw users. Veteran users will benefit from reviewing fundamentals, so EVERYONE should take the time to read ALL of the links. IMHO.
That said, after I left the cabinetry/fine furniture business, I went on to school in a Medical Technology program; one of the things I did there was a rotation in the ER. The ER docs always joked about woodshop DIY injuries: "But I saw Norm do it this way!" Saturday afternoons could be brutal.
Disclaimer: I'm using Norm as only one example... all of the woodshop programs on TV had the same issue, though I've avoided all of them for years, due largely to this shortcoming. Hopefully they've improved.
The problem inherent in TV shows is that, although they may start the programs with a brief comment about the dangers of power tools, and a comment about "the importance of reading, understanding, and following all the safety information that comes with the power tools," that's the ONLY thing they do about safety concerns. If you watch the programs in progress, you'll see "guards removed for clarity," and no end of inexcusable safety faults. This failing leads to people thinking they can do an operation "just like Norm," and be perfectly safe, "just like Norm." Oddly enough, "Norm's" tools have been set up for optimal operation (blade parallel to fence, etc), probably by the manufacturers, who will bend over backwards to get their products seen on these programs. Most home-based tools will never see that kind of care... and the tool that comes out of the crate in "cut ready" condition is rare, at best.
So where does the solution lie? You can't effectively enforce legislation in home shops... it would involve sending safety inspectors into all home shops, which is absurd, given that there was inadequate enforcement in commercial shops, when I worked in them. Do we need to have a license to own and/or operate certain power tools? That's also pretty much unenforceable, without drastic measures.
The real key is in education... People need the basic knowledge to understand hazards & how to avoid them.... and the stones to actually utilize those methods! Demos in retail stores, free to all buyers of power tools, might be a good first step; these need to include "live" kickback demos, as well as pictures from ERs, for emphasis. Another good step would be to get all the "Norm"-type programs to actually USE safety equipment, not just briefly mention them at the start. Given the excellent image quality attainable with even moderately-priced fiber optics these days, the statement "guard removed for clarity" loses any validity it ever had as an excuse.
By the way, FWW magazine also fails to show guards in place, and other safety "violations" (for lack of a better term). I didn't have to look long to find one... Issue 210, p. 50: No guard over the blade; sleeves not rolled up past the elbows. The operator's right hand will pass well within 6in. of the blade. Use of the riving knife is good. BUT... Since the operator is using a stop on the end of the workpiece, is visibility of the cut line really an issue?
FWIW... I have thirty+ years' experience in woodworking, both commercial and hobby level, ten intact fingers, and lots of eyewitness war stories, from both the shop and the ER. You don't want to hear most of them.
I think most of the accidents have a lot to do with the environment.
Did anyone ask the question where do most of these accidents occur? I think you'll find most often they take place in the home shop setting. The scenario may go like this, you have a nice dinner with the wife and or kids, maybe you had a beer or two with it. Then you get the urge to go into the garage and get some more work done on that project. So you've got three factors already working against you 1. Two beers at dinner. 2. Tired after work. 3. A layed back approach to safety because it's in the home environment where you're almost too relaxed.
The other side of the coin is doing this for a living and going into a work environment where you're focus is required and distractions are at a minimum.
Lastly, I think some of the blame can be placed on the manufacturers of tablesaws. By now they should have come up with a saw that has user friendly guards and splitters that would render the saw inoperable if removed or make them non-removable all together.
I could not agree more with your sentiments. My only injury from a table saw was caused by the poorly designed blade guard...it sent a shard of steel into my neck. Since, all safety equipment on my power tools has been gathering dust in the corner or under the bench. Not only do I find them dangerous...they often get in the way of the task I'm performing.
Common sense and attention to the risk at hand are the most important matters in remaining safe...a razor sharp blade spinning at 3450 rpm is enough to keep my attention. Stand to the side of the blade, not directly behind it...never reach across the blade...learn to use push sticks safely...never force the stock into a binding situation...build a cross-cut sled...learn to tune the saw and the fence to perform smoothly and safely.
And, a word about government mandates...our bureaucrats will never tire of attempting to idiot proof life...they are not your friend and relying on their judgments about what is safe will lead you down a primrose path to pain and suffering. The same applies to nearly all media outlets and the 'infotainment' industry...think for yourself and develop common sense.
As John Wayne said...'Life is tough...it is even tougher if you're stupid.'
A frisbee sized piece of 1/8" birch plywood recently kicked back on me while at the table saw. This small piece of wood spun back with such force I had a bruise on my upper leg for days. It hit my left hand at the same time. I am certain it would have broken my thumb if it hadn't hit my leg as well.
Tired at the end of day, I stood there in disbelief - how could I have been so careless, and how could such an insignificant piece of wood exact so much destructive force?
The next day I pulled that same piece of wood out of the trash and hung it on my shop wall to remind me to use common sense even in the most routine power tool operations. I also made a crosscut sled...
In a year how many injuries are caused by people playing football? Just imagine the uproar if football was banned.
I think many kickback events don't result in injury or result in injury not requiring medical attention. Therefore their occurence rate is probably higher than reported compared to blade contact events. I agree with the comments about FWW and others showing saw use without guards and splitters but also the other "tips" that are unsafe. i.e. cutting zero-clearance blade inserts by raising the saw through the insert which can't be done with a guard or a splitter in place and then results in an insert where a guard or splitter can't be used. I have a Rockwell contractor saw that is 40 years old (no guard or splitter ever)and think most saws are way over 5 years old with no provision for splitters or good usable guards.
One more thought; Studies have shown that the safer you feel, the more risky behavior you will attempt. Many of the "Safety features" make you feel safe without actually making the device safer (SawStop being an exception). Some tools are just plane dangerous. I use a chainsaw a lot. You don't casually use a chainsaw. You shouldn't casually use any saw (like many magazines, books and TV shows suggest).
I am another SawStop convert. I had a Powermatic 66 that I purchased new, sold it, and replaced it with the SawStop machine after seeing it at the AWSF in Atlanta, GA. The safety feature is undeniably priceless, but the robust "tank like" built machine and high accuracy makes this machine is a pure pleasure to own and to use.
Taking extra care, using push sticks and implementing a zero clearance blade guard are all precautionary measures, but a SawStop is a preventative measure. Read that again, preventative!
I am 51 years old, manage a professional career in business leadership, build 18th Century reproductions in my spare time, but never would I pass on an option to truly prevent injury to myself or impair my ability as a parent and as a professional.
Thanks for a great article.
Being a totally blind woodworker, most expect me to have a long list of table saw injuries. I have touched the blade before with my thumb while making a lot of same sized cuts and I just wasn't paying enough attention. It didn't require an ER visit. No scars to show off, and I still have all 10 in good working order. I don't use guards any longer because of the problems they create. And a push stick doesn't give me a good feeling either. I made a jig that fits over my Biesemeyer fence to do my pushing now. This puts my hand on top of the fence and well clear of the blade. It also stops kick back because of the length of the jig.
As all seem to agree, the problem is with the user not making good decisions. But whatever the reason, let's keep the government out of making new regulations. It's doubtful many of congress ever got saw dust on themselves but they do know how to suck the joy out of most things they get involved with.
I have had a kickback injury by ripping a bevel on the wrong side of the blade/fence. Only got a deep laceration of my chin, but could have lost half my teeth.
One reason for continued injury rate is that numerous publications and videos show extremely dangerous operations, including your own intro photo. This guy is not wearing any safety equipment, not using a guard or push stick or featherboard, etc. This is extremely irresponsible for publishers of ww. articles. I once almost lost a piece of my finger during a Forstner bit operation on a drill press, and later saw a picture on the COVER of a magazine doing exactly the unsafe operation that had caused my injury. Disclaimers about "guards removed for clarity", written in fine print, are not sufficient.
Alan E. Tasoff, MD
If I remember correctly when the technology behind SawStop was first introduced it was originally presented to the major manufacturers who declined adopting the technology for their equipment. This prompted the developers to produce their own line of tools with their technology. Funny thing I did not see any comments on this list from individuals who had accidents and owned a SawStop at the time of their accident. I know it would not prevent all injuries and it certainly is no protection against stupidity which is typically the cause of many accidents in the shop but I am sure it would have prevented or reduced the extent of many injuries. Maybe it is a cold heart that makes me say this but if anyone has purchased a new cabinet saw since 2000 and had an accident where some body part came in contact with a tablesaw blade you made a choice when you did not purchase the safest product available. I know there will be plenty of responses about the cost or quality of the saw and I will say to those people you are just making excuses to rationalize your behavior. I will put the SawStop up against any other similar tablesaw in a quality comparison and it will hold its own. It may cost a little more than comparable models but to that I would say is it better to save a few hundred dollars now compared to the possibility of thousands of dollars you could potentially spend on medical bills not to mention the lost time at work. And just for general information I am not a SawStop employee and several years ago I did have an accident with a tablesaw due to my stupidity.
The fact is that all the safety rules in the world won't save you if you just plain old make a mistake. One little bit of inattention, one more last cut when you are just tired and not as alert as you were early in the morning. All these things conspire to put you at risk despite following all the safe operation practices.
So, with that in mind, I bought a SawStop and solved the issues with making a mistake and it not costing me my hand. During the second year with the machine I did what I most fear and made a mistake and the machine saved the thumb on my right hand.
I think it has actually made me safer because if it goes off it costs about 180 dollars and 30 minutes of downtime.
I read about some of the objections to SawStop and mainly they involve money. The machine is about 1200 dollars more than a comparable saw and who would trade their fingers or hand for 1200 dollars.
I've been to the Marc Adams school of woodworking three times and I consider Marc Adams to be one of the most safety conscious individuals in the trades and he has replace all his table saws with SawStop.
Check them out and remove that present saw with the latest in safety.
One of my pet peeves is Youtube and the like. There are dozens of unsafe practices with a table saw demonstrated on there (including one of a moron cutting open a coconut, hand held, who swears this is perfectly safe!). If you don't know how to do something (therefore the fact that you are inexperienced is a given)you turn to youtube or similar to see if anyone can help. So you have the combination of inexperienced and the wrong solution married together. That's a marriage made in hell!
IMHO, any website, video or other 'educational/how to' venue on the web should be vetted somehow, to ensure that they are showing only reasonably safe practices. I think they have a responsibility to do this.
I certainly don't want the government vetting things like this, preferably it would be done by the purveyors themselves. If they don't do it, then whatever means necessary becomes the imperative.
In fact, I 'reported' the coconut video as unsafe and Youtube just ignored it, it is still playing a year later. I can only hope that someone some day sues Youtube and wins, then maybe they'll sit up and pay attention.
Great comments and suggestions. I have been fortunate over the 40 years of using a table saw with one notable exception. I reached over next to a spinning blade to remove a scrap and WHAM, the tip of my left index finger made contact! Stupid, dumb mistake, easily avoidable and so on. Painful, lost a tiny bit of tip of finger but no lasting disability. I was fortunate. Lessons learned or remembered...many:
1. I was in a hurry. Not good. Slow down and think. No project is worth a serious injury
2. I was tired. Regardless of your occupation or activity fatigue increases the chances of mistakes and injury.
3. Use jigs and push sticks. Yes, I had plenty of these devices handy but did not always use them. That has changed big time.
4. Familiarity breeds contempt. Contempt of the basic, elementary rules of safety often times.
I was lucky. I could have easily messed up my hand and needlessly jeopardised one of my most rewarding activities. Hope this helps.
I have been a woodworker for about 40 years and my only serious injury was caused by kickback. There have been other close calls and I follow a couple of guidelines every time I enter the shop:
-If you are working on the table saw and a procedure feels dangerous, stop and figure out a safe way to proceed.
-Don't be in a hurry, your time in the shop should be enjoyable or, at the very least, rewarding
-Don't work tired, it's dangerous and miserable
-Eliminate distractions, concentrate fully on the procedure at hand
-Maintain a clean, uncluttered workspace, develop a habit of stopping work 15 minutes early and dedicate that time to clean up (I learned this in high school woodshop class)
-Spend some bucks on great lighting
-When performing repetitive cuts, pause between cuts and think about what you are doing
-Of course you should utilize the safety features that are available, guards, push sticks etc. but, most importantly, have a clear mind and focus on safe procedures.
One important thing I have never seen talked about is hydration while in the shop. Working around wood and sawdust sucks the moisture out of you. Dehydration causes fuzzy thinking so keep a water bottle in your shop and use it frequently.
Tablesaws and automobiles--If you use them, you must accept the risk. I have a large cabinet that contains the safety additions that we are forced to pay for with each purchase of any device in today's self-righteous world. Give me information if you insist that you should take over my life with your fears and prejudices. Allow me to make my own decisions about what I need to do for safety. Since we are no longer allowed, by law, to make those decision in driving a vehicle, at least allow me to have that freedom in my shop.
By the way Mr. and Ms. DO-GOODER, I have made it 68 years with heavy exposure to shop tools and driving an automobile. Somehow I have managed to survive, so far, intact avoiding your demands. If tomorrow brings a different outcome, I will accept the consequences and avoid the 1-800-XXX-XXXX-SUE-SOMEBODY route. I won't even blame you for not forcing your way into my life with your own insecurities.
I have had 2 accidents with a table saw. They were both due to inexperience. The first was on an Altendorf sliding table saw. I didn't have the rip fence in the correct position to do a cross cut and had a 2ftx3ft kick back and hit me right next to my privates in the hip joint the next day my leg was black and blue down to my ankle a very close call. The next time was standing lengths of stock to make corner blocks on a diagonal in a jig when i got to the blade i went around back side to pull the rest of the way through the stock pinched the blade and pulled it and my hand back through the blade I was lucky again and only ended up with a deformed finger nail to remind me not to be stupid any more.Both of these accidents happened due to not being properly trained during my apprenticeship years back in the early 90's. My theory on table saw safety is to always be aware of the relation of your hand to the saw blade. I have never put any of the guards on my Powermatic at home and have always viewed them as more of a nuisance than a safety feature.If I had a newer saw I would use the riving knife but would never even consider putting on the blade guard.It may sound crazy but you couldn't talk me into ever buying a saw stop for anything it may be a great safety feature for a learning environment but the extra 2 grand over a standard cabinet saw could sure buy a lot of lumber or some new Power tools. I really don't see how they can justify the added cost sure it will probably save a couple fingers but I would be willing to bet that there are more misfires than actual activations due to a safety issue. If they truly had safety in mind then they would lower the cost of the thing so more people might buy it. I have been in the trade a long time and know a lot of woodworkers and have yet to find one that has even considered buying one over a nice Powermatic or a Delta.
I like the comments, but will restrict myself to what I believe are the top issues:
1. Inattention/loss of attention never take your eye off your work, your hands and the blade.
2. Adjust the blade height to match the piece you are cutting, as a blade that extends too highly out of the piece being cut can do more damage than a nick.
3.Use a sharp blade matched to your work
4.Do not use gloves or wear clothing that can get caught in the spinning blade.
Recently a prefessional friend, an experienced cabinet maker, made a mistake involving these items and lost the use of his left hand and his career.
My saw doesn't have a riving knife, and I've removed the guard because it always gets in my way. The way I keep myself safe is I never let my hands get anywhere near the saw blade. I always always use a push stick unless the piece is so large that I can hold it with my hand on the other side of the miter slot.
Even that's not enough though, a push stick could slip off and if I'm bearing down on it, that could send my hand right into the teeth of the saw, so I always think of what direction the force of my hand is moving, and where it would end up if that push stick were to slip or touch the spinning blade and kick out.
I've seen some people make a rip cut with their fingers only inches from the blade. They're nuts in my opinion, and an amputation waiting to happen.
We were taught in 7th grade Woodworking Class to never stand behind the saw blade to avoid injuries from kick backs. One should stand to the side of the line of sight from the blade. And, one should stand to the side of the fence so that a line from the fence is between you and the line of the blade. Your picture on this article demonstrates an improper stance in using the table saw. Put the fence on the other side of the blade and stand to the side.
Home crafters tend to work on their projects after a day's work, probably after dinner, and possibly after a beer or two. All of which tend to lead to inattention.
Inattention is the killer. Forget for one instant that you're leaning over a 2-horsepower machine with a very sharp blade, and you're toast.
Yes, safety devices can help. Anti-kickback guards are a great thing - having been hit in the gut by a board once, about 40 years ago, I don't want to repeat THAT experience. The new "electronic brake" seems like a good idea, too, but I wonder how many of those will be disabled after the first time a "false trigger" costs the operator a blade.
But the safest tool is only as safe as the operator's habits and skill can make it.
I have had a number of "incidents" with my table saw. Fortunately I have a frequent flyer card that is good at most ERs in the country. The worst was back in '89 when I chose to use my table saw as a shaper. Of course, all guards were (and still are) removed. While running a long, thin piece of maple through the saw to make a shaped spline I believe my index finger touched the top of the blade, pulling my hand back into the blade. The ends of the index, middle and ring fingers of my right hand were damaged. My right thumb was pretty much split down the middle. I caught a good doctor at the ER and then moved to Cleveland the next week and was able to access the Cleveland Clinic's excellent staff for the next year. Although it took a very long time, I healed well (part reptile I suspect).
I nicked a finger on my left hand a few years back (only half a dozen stitches or so). I have also had numerous and sundry kick backs and other flying lumber events. The only reason my table saw played a part in all this was that I had turned it on. All of my problems and injuries have been self inflicted, "pilot error" if you will(-->jbschultz, is that a 103 you're sitting in??). They have been due to carelessness, sloppiness, arrogance, fatigue, haste, unwillingness to spend the time to set-up properly........ I could go on. The bottom line is the operator is responsible for his or her safety. The closest thing to an "accident" on a table would be a kick back, IMHO. THERE IS NO REASON TO PUT YOUR HAND INTO A SPINNING SAW BLADE!!! By the way, I am a good woodworker and I know better. I just have a tendency to take ill advised risks for reasons that are not always clear to me:-). Fortunately, not so much any more. I use feather boards, push sticks, hold downs..... My power tools are tuned and carefully set-up these days. I also have moved more towards hand tools, using power tools primarily to size lumber. I also do not use my power tools when tired, distracted, angry or without a clearly thought out result (which does not include amputation).
Finally, table saws do not "cut" flesh, they rip, tear and gouge. It really hurts after the shock wears off, so be careful.
Two Points: My guess is that 75% of table saw accidents happen to the left hand, because we are "trained" to watch the right hand. I would suggest every saw be supplied with a tight fitting bright red glove for the left hand as a reminder to watch out for it too.
Point 2. Whenever the saw is tilted and and the blade is not viewable for whatever reason, extreme caution is required because you cannot tell where the blade will come out. This is a rare situation but it is an accident waiting to happen.
roughly 31,400 people are treated in emergency rooms every year for tablesaw injuries.
There are approx.3xx,000,000 Americans. Now I know not everyone has a tablesaw but I am sure a good estimate could be made. How many million woodworkers use a tablesaw to make how much sawdust?? If it is only a million then one in 32 is injured.. we all know there are a lot more than 1 million woodworkers with tablesaws. Any injury is too many but statistically that is an insignificant figure.For there to be that few injuries is pretty good evidence of safety.
I have been a nurse for 15 years and some of it in ER. After seeing MANY different injuries I have a great respect for all our power tools. I feel the previous posts have got it down in spades.. Use the safety equipment available to you especially the one between your ears.
I appreciate all the comments! A great reminder to remain very focused, observing all safety procedures I ever heard of. Here are more that I didn't see. In the event something goes wrong, the natural reaction is a startle response. Seems to me that we startle by throwing both hands up and outward. Therefore, rule is never place hand on wood so that if you startle your hand crosses over the path of the blade. Never move hand above running blade. Never pick up piece after it's cut by reaching for it and lifting it over running blade.
A lot of very fine comments. Here are a few thoughts:
1. Use the same brain that can figure out how to plane a board with the grain to see if the board your going to cut might have issues. E.g. boards with nots often have issues, but there are a lot of other indicators. If you are working with an unfamiliar species, take extra care.
2. Wear a back brace belt made of multiple layers of ballistic nylon about your waist. As I said in a previous post, one of these saved me from a major injury to my belly from a "small" kickback. They are the least problematic safety gear and cheap.
3. Always use the correct, very sharp blade. This was a hard lesson for me, and I suspect for other woodworkers. We want to put a single multi-purpose blade on the table saw and leave it there--even when it starts to dull. Pay the money for multiple blades. Know what they are used for and change them out. Make a storage case to hold them and keep them clean and sharp. Convince yourself that changing blades is one of the most enjoyable things you do in the shop: great blades are beautiful things and deserve regular inspection and use. Never use an "almost sharp" blade. After all, the blade is the real tool. The table, fence, motor, trunions, etc. are just there to make using it a whole lot more fun.
4. Adjust for every cut. I know this sounds crazy, and it certainly sounds like an overstatement. But think about it. Every cut deserves thought. Repetitive cuts especially. I initially convinced myself this was necessary by saying "if I move any part in this setup, I must reconsider the cut." Since making this decision, I have not found a single repetitive cut that does not have something moving. At the very minimum I move or change the board. Take the time to think about your next cut. You may not adjust the blade, fence, etc., but you must adjust the most important tool, your mind. And your mind may adjust your feet, hands, and procedures. This does not make things take longer--it way reduces do-overs and waste. And it helps keep me healthy.
And after my mind, the most dangerous tool in my shop is the router. You know, the one that has a motor that pulls almost as many amps as a small table saw and spins at about 20,000 RPM and that you hold in your hands! It is capable of alarming destruction. Why aren't there more injuries from a router than a table saw? I think it has something to do with the attitude of the woodworker.
Oh, and my most serious shop injury was from a box knife--and it was serious. Use your mind, not just your coordination.
My thought: We have to police ourselves. We don't need more regulations to force orselves to be more careful. You can injure yourself with a screwdriver if you don't pay attenion, much less something spining at thousands of revolutions per second.
Every time I turn on my table saw I have already gone through a mental checklist on how is this dangerous? EVERY cut is dangerous. So I have to remind myself, what can go wrong here? How can I make this cut safer? Where is the blade in relation to my fingers?
I am not a professionl, but I was taught proper tool etiquette by those who were. But since they both have had accedints over a lifetime of working, I know that I'm not immune. I can only make sure that I m being as safe as I can be.
The most important thing that needs to happen to reduce accidents is to provide training. Guards are fine and they may help during a law suit, however training is the most important issue. I was trained by a very knowledgable adult when I was in college. He knew how to use the saw safely without these bothersome protection devices. I have run a cabinet shop for 28 years. I also taught cabinet shop and drafting at the local high school for 20 of those years and have never had an accident at school or in my business. Its all about training. Just because you own a saw doesn't mean you can use it.
My first job at 16 was running a 14 foot turret lathe turning 50 lb cast iron oil burner housings. It was the mid 1950's - no OSHA no safety glasses no face masks - we even stored 5 gallons of gasoline in a galvanized garbage can for cleaning the housings.
My boss at that time had a saying. "If you are afraid of a machine and treat it like a killer it will never hurt you"
All machines are dangerous so the best safety advise is to treat it like a killer.
I have been working with machines ever since and never had an accident but I always say that is 80 percent luck and 20 percent caution. Never had a auto accident either and the same ratio holds for that - arrive at a corner 1 second later and all can change. Forget the safety guard or hold down on one job because it is only one cut and all bets are off.
Read down or do a (Ctrl-F) to find "sleazyrider" and his comments. They are right on to my feeling as well, with respect to understanding the alignment of the saw, knowing your teeth blades are sharp and are the right type for what you're cutting.
Do I use my guards...nope, haven't since I bought the saw. I probably should use more care as well all do for those "quick cuts" when we get in a hurry...but I've been lucky. That being said, my saw blades are top quality, they don't jam on me, and I have different ones for different materials...not just some combo-blade fits all.
I think there's been some great advances and publication of commercial sleds, push sticks and hold downs, as well as several well done 'home-built' variants.
Seeing this article is a reminder that I need to consider myself lucky...so far, and to put together a set of improved methods based on so much that has been written and developed.
I read somewhere once, as pertains to wearing helmets or not on a motorcycle..."there are two types of motorcyclists...those who have gone down, and those who will". The best cyclist can fall victim to a stupid mistake by someone else, or something that occurs suddenly in front of them.
I wore my helmet by choice, make yours when it comes to good sense around the saw, and realize you can't control every single thing about that cut.
Lots of reasons: education, recklessness, arrogance. Why should they bother with being that concerned about safety when every week for the last 2 decades they have watched a certain TV personality use no guard, no splitter, and occasionally only a push stick? I hope whoever takes over that show gets the safety message out there. A message at the front of the show saying guards have been removed to show clarity in showing the procedures is an insult to everyone's intelligence. He didn't use them because he did not want to be bothered. I work in a woodworking store -- you ought to see what comes in there for injuries. We have a major hand-surgery center a few miles from where I live. The stories about saws in general are awful. We are finally making progress with the U.L encouraged riving knife movement.
The major part of this problem is attitude. Very little is accidental.
Airbags and seatbelts do not prevent accidents, they prevent injuries. I applaud those people who truly believe they are 100% in the moment 100% of the time. I personally will never believe I am incapable of making a mistake so I use whatever safety features are available. I can't see the blade anyway, so the issue of the blade guard blocking my view is not an argument I can use. The most important advice though, is if you have the briefest thought that what you are about to do isn't safe, stop, rethink it, and find a better way.
How about a little less worry about "big brother" here...
and just use good equipment education, common sense and and all the safety equipment available.
The notion that a publication like FWW is responsible for injuries due to illustrating work without the guards in place is ludicrous. People were getting hurt on table saws long before FWW existed. If we are to be safe in our shops using ANY equipment we must maintain an awareness of where our body parts are in relation to the tools. I have had kickbacks with the splitter in place, however, I was taught to stay out of the line of fire and the piece went by me only harming the wall behind. I have seen injuries where the operator was distracted or in a hurry. It happens but it in not the fault of the table saw or any publication. We must be accountable for ourselves and not rely on the government for ensuring out safety by imposing regulations that do not work. Who knows, in the future they might mandate NERF saw blades.
Arizona Association of Fine Woodworkers
Kickbacks are the table saw's mafia. Always there waiting to punish you if you screw up. In 50 year I've suffered a kickback to the gut that left a 4 inch scar.
My safety procedure is pro-active. I always run the blade below the top when I finish sawing. Then, when I start the saw I have to run it back up thus being more than aware of the blade ...waiting to give me a one finger salute.
The second thing I do is wear a full face shield when I use the saw. And when I stop sawing the face mask is kept on the saw top. It is there to remind me every time as I put it on of the danger in front of me when I start the machine.
Using these two reminders of the dangers at hand keep me alert....and I start and finish each day in the shop counting each of my 10 fingers. No little piggies go to market.
Richard O. Byrne
i have been building furniture for 55 years and have never received an injury from any shop tool. i was in my twenties when helping my father put a 20 foot header in a new garage. it was 20 below zero and i hit my thumb really hard, splitting the thumb. my father didn't have to say a thing, i heard g=his voice in my head, be careful. dad is buried in Benson, Vt, having passed away in 1993. i miss him yet and everyday when in my shop, i still hear his saying, you can tell a good cabinetmaker by counting his fingers, if he has all ten he is good, be careful. we worked for years with no guards, splitters, etc. today i use them as i am getting older. still the most important safety tool is your mind, pay attention every minute and be careful. count your fingers.
I'll put my comments in a list since so much has already been written.
-Even expensive table saws include junk for attachments. Throw away the blade guard and the mitre gauge and buy good ones.
-Some European saw manufacturers provide a fence that goes back only to the center of the blade, reasoning that there is then no way for an offcut to get trapped
-When using a radial arm saw, pull the carriage back with your left hand and hold the workpiece against the fence with your right, even if you are right-handed. This places you to the right of the blade and you can see the cut better.
-Avoid housed cuts, such as with a dado blade, or cutting grooves. Find another way.
-Simply never put your hand between the blade and fence, even for wide cuts
-Check the fence and blade for runout frequently
-Keep the trunnions and associated screw drive and gears clean
I cut off the tip of my left middle finger on a jointer in January of 1988. That convinced me to be more careful around all woodworking machinery...including the tablesaw.
My sense is that tablesaw injuries stem from the same error that led to the jointer accident: failure to use the proper guard. All tablesaw guards incorporate a splitter behind the blade. Most guards also contain anti-kickback cauls. The combined effect of these two safety features make ripping significantly more safe. Use of a guard would have prevented injury to my friend's hand when, without the proper guard in place, he reached behind the blade in a ripping operation to hold down the stock. The stock closed on the blade, kicked back, and dragged his left hand over the blade.
Tablesaw guards also prevent extraordinary use of the tablesaw: e.g., plunge cutting, use of exotic shaping blades, cutting tenons, etc. Manufacturers love to advertise these extra features because it sells tablesaws. However, most of these extraordinary uses require removing the guard.
My jointer accident proved to me that if a woodworking operation cannot be performed with the proper guard in place it is unsafe. That principle also applies to the tablesaw.
I am a retired meatcutter with 40 years experience using a band-saw daily. Saying this, I hold out both hands and brag that I was never hospitalized.
I also have used a table saw for almost 50 years getting formal training as an adolescent in high school and later as an adult in evening classes.
I learned early on to respect the band-saw but not to be afraid of it. Fear can cause an unsteady or weak grip; lack of respect can cause . . . well, you know.
I agree that the most important safety tool is between the ears - most specifically through awareness. EVERY time I switched on that powerful band-saw I took a second to become aware and acknowledge what I was doing.
EVERY time I switch on my table saw I focus on the saw motivated by the thought of how ironic it would be to have an unblemished safety record in a very dangerous occupation only to retire and cut myself. No fear, just respect.
We proliferate non-safety in the magazine photos, too. This article's photos has several. He is not wearing safety glasses, there is no anti-kick-back mechanism, he is not using push sticks to keep his hands away from the blade and he is not using featherboards, either from the side or the top and he is standing directly behind the board. Sorry, but yours and other woodworking magazines have photos with less than safe practices all the time 'in the interest of showing the set-up'.
I think it is probably natural selection. ‹(•¿•)›
Um gee, it couldn't possibly be because websites like FWW continue to photograph and video through cuts with the guards off, could it?
You are helping to teach a new generation of woodworkers that "real" woodworkers never use the guard. Oh yeah, I know, you have only removed the guard for the photographic purposes - wink, wink, nudge, nudge...
People are being permanently maimed every day because Fine Woodworking refuses to do the right thing and take the few seconds required to reattach the guard whenever you are doing a cut that allows it to be in place.
Fine Woodworking - Do the right thing!
Serious injury and even a fatality can happen in a split second. Kick-back is possibly the most dangerous occurence when using a table saw without appropriate safeguards.
I believe the saw manufacturers have a responsibility to equip their saws with devices to prevent kick-back.
However in the final analysis, it is up to the user to use safe handling practices and devices to prevent serious accidents.
I encountered a serious kickback about 10 years ago which resulted in 72 stiches in by forearm. If the piece of wood had shot into my chest or head it may have resulted in a fatality.
Always be mindfull of your safety before you push the green button!!
"Do you think government regulators or the power tool industry should be doing more to protect users?"
No, The government should stay out of my shop. I'll use my and the manufacturer's safety procedures and my brain. I'll pay close attention to what I am doing and be responsible for my own safety.
Much of what was already written is about awareness. I also believe that to be the key. Any legislation written cannot supplant the need for immediate understanding of, and attention to your situation. The only thing more stupid than the mistakes that cause these injuries is the belief that any code, rule, or law will prevent them.
Part of my training was working for a large university in a shop that had a 14", 7hp monster of a table saw. I saw it kick back a 2x6 that was being ripped. The board penetrated a concrete block wall. The older guy running the saw was not injured because he did have the habit of staying out of the line of the work, but had 'other things on his mind', was trying to rush through a bunch of knots joined together by a few bits of wood and didn't take the time to let the saw do its job. It was powerful enough to eat it's way through most binds if you went slowly enough. The notion that hold-downs like fingerboards of any sort would tame this beast were always proven wrong. It forced us to learn and use good technique. Good technique is the first thing that should be learned. Any safeties and guards should work in concert with that good technique. I do use lots of fingerboards, etc., but not in an effort to make an unsafe situation safe.
I have been reading Finewoodworking for many years and have appreciated the job they do for the art and science of woodworking, and journalism in general. The decline in the past few years doesn't need elaboration here, but I am still surprised that they have not compiled very much useful information for teaching general table saw safety and the good technique that supports it. Even on a basic level. They have not produced anything I could give to one of my grandsons and feel confident he would learn what he needs to know, that he would have a comprehensive reference on basic technique and how it relates to safety. Maybe an item for Taunton to consider.
There are those of us who can proudly show ten whole and intact, and even wrinkly, fingers that are prove that one can be safe for years without a Sawstop or government-mandated guards. I know where all my guards are - when an inspector shows up on a job, the brand-new-looking guards quickly find their way onto the not-so-new-looking machines. Nobody is fooled, but also on each job I post a #DAYS WITHOUT INJURY sign where everyone sees it, including safety inspectors, upon entry. We are presently in the 800s. I think that says volumns.
My guiding principle is, "Be afraid. Be very afraid." We know what a sharp tool does to a piece of wood, so pause long enough to visualize what it would do if soft tissue were substituted for oak. Now, I'm not talking about PARALYZING fear, just total awareness and respect. Where will the tool or blade go if it slips or you slip? Keep your bodyparts somewhere else. Where will your hand go if something goes wrong? Rearrange your work and/or use a pushblock. Where's the blade's danger zone? Stay out of it. Where's the blade when you can't see it (such as inside a groove or under a blade-guard)? Imagine where it might be a second later. Where will the offcut go? Don't go there yourself. Will gravity mess up your intentions once the cut is complete? Use clamps, supports, outfeeds, whatever it takes for stability. Fear has worked for me for 60 years with only minor nicks and bruises.
Having worked as an ED physician for 23 years, I have seen a number of woodworking related injuries. The majority were related to contact with the saw blade and only rarely did I see kickback injuries. The second most common injury for the nonindustrial woodworker was with the jointer. Each time, the woodworker admitted to being careless.
As a casual woodworker, I always asked them about their use of the saw and what happened in more detail. Here is some food for thought. In every incident the blade guard was off and the woodworker had more than 10 years of experience. In every case they said they never used a blade guard and nothing has ever happened to them (until that visit). I wonder if Norm uses his blade guard when off the set.
I suspect that after years of woodworking, the use of a tablesaw and other equipment becomes second nature and the user does not take the precautions and extra steps necessary for the sake of time. I must say that seeing these injuries gives me a healthy respect for these power tools. (By the way, my other issue for at home injuries is kids sitting with their parent on riding lawnmowers. Although less common than tablesaw injuries, I have seen too many limbs lost.)
I've owned my current table saw for over 35 years. The only close call I've had was with the guard in place. That was when I first got it. It was promptly removed and I have had no problems since then. The accident rate will go down when they make protection that works. I've actually brought work home to cut it on my "guardless" saw in safety. I am willing to bet that almost 99% of all the accidents were caused by not using the #1 safety tool - the brain. Think about what you are doing and plan every move. Very few accidents!
I have a sign up in my shop, "Where are your fingers?"
That's all it takes to make me slow up, define what I'm doing and proceed with caution. So far so good. I have all ten digits and none too many scars and can't stand the blade guard. I use aftermarket splitters when ripping and always stand out of the way of kickback.
BTW, the only time I've come seriously close to cutting myself was with a chop saw. Thankfully I was going slow and noticed that the laser traversed the tip of my left index finger before I dropped the spinning blade. That one scared me into a round of expletives aimed at myself.
The fact that seems missing in all this is that the table saw is probably the MOST used in shops that have them. It's at the center of my power tool collection and wouldn't trade it for anything. Well, maybe a new Powermatic 2000. But my old 66 is fine.
Being a relatively new user of a table saw, I had experienced a few minor kickbacks of trim pieces when cutting long bulky pieces alone. The realization of how dangerous it could be, became especially apparent while trimming up some floor boards with my son-in-law. I was feeding the stock and he was on the outfeed end. We had just finished the cut and before I could grab the thin 1/2" scrap the blade sent it sailing about 15 ft out the open garage door and directly into my tractor seat. It didn't puncture the seat, but we both stood there with our mouths hanging wide open, because only a few minutes earlier, my grandson had been sitting there. We thought we were being especially dilligent and well in control. Our tablesaw respect-o-meters jumped up about 100 percent. Fortunately for us a good lesson with a good ending.
Do airbags or seatbelts prevent accidents in cars? So why do we look to guards to prevent accidents on the tablesaw?
Folks have tablesaw accidents because they do not understand the physics of the saw, that is, the blade is a rotating disc that cuts only on its outside periphery--the other 99% of it causes friction and gets you into trouble. Of course, the friction can be reduced by carefully tuning the saw for perfect alignment (parallel) between the blade and the fence, but how many times have you seen a homeowner (who oftentimes buys a Home Despot cheapo tablesaw) do this? The blade must also be at the correct height, razor sharp, correct set, and, most importantly THERE MUST BE A JOINTED EDGE AGAINST THE FENCE. If theses conditions are met, and the wood is held down and firmly against the fence, an accident simply cannot occur.
Then there's the stupidity factor. Stupid things include: pushing on the waste and leaving a piece of wood stuck between the blade and the fence; using the miter gauge and fence together; standing behind the blade; failure to continue to cut until the wood is clear of the blade; not having enough "meat" against the fence in relation to the length of the board; not using a well designed push stick that holds the wood down across its length and not just the rear corner. I have seen folks use the tablesaw as an upside down portable saw, and not even use the fence---they follow a chalkline! I could go on.
The bottom line: remove and discard the safety guards and anti-kickback devices from your saw and start using the safety device between one's ears. This is the cold, hard truth of the matter.
This will go against the grain (ouch!), but the solution is to avoid the tablesaw altogether.
(1) For crosscutting, use a miter or even a radial arm saw. If even average quality and adjusted properly, cuts are just as accurate, and you are not moving your hands into harm's way.
(2) For ripping, use a bandsaw followed by a jointer. That one-two combination yields edges that are every bit as square and straight as the best tablesaw.
I never liked the tablesaw and would buy a good bandsaw, jointer and planer as the first power tools when setting up a shop. Oh, you can then put a nice workbench where your tablesaw would have been and enjoy!
Most people that use table saws are adults. I was always taught that I was responsible for my actions be it at home or out in the world. You can’t legislate safe operation of everything. We have all done something stupid in the shop. Most have been very lucky and gotten away with it, myself included. You can put all the safety features you want on a table saw or other piece of equipment. If it gets in the way or is inconvenient someone will figure out how to remove or incapacitate the problem. In the mean time all these so called safety features for “our protection” are driving prices through the roof.
I am from the UK where riving knives and guards have been a requirement for many years. Also the vast majority of saws are unable to take dado blades, again another uk safety requirement. I have no figures to offer that say the UK is any safer but as an ex fire fighter what i can say is that in my experince most accidents are caused by:- inadequate training, using equipment for a purpose it was not intended for, abusing equipment, by that i mean pushing the tool beyond its capabilities, working in poor conditions, ie bad light or congested workplace and working when tired or upset.
The main factor i would advocate is for new users of table saws to get proper training from a competent teacher. If you start off with correct practice you are more likely to stay safer in the future. But to put it all in context what percentage is 31000 of the total number of people using table saws, and how does taht stack up to say people killed or miamed in a road crash.
A friend of mine suffered a terrible injury while he was ripping stock a 3-4 inches wide. He's very cautious, but this time, something went wrong and without the guard in place he didn't have a chance. The factory guards are often junk - even the more modern one that shipped with my modern Steel City saw was so-so, which tempted me to keep it off the saw most of the time. After hearing about the gory details of his accident I got my credit card out and ordered the Shark Guard, which has proven to be an awesome guard. Mainly because it's so easy to remove and replace. Comes with a few splitter sizes too and Lee Styron, the owner will powder coat it to the color of your choice! I only need to take it off for the usual non-though or very narrow cuts. One more thing - the dust port on the top really helps cut own on the dust and I'm just using a low end Shop-Vac. Highly recommend it.
At my first woodworking class the instructor talked about how with power tools the main concern was safety. He then took out a handsaw and quickly and quietly made a cut I would have thought impossible without a power tool. As he did so, he remarked that the saw was guaranteed to stop before it hit bone. I have a table saw in my garage, but I don't use it and will be getting rid of it. My woodworking bench is in what used to be our formal dining room. I am reluctantly buying a bandsaw for resawing and may also purchase a thickness planer, but otherwise I find handtools far more pleasant to work with, and for one-off projects they are often faster.
Several years ago I was ripping some oak T&G flooring. I wasn't using a push-stick and was pushing the stock with my right hand up to about an inch from the visible blade that was protruding about 3/8" up out of the oak. As my fingers got close, I would switch from pushing with my right hand to finishing the cut by pulling the stock the rest of the way through with my left hand about 8" to 10" past the blade. I had been watching each piece I cut to make sure the cut was not closing up past the blade (I always look for that). On some of the pieces, the cut was coming through where there was a relief on the underside of the flooring. As I was just ready to pull my right hand away, the piece I was cutting split the rest of the way to the end of the board. The now de-bridged relief had no support and my thumb pressure pushed down 1/4" closer to the table. I just got a nick on the tip of my thumb and a perfect rectangular notch in the tip of my thumbnail. It took about a month to heal to where it looked good and there's no scar now, but I'll never forget that experience. I was shaking for several minutes after that incident thinking of what might have happened. Since then, I always use home made feather-boards and push-sticks. I've drilled and tapped several finger-board mounting holes in my table saw top and use them frequently. I've been known to make jigs that take over an hour to make just to make one or two cuts (I have to say that often the jig isn't just to make the cut safer, its the only way to make some cuts possible.) The jigs are kind of fun to make actually. They sometimes are for ripping small parts and require blocks the length of the table with a profile running through the center and internal plastic fingerboards so stock doesn't vibrate as it traverses the blade. Its amazing how much control this achieves and all I have to do is shove a stick in one end, walk around to the back side of the saw and pull it through.
I have been around woodworking tools for 30 years, and I have seen the mistakes that can be made with table saws. We are all responsible for our own actions, and no matter how much you regulate a product you can't protect people from their own carelessness, ignorance or stupidity.
My experience of two power tool injuries in 32 years of strictly amateur woodworking are attributable to 1) sudden distraction (my wife shouting my name as I am finishing a bandsaw cut) and 2) fatigue inducing inattention and hurry at the table saw. The distraction issue is why I cringe when I see ads in woodworking catalogs for those earmuffs that contain an MP-3 or radio. My family is now aware that they should not interrupt me when a power tool is running.
I am fortunate that neither cut was at all serious, but they each did require four or five stitches at the ER.
I do agree with the suggestion of a Noble prize for the invention of a useable table saw blade guard that allows its use 99.9% of the time no matter the cut being made.
Huntington Beach CA
In my first woodworking class (an Intro to Woodworking), the instructor told us "not to fear the saw blade". He did not believe in push sticks, saying that you had better control of the wood by using your hands and therefore safer. You could secure the wood to the table if the kerf started to close up behind the blade. He also taught us to only raise the blade high enough to cut the wood and no further. Even on rips 2" wide, he said we should use our hand to feed the wood past the blade and hook a couple fingers over the fence. He told us he had experienced severe kickback a few times and was able to hold the board down while he turned off the saw. Only once had the board thrown back at him to where it actually knocked him out.
Now the instructor was a professional woodworker with years of experience and all his fingers. I had always thought he made a good point at the time. After continuing to study, it was apparent that most woodworkers do not follow his line of thinking. And as mentioned in the previous postings, there are numerous thoughts on how high the blade should extend past the work piece. It seems like most people extend the blade so that the gullets on the blade are higher than the work piece. With that being said, I’ve heard stories of people’s hands get “pulled into the blade.” So, what is the 'best practice' for blade height?
My father-in-law wanted a little portable table saw for Christmas, for what he called “small jobs around the house”. I found a used one in good shape and cleaned it up nicely. I also made sure the blade/arbor was true and cut him a couple of push sticks out of scrap plywood. But there is a small part of me that doesn’t want to give it to him… I’d feel really bad if something happened while he was using it.
Reading these experiences prompted me to share my story. Perhaps sharing a little history will prevent someone from reliving it. I was 13 years old, and an OK woodworker. I was raised helping my father in the shop. I was mature for my age, and very safety conscious.
After our Sunday evening family dinner, I was looking forward to working on a project I had started that weekend. I was cutting some plywood squares to repair small box, using a handsaw held in a sturdy Record vise. I can't recall the exact details, but I suspect my cuts didn't meet my needs. The contracters saw behind me must have seemed an easy solution.
The next image is a little unpleasant, and thankfully has been edited by time. I remember the power chord to the saw was in need of repair, and somehow needed a bit of torque to keep it working reliably. I can only guess that I was adjusting the chord at the rear of the saw, when my left arm caught the rear of the fully extended blade.
My next memory is vivid, detailed, and permanent. There was no sensation of pain, just my view of my arm, cut through just below the elbow. My mind said 'I cut myself'. I held the almost severed limb tightly with my right hand, and went up the stairs to get help.
The good news for me was the skill of my surgeons in Montreal, in particular a pioneer plastic surgeon Dr. Bruce Williams who rejoined the ulnar nerve, at a time (1967) when these injuries could end up as amputations.
I went on to become a physician, and I continue to be an avid woodworker. There are many user and saw-related issues in my story, however accidents happen, and rarely because we weren't trying or concentrating hard enough. I am due to replace my tablesaw, and there is no doubt a SawStop is my next shop purchase.
over 3000 amputations a year, from hobbyists alone!
as a comedian once said:" 95% of man think they are better than avarage drivers." but accidents happen even to experienced, trained and careful people.
As a plant manager, I know that awareness is important, but cannot be reliable on its own to prevent accidents.
We have gotten hefty fines from CSST (the Canadian agency that oversees workers safety) for not having guards in place even on secondary machines that weren't even on.
and they are right!
Just read the stories in the comments: even expert woodworkers with close to half a century of experience can make a mistake once in a while. and all you need is one fraction of a second to change your life forever.
so preaching about the importance of "fearing the blade" or "develop safe habits" is just not enough: yes, it is important, but unreliable: the human mind WILL wander and it CAN'T do 2 tasks at the same time properly.
so rule number one is don't rely on yourself: safety measures MUST be in place at all time.
and if your in the market for a saw, get the stop saw.
I can't wait untill I gather enough money for a stop saw. it is -in my humble opinion- the ONLY safety measure that can significantly reduce the number of incidents.
and mark my words that in 10 years from now the technology will be licensed and widely used -at least in Europe!
The best tablesaw safety tool is your mind - that is, having your mind 100% in the present time moment, fully aware of the exact location of the blade, and your hands.
Background: I went 25 years without injury until I had a "disagreement" with my dado blade, that scooped the entire nailbed and the bone tip from the middle finger of my left hand all the way up to the knuckle, leaving only the fingerprint side. (nothing left to stitch back on, either) Long story short, I refused the amputation recommendation from the surgeon, and never went back to the doctor. Well, over the next couple years the nailbed fully grew back, bone and all. That's another whole story, but in time I even became able to resume my pro bassist career too, now playing in Vegas.
After long painful reflection I realized I had violated my #1 tablesaw safety rule: NEVER allow your attention to wander from the exact position of the blade and your hands. (Long, repetitive operations are especially hazardous in this regard.) The day of my injury, my wife and I had had a very upsetting argument that had my mind distracted. Determined to finish some Christmas presents and "take my mind off things", I went out to the shop to continue work on my project. Terrible mistake.
Lesson learned: NEVER, EVER work with power tools when distracted, upset, ill or fatigued. The best safety equipment on earth can't protect you from injury if your mind isn't 100% on what you're doing.
I am new to woodworking, only 2 years experience. One of the first things I did was read all the safety information I could get on my Delta Unisaw. Against Delta's advise, I did remove the blade guard as I too like to see where I am cutting. And of course being new, I had no concept of how bad "kickback" could be. I was ripping a board one day and had the "Mag Switch" feather board pressing not only against the board but also a "top" feather board to help hold it down. Now, these were the strong magnets abd the hard plastic or whatever the are made from. All of a sudden there was a loud POP and the feather boards brock, the piece I was cutting came back on the Left side, cut my forefinger, middle finger and ring finger all rather deep. I thought I had lost a few fingers but fortunatly I didn't. To this day, I don't know what happened. Had I not had the feather boards, I believe the whole piece would have cracked me in the head and with the force it had, could have at the least given me a concussion. I think either the board drifted away from the fence or was not level causing the "drift". And, I had no riving knife.
After this incendent, I purchased a riving knife and a jounter to make sure my stock is flat and at 90 degrees. One of the first "attachments" I made to my saw were outfeed tables. I believe they are a must have. Ovedr $200 for the foldaway kind that attaches to the back of the table. Well worth the money.
I have since learned exactly what kickback is and can do. I think not really understanding kickback and its causes is one of the problems. As for the blade? I keep my hands, fingers body and clothing well away from the blade. That, I have always respected. Watching what a spinning blade will do to lumber lets me know my fingers are no match. A tie with a table saw is losing.
A Forest Blade representative once told me to raise the blade to its highest capacity to help prevent any burn. This goes against anything I have ever read. I did try it and I must admit it seems to work but I never raise the blade any higher than I feel comfortable with. Just the wind from the blade is chilling!
Be safe. You can replace the wood!
Y'all are scarin' me.
I believe I've had a healthy respect for tools - especially the table saw - for the 20 years I've been a hobbyist. In fact, I'd say I'm a tad TOO careful, so I waste a lot of time thinking, buy (or make) a lot of jigs and accesories, waste a lot of (cheap) lumber oracticing and move really, really slowly whenever I finally make something. I could never make a living at this hobby - but I actually do enjoy figuring out setups that I think are hyper-safe. If I can't get comfortable, I just won't do it.
We need a "Tablesaw Best Practices" manual.
I'm very interested in this topic for two reasons:
- this study confirms what my wife has learned in the ER
- I have a new Delta Unisaw on the way.
But these stories do make me wonder if I should take up croquet as my hobby. I don't really want to do that. There's gotta be a way to be SAFE.
When I do setups on my Delta contractor saw, I either:
- use a technique I KNOW is safe
- search the Internet for a safe setup and technique
- or don't do it (i.e., redesign - again).
The guidelines provided in most "safety manuals" are too generalized. Good guidelines, but not explicit enough. We need a generally accepted and very explicit "Best Practices" setup and technique for (at least) the most common 20 or 30 tablesaw operations. And the focus needs to be on SAFE - not cost-efficiency or production techniques - just SAFE.
Does anyone know of such a resource? Should FWW (or the Community) start building one?
Most comments here seem to have both attention and fatigue in common resulting in accidents. One in particular of using a metal push stick gave me to willies. A push stick that cannot be easily eaten by the saw blade in a pinch or won't trap fingers in a grab situation is a must.
Questions about the absence of a riving knife on older saws can be remedied by checking out an article in the the how to pages of this great resource (FWW) on the shop made zero clearance saw insert that can easily inclide a built in riving knife as demonstrated. I've made several at once and they work very well because they can be made to exactly match the blade width you are going to use.
Also the addition of an outfeed table at the back of any saw can be aa big safety feature. It will remove the temptation to over reach and add considerable stability to your efforts.
The primary reason that blade guards aren't used very often is because of the fat profile of them that prevent cuts close enough to the fence. A smarter design would be good.
If you are tired, don't even turn it on!
I have the greatest respect for the readers of Fine Woodworking. Every issue I read and every post I read on this site has some helpful and enlightning information. I'm not a professional, wood working is my hobby.
All that said, I have to ask all of the respondents to this column, would you have spent $2,000 to $3,000 to have not had your accidents?
The use of a SawStop would have prevented almost all of these incidents.
I have been using table saws since I was 15 years old, I'm now 60 and I have never had any injury worse than a splinter here and there.
Two weeks ago I was ripping a short pice of two by four down to two by three, I was using a push stick, I do not use the guard as I like to see the blade clearly as I feed the wood through the cut. As I was finishing the cut the drop started to fall of the table which I usually let go. Apparently I must not have been paying full attention because out of reflex I grabbed the drop to stop it from falling and as I did I hit the blade wirh two fingers on my left hand.
The cuts were pretty deep, but I do still have both of my fingers. They have healed enough now that I can close them like the other finger to the palm of my hand so there is no permanent damage. I do consider myself very lucky, but I do not plan to install the guard on my saw as it is always in the way.
When I took wood shop in High school and I went through carpenter school in the army there were no guards on the saws and safety was stressed alot. As we work with these power tools we can't afford to let our attention wander even the slightest.
I find that most of my problems came from the fact that the table beyond the blade is not nearly long enough. Because of that, I was putting more pressure on the board that is currently going through the blade to keep the cut portion from dropping below the table. This is not a good thing, even with push sticks.
I have since built extension tables and also added portable roller stands so that I no longer have to do this. This helps with the problem considerably. I find, however, that even this extension is sometimes too short or to narrow to support both pieces of the cut. It would be nice to have rolling tables to accept the cut portions, however, my garage is much too small for these additions.
All of these table extensions and rollers need to be quick to install and remove and also fold up to make room in the garage for the cars, etc. I am also thinking that if you didn't have to "guide" the wood so closely because of the needed pressure, you would use the blade guards more frequently.
With the extensions, I find that I can now push the board through the blade without trying to reach around to catch it and loose focus on what I am doing.
I have used a table saw for 25 years. I removed the guard and do not use ear protection. one can not see the piece with the guard and you can not hear the strain of the wood if using ear protection. Most people would agree a dull blade is very dangerous. I always use a wooden push stick. Also have a stand or table on the other side to catch your work. I know accidents happen. Just respect the tool and alittle fear also helps.
It was Sept 20, 2009 about 3:00 PM. My wife and I were in the early stages of working on a volunteer project building a modifdied box that would incorpoate a groove to accept a clip board. I was ripping the stock down to the correct width. I had a zero clearance insert in place as I was removing about 3/16" of material. Push stick sometimes or just using my right hand. Plenty of distance to push the stock through between blade and fence. I had done over 150 pieces.
Pushing the stock through and reaching around to bring the finished piece to a stack become to repetative.
I was interrupt with a phone call. Going back to the saw I started the process. Was it the first piece I did or the second? I don't remember. As I reached for the finished piece I do remember feeling the blade on my left hand.
I look down and saw a mass of blood on my left index finger and the end of my left thumb hanging loose.
I grabbed my hand and ran out of the shop screaming my wifes name and that I had "cut off" my fingers. Even in that moment I remember turning back to the saw, lifting my left leg and hitting the off switch with my foot.
A towel, my neighbor on the phone with 911. I was laying on the driveway cusing at my self any my stupidity. A kind police officer appeared with a first aid kit, I remember telling him that it was beyond a first aid kit. Fire arrived and then the ambulence. A clean towel and then transport to the hospital.
6 hours of surgery.
I lost the finger nail bed of my left thumb just short of the joint. The bones in my index finger and middle finger were shattered with tendon and nerve damage. I had two pins placed into index finger and two into the middle finger for six weeks to keep everything in place while the bones healed.
It has been five months. The the nerves are healing as I am beginning get the pins and needles feeling one gets after the hand or foot has gone to sleep.
The hardest is the theapy trying to bring the strech back into the tendons that were damaged. Right now the fingers are better than the doctor imagined. Even the physical therapist continues to be amazed at the flexabiltiy I have attained given the extent of the injury.
I know I was lucky. The feel of the blade, a spilt second down instead of up and the fingers would have severed.
What did I do I do wrong? To much repetition led to a contentment in my hand motion. It was a motion that did not expect or anticipate a variation until it happened.
My biggest wrong doing was in not having an outfeed table. I have one now. It was added before my wife and I resumed the project.
I am safer now mentally and physically when the table saw is used. More planning especially with repetative cutting.
Strange twist is that before my shop and my table saw any project I ever did was on a radial arm saw with no accidents.
I've been a woodworker for 7 or 8 years now. I removed the tablesaw guard (I have a Rigid contractor saw) almost immediately. The issue I have with the guard is that it hangs off the back of the saw and and makes it difficult to get my extension table close enough to the saw to not have a large gap between the saw and the extension. Also, the splitter at the back tends to want to pull the work away from the fence affecting the accuracy of the cut. I would have preferred to have a riving knife but at the time I bought the saw riving knife saws were exotic and prohibitively expensive.
If there were a cost effective way to retrofit my saw with a riving knife I would. I haven't seen anything on the market though. As an alternative, I've considered overarm guards, but they seem a bit prohibitive also.
I do worry about accidents in the workshop. I am always highly aware of what anyone of my woodworking machines could do to me if I allowed my concentration to lapse. Recently I purchased a Micro Jig Gripper push block system. It takes me a moment or two extra to set up the Gripper, but I feel it keeps me safer by keeping my hands well away from blades and allows me to do thin cuts confidently.
The bottom line is that while table saw manufacturers talk about safety to make their legal departments happy, until recently very few spent the R&D money to develop and incorporate truly innovative safetly features into the blade guards.
I've had my table saw for about a year. I most commonly use it without the guard because of necessity, ie, the piece I'm cutting is too big to pass under the guard hinge. I do try to leave the splitter in without the guard whenever possible.
Because I rarely use the guard, I am a collector of push sticks and always use them unless the work piece is large enough to keep my hands at least 6" away from the blade in all directions.
I also at least mentally go through how I'm going to control the piece during the entire cut and if that doesn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling that it will be safe, I will physically go thru the motions with piece with the saw off and the blade retracted.
The one thing that I did that I believe had a larger impact on the safety of my saw than either of the above was to fabricate a zero tolerance insert. Since I installed it, my saw is much more user friendly in that it doesn't throw pieces of scrap back at me because the scrap can no longer drop down into the dust collector surrounding the blade and then hit the blade and come flying back out.
I am 60 years old and use a table saw every day for long periods of time producing primarily period furniture. I have two 10" table saws in a large shop. Most people I know who use table saws on an ongoing basis remove both the splitter and blade guard because they don't function properly and impede pushing the stock through the saw.
I suffered a devastating injury cutting off three fingers on my right hand just above the bottom knuckle (I am right handed) 25 years ago after I had been using table saws for 18 years at the time. Fortunately two of my fingers (the middle and ring finger were very skillfully reattached by a talented plastic surgeon, Dr Leake, at Kennestone Hospital north of Atlanta. I had over 200 stitches and was told to become left handed. After a year of therapy (mostly self therapy) I had a reasonably functioning hand. In the first months of therapy I had to break the scar tissue loose every day.
The doctor and therapist told me that my hand would improve for a year and after that I would not have any more improvement. I am very right handed. I became obsessed with personal therapy and continued for years afterward. I had a great doctor, but they were wrong about my fingers not getting any better after a year. I noticed significant improvement over many years.
A year after my injury I had almost no feeling in the portions of my fingers that were reattached. I suffered excruciating pain in the "nub" that was left of my index finger when I inadvertently jammed it into something. I had severe pain in my fingers when I came in from cold weather outside. All the steel pins were removed at a year except two. My hand is disfigured intentionally so I could hold a hammer. I could not move my two middle fingers much and you did not want to be near me when I used a hammer. It would frequently fly away from me.
I was told I would suffer extreme premature arthritis in my right hand because of my injury. Here's what really happened and this is a happy ending:
I continued to gain dexterity in my hand every year after the accident, even 25 years later. I have worn out dozens of small rubber balls squeezing them over and over as I drive my pickup truck. I work my hand religiously, clutching and making fists. I have no arthritis in my right hand. I have full use of my right hand. I do numerous intricate carvings and detail work. I tie hundreds of tiny trout flies. I carve intricate feathers on the dozens of decoy ducks I have carved. I have no pain in my fingers. I have no pain when I jam my nub index finger into things. I have not had trouble with pain from the cold weather for years. I have full feeling in all my fingers. I have not lost control of a hammer for a long time. I have even typed 10 novels and dozens of short stories with my hands. Somehow I do it with nine fingers and do not miss my index finger. The typing has caused all the feeling in my fingers to return. The only thing I cannot do is use chop sticks.
When my accident occurred it happened in an instant. The blade was only 3/8" above the table. I was underscoring some cabinet doors the wrong way with the cut on the left side of the plywood instead of on the right side next to the rip fence.
I knew after my accident I would never have another chance and had used up all of my nine lives in one shot. I changed my work habits completely. I use the saw with the blade all the way up most of the time. I only lower it for dados and the like. The blade is much more stable that way. I tried splitters and guards. I found myself having to push harder than I would like sometimes when the work bound somewhat on the splitter. I got rid of the guards. I do better without them. I make all the rip cuts in solid wood with a heavy set blade.
I use push sticks and push aids extensively when working close to the blade. If it feels uncomfortable, I don't do it. I use the jointer hand holds often when my hand will go above the blade in a dado cut. I do still make many (most) cuts holding the work with my hands, but I have a personal rule that I don't push anything past the lead edge of the blade unless my hand is well out of harm's way. Just don't do it guys. It isn't worth it. The therapy is horrible and takes forever and you may not be as fortunate as I was.
Lastly don't run twisted or bowed stock. The saw will launch it back at you. I spent hours deciding what was safe and unsafe after my accident. I sought advice from experts. I read the articles in "Fine Woodworking" pertaining to table saw safety ( there were plenty; I had just never read them). The magazine has done a fine job with their safety articles, The table saw is much more dangerous the more it is lowered, exponentially so. I would be glad to share my personal list of safety rules with anyone interested. It has worked. I have not had a close call in 25 years and turned out a ton of work.
My best to all of you. My email is email@example.com. Email me if I can help you in any way. I believe in this.
I must confess that I am one of the crowd that believes that pilot error is more responsible for injury than the design of a good table saw. I take full responsibility for my accident....nearly taking off my left thumb. Ofter 4 hours of surgery and $40,000 from my insurance company, I still have a thumb, but it doesn't work quite like the other one.
The best protection from injury is caution and knowing how to perform operations on safely on your table saw. I am much more cautious and think through what I am doing before I start the saw. One careless move can be disasterous.
OK first off there are many types of table saws from small very cheaply built portable table top saws to large cabinet saws. Some of the cheapest saws are so flimsy and poorly made that even properly used are inherently unsafe.
I feel these saws should not even be allowed to be sold. (but they are).
Now for in shop saws a over head guard with dust extraction is the best way to go. (http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=18185)
I added a EXAKTOR Overarm Dusthood on my Jet saw more because I hated getting dust in my face when using a zero clearance throat plate now I have a safer and cleaner saw. And this guard can easily be moved when i use a crosscut sled or other table saw jigs in seconds and then put back just as easy. Personally anyone buying a Cabinet saw or a better contractors saw and setting up a wood shop should consider replacing their stock guard with one of these.
Now that makes the shop saw safe but job site saws have other problems. One they are smaller and lighter so they need good stable potable stands and the blade guard needs to be portable as well. So a guard like that EXAKTOR Overarm Dusthood is not practical. So far I have not seen a single portable saw with a good guard on it that is usable for the type of finish work I do. First off the Pawls on blade guards mark refinished stock I can not use any guard that has pawls. And then most portable saws have flimsy guards that require tools to remove and re-install again not a option and the reason why most pros remove these guards and they never get put back on.
For pros safety in in how you use it not how many safety guards are built in.
I still want t be safe so I modified my saw removing the old guard and installing a riving knife. Then I made a push stick/block that had a built in guard. With this I can make even the thinest rip and securely hold the work piece all the way past the blade. While keeping my hands well clear of the blade.
I never use the portable saw for crosscutting since my sliding miter saws does a much better job of that.
OK now lets be completely honest guys any experienced woodworker knows most stock blade guards must be removed to allow you to make about 60% of the operations we do on the table saw. And I say that is a pretty poorly designed safety device if 60% of the operations the tool is used for can not be done with out removing it.
Now as for the question have I ever been hurt Yes once in 25 years and it was just 5 years ago. So I had 20 years experience.
Now here is what happened.
I was working on a job and the General contractor asked me to help him rip some 16 ft trim stock. Now he had his saw set up with no out feed and because the guard had been removed so the pawls would not mar the pre-finished trim and it was a thin rip so the fence would also have hit the stock guard. Had no push stick around and It was the end of a long day and I was tired. I reluctantly agreed to help him with him supporting the out feed end I was making sure the trim was tight to the fence and on the second piece as my hand went past the blade he twisted the board pushing my thumb right into the blade. Now because I had lowered the blade so it was just slightly higher then the thickness of the trim the cut was only about 1/8 deep. But it was bad enough that I missed a weeks work. I knew better but the combination of me being tired and not taking proper safety precautions cost me. And that is how most accidents happen at least with experienced wood workers they are rushing or tired or both.
I am sure novice mistakes are caused by a lack of experience and/or lack of training.
But experienced wood workers usually are very aware of what they should have been doing but failed to do when they get hurt.
I too am a physician and woodworker with a Powermatic table saw. I had one serious injury. Using aluminum push sticks, one of them wandered into the blade. It was shoved back about a tenth of a blade rotation, but that jammed the blunt end into my palm. It ripped the skin loose and inverted it into the cut, so I ended up with an oval defect. Healed fine.
Following that.... I made all new throat plates for my saw and installed riving knife like projections coming up out of the throat plates. Two heights, one about a half and one about an inch. So I only use a flat throat plate if I am making a very thin cut.
Second, I made a bunch of disposable plywood push sticks that have a broad flat area that rests on the piece, and a notch in the back that pushes the piece through. They are plywood and triangular, so my hand hold is a oval hole in the plywood, several inches above the blade.
I don't use the guard. Can't see through the danged thing, and frankly I have never been in anybody's shop that did use one. Let's give a Nobel to whoever invents a good one.
I think the real issue with blade guards is that they should be designed to go on and off quickly or people won't use them. All blade guards "get in the way" at times, but there are easy ways around this most of the time. But when a cut truly must be made without the regular bolt-on guard, it had better come off quickly and easily. And it had better go on in the exact same position again next time without any fuss. The placement of the splitter is so important to preventing kickback that this kind of "repeatability" is a must.
On my saw, I can remove or reinstall the guard in 30 seconds. Even a little faster now that I've been able to replace the regular bolts with plastic handles on the bolt heads (no tools). But I've seen certain models with guards that are a complete nightmare and in that case the manufacturer has to step up to the plate and do something about it. Like the seat belt analogy, people come around to using them as long as you can clip them in easily. But if you had to tie three different knots to get it on, you can be sure nobody would ever use one.
All the best,
Passion for Wood
I pulled a complex safety sled back from the blade to flick out a chip. Well, the jig was not quite off the blade.. about 1/32nd of the side of my index fingertip was cut off. I felt each tooth!!! Buzzzzzz. The irony is that I practiced solid safety procedures.... well, almost!
Well, I made a puddle on the floor, which is my indicator to call for help. No stitches as the skin was just gone. A couple of years later, just an slight indentation on the side of the fingertip.
Of my other incidents involving the tablesaw, this was the worst. Kickback brought my hand over the blade, but it missed, and I caught a piece of thin lumber in my tummy another time.
I'm seriously considering a SawStop saw. But, I've got a perfectly serviceable Delta Contractors saw I've had for almost 20 years.
Just skimmed the study. It's particularly interesting because it focuses exclusively on nonoccupational injuries, and as such is apparently the first study to collect stats specifically for hobbyists and DIYers. (Stats for pros are collected by a different agency and so were excluded from this paper.)
If I read the study correctly, 86 percent of the injuries are to fingers and thumbs due to contact with the blade. Doesn't this contradict the long-held belief that most tablesaw injuries are from kickback? Riving knives would presumably not have as much effect on these injuries as blade guards.
Hendrik, you are so right. I'm one of the saps who told their stories in the link above. My injury required some hand surgery, but I really only lost about an eighth of an inch of my left ring finger: you have to look closely to see it.
However, had the blade guard been in place, the accident would never have happened. I had just finished a groove cut, and had one more rip to do before calling it a night. I'd taken the blade guard off for the groove cut and didn't bother to put it back on for the rip cut. My accident occurred after I'd turned the saw off, but the blade was still coming to a rest when I reached in to pull out the small offcut. The blade guard would have prevented my reaching in so far.
I'm amazed at how many shops don't have blade guards in place. Seems some shops would rather spend for a SawStop than have to keep a blade guard on the saw. Sure it takes 90 seconds for me to reattach the blade guard, but you can bet it's now always on when I'm making a through cut. I even have on on my crosscut sled.
Too bad I had to learn the hard way.
As others have pointed out, the riving knife requirement is for newly designed saws as of a specific date. You can still buy a new saw without riving knife.
What do you do when you buy a new saw with a riving knife, put your old saw on Craigslist (or pass it down). You don't sell it for scrap metal. So, someone else will be using the saw for years, exposed to the same risk you wanted to eliminate with your upgrade.
As long as we continue to sell our old saws on Craigslist, we will continue to see a high number of injuries. People starting out will look for the lowest cost option. Why spend a lot of money for a saw with a riving knife when I can buy a saw in "good shape" off Cragslist.
As mentioned in the article the table saw is the primary tool of use in most hobbyist shops and commercial. I agree it is primarily user error I also believe that there are accessory items on the market that are not safe or require an excessive amount of care to use properly. At a recent demonstration held at my local woodworkers store it was pointed out that the taper jig has some conditions of use that may not be readily apparent. This item goes on sale and even Norm Abram used a version that really was entirely safe from kickback. The push sticks a common item should accomplish more that just moving the wood through the saw, but there are many on the market for sale that are only bird beak notches on a stick. In the demonstration of making a small shop cabinet Garret Hack is shown using two thin stick to move wood through. Based on my recent lecture this is not safe.
The bottom line is that we try something an it worked, we got away with doing it with no consequences. After a while we have created a technique that has inherent safety issues waiting to happen. Focus on the wood, its position on the table, watching for wood shape changes due to reaction wood, and then not putting hands beyond the front saw plate are good basic points that will minimize accidents.
As a physician I have been pondering shop-related injuries, their prevalence and prevention. Unfortunately all statistics (including the cited Journal of Trauma article) rely upon cases sufficiently injurious to lead to Emergency Room treatment. This skews the prevalence and severity aspects of these injuries toward the blood-and-gore tier. These studies also avoid the treacherous issues of incidence/prevalence since none can estimate how many are at risk for specific injuries. Is an increasing number of injuries due to a larger percentage of users being injured or in increasing number of people now using the equipment and creating a larger "at risk" pool?
In the end the Consumer Product Safety rules may have lead to increased numbers of users who now believe the tools are safer. This may lead to less-observant/less-conscientious woodworking. Injuries due to inattention are preventable, but there'll never be a 100% safe power tool. Most injuries begin between the ears of the person who turns on the power tool. Even if that person is not the one to be injured by the kickback, hand on the blade or other injury, it is the responsibility of the operator to anticipate and prevent such injuries.
But I wonder how many powertool woodworkers per year suffer a splinter or a speck in the eye. Those are near universal injuries that never show up in these studies.
My guess is that most shop accidents are caused by user error, not tool design flaws. Not taking the time to read and understand the safety precautions that come with the tool may be the first source of problems. Then, failing to think through an operation (no injury-repair pun intended) before actually doing it, and failing to ask, "Can I do this in a different, safer way?" Then, there's TWNHTM - the That Would Never Happen To Me syndrome.
This is why I bought a SawStop when I was considering a new table saw.
I just skimmed Patrick's copy of the article... I was surprised to see that reported accidents actually went up significantly from 1990 to 2007. Looks like there was a precipitous jump between 1997 and 1998 and accidents remained at a higher level until 2007. It makes me wonder if the increase is related to an increasing number of DIY-ers??? It reminds me of a 2007 New York Times article on the topic: "Easy, Mr. Fix-It" http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/03/garden/03disasters.html
I don't have any real suggestions, Ed. From my understanding, the 2005 rule only applies to new models, so even though your saw is relatively new it was likely introduced well before the new rule took effect. I'd call delta and ask what, if anything, can be done to make you saw safer.
My 10" Delta hybrid is 3+ years old. I cannot find a riving knife to add. Ideas? Ed
My spelling is terrible.
Just this week, I had my first real kick-back from a table saw after more than 20 years of using a tablesaw. Fortunately, I was tought to stand clear of the path of kick-back as I make my cut.
As a student at the University of Alabama, I took a class called "Emergency Medical Technician I" and did a rotation through the local emergency room. I saw a poor fellow that had been the victim of table saw kick-back. A 2x4 struck him in the chin which then broke his neck.
Your post reminds me to be extra careful with my power tools.
You know,Patrick, as someone who has taught table saw safety techniques and even produced an instructional DVD on the topic, I've studied these issues a lot. I've also read a whole lot of injury reports, always interested in comparing the cases to my own views on why these accidents happen.
There are many things we need to do to stay safe, from using our blade guards, to being alert and having good safety habits. The latter point is an important one. We need to have specific routines that we adhere to, not just use the saw any old way from one time to the next. There are certain safety procudures that can be learned and you have to be disciplined about sticking to those habits.
The current requirement of a riving knife for new saws is a wonderful thing and was badly needed. However, I believe that a full blade guard is needed for full safety, particularly when ripping. But convincing people that their bulky blade guard should be used now that they have a riving knife is quite a challenge. In my view, the riving knife should be used only when a full blade guard can't be (dados, rabbets, etc.). But the full guard should be used whenever possible, particularly for regular rip cuts.
The argument that the full blade guard is "in the way" or "inconvenient" is a common one. I'm sure the same arguments were made about seat belts many years ago, but most people have come around to the idea that they make sense. Now if I even drive across a parking lot without the seat belt it just feels wrong. Similarly, if you use the full blade guard regularly it won't be such a nuisance afterall. It just takes some getting used to and you have to stick to your guns long enough for it to feel "normal".
Yes, the guard gets in the way for certain operations, so there are times where you need to take it off, but can still use a splitter, riving knife or other safety device to handle the risk better. Plus there are overhead guards you can look at too.
Anyhow, my fear, now that the riving knives are here in North America, is that nobody will use the full guard anymore. Just the riving knife. We'll see a whole lot less kickback injuries, but far more caused by an accidental slip into the blade. It just takes a moment of inattention, a slip of a push stick, etc. to end up in that blade with three fingers hanging. It's a real shame.
I've met people who have had three separate table saw accidents in which fingers were amputated but still refuse to use blade guards or even splitters! How can they justify it? I have no idea.
All the best,
Go on a lumber run with Matt Kenney and he'll show you how he reads a stack of lumber to help him find the perfect board
Grids and cutouts define a practical piece
Fast, fun approach to making a comfortable, casual seat
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