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Re: You Can't Beat the Physics of Kickback

I also filmed a kickback for a table saw safety DVD I produced in 2008, but I did it a little more safely using rigid foam and with my hands still far from the blade as the kickback happened. In the last half of this video clip:


you'll see the kickback replayed in slow motion. The rather dramatic sound effects were not added. It is the original audio from the video, but has that more dramatic sound when played back at slow speed.

Dangerous stuff, which is why you won't see me ripping stock without a splitter or riving knife whenever possible.

Re: Torture Test for Outdoor Finishes: The End

You know, Mark, that has been my experience with outdoor finishes as well. Especially here in my area where we go from super cold, snowy winters to really hot, humid summers. So when most people ask me what I recommend for an exterior wood finish, I say, "Buy a species that won't rot very fast and learn to like the colour gray". Seriously, I don't see why we even have to finish exterior wood, as long as we choose a rot-resistant species like cedar, white oak, etc.

While I know you can maintain an exterior finish with constant maintenance, I always think, "Who really has the time to maintain or recoat all outdoor projects every single year?" Between a deck, gazebo, outdoor benches or other furniture, etc., you'd have to retire from your full time job in order to keep up with it all!

The only piece of outdoor woodwork I maintain annually is my business sign. And it does require recoating once a year. Sometimes I push it two years and regret it because there is more work to be done.

Every year I learn to appreciate the colour gray just a little more (since my beard is turning that colour anyway).


Hendrik Varju
Passion for Wood

Re: Clamping cauls: The secret to great glue-ups

Hi, there. I'm the author of the article and just now saw the comments posted on this site. So I thought I'd give a few thoughts on those comments.

Firstly, I have no problem milling my stock flat and square, but clamping cauls can help in a lot of situations to apply pressure where I need it, protect my workpiece, etc. In the case of edge-gluing, it is truly amazing how much the clamping cauls I use help keep the boards from sliding around, saving me a ton of hand planing in the end. I've tried the deadblow mallet idea many times, but have never taken to the idea. If it works for you, more power to you. I just find that cauls give me more control and a more predictable result.

The F-clamps I use are not long reach ones. They have a 5" reach and cost only about Cdn. $16 each. They go on sale all the time for half price, so you can't beat $8 a piece. The pipe clamps are also fairly economical and very useful to me in my workshop.

The cauls don't take long to make and once you've made a bunch they simply get used over and over again. So it isn't the kind of time commitment you might think. Make a few and use them on multiple projects over the years.

Also, while it may look like a complicated set-up to put on three sets of cauls, 6 F-clamps and 5 Pony clamps, you get very good at it after gluing hundreds of panels. In fact, I've demonstrated these techniques live at woodworking shows. I put the glue on my boards first and then ask the audience to time me to see how long it takes me to put all 6 cauls on, as well as all the F-clamps and Pony clamps. For a panel like the one you see pictured in this blog, I'll have the whole thing done in about 4 1/2 minutes. So that is plenty efficient for me, particularly given the slow set glue I like to use (about 12 minutes open time).

I used to use packing tape on my cauls too, like a lot of people said. One day I ran out of packing tape and used duct tape instead and now like it a lot better. It is easy to see what side the tape is on, the tape is very durable, doesn't leave any marks on my wood, etc. It's not as if I put new tape on the cauls every time I use them. The same strip of tape is used for dozens of glue-ups. So if duct tape costs more than packing tape, it's a minor issue for me. You might want to try it sometime if you've only used packing tape before. Both work, so it's up to you.

Anyhow, I know these caul methods aren't rocket science and they are definitely not a new idea. But a lot of beginners haven't tried them or used them in the right applications. I can't imagine doing many of my glue ups without them. Hopefully some of you found the article to be useful to you. I'm sure you will tweak your methods to your own liking.

All the best,

Hendrik Varju
Passion for Wood

Re: New Study Discusses Tablesaw Injuries

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,

Hendrik Varju
Passion for Wood

Re: New Study Discusses Tablesaw Injuries

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,

Hendrik Varju

Re: Dovetailed drawers are overrated

Hi, there:

I am the author of the article in question ("Fine Drawers without Dovetails"). Like most woodworkers, I love the look of dovetails. They are strong, beautiful and traditional. I love to cut them, which I do completely by hand. I also teach quite a few people each year how to make handcut dovetails and I enjoy the process.

Having said that, some of my clients just don't seem to care. They want a joint that looks good and is strong, but they aren't stuck on dovetails as being the only option. So I always give them both options -- handcut dovetails and dowel pegged rabbets. They decide based on what they like as well as their budget. Obviously, handcut dovetails cost far more. And many people like the dowel look because they don't see it very often.

In my business, I only offer dovetails done by hand, not by machine. That, in itself, could probably stir up a whole controversy! It isn't that I think machine-cut dovetails are inferior or somehow "bad". It's just that in a machinery dominated workshop like mine, the dovetail is one of the few joints that I ever cut fully by hand so I see the process as somehow "special". While I do all kinds of high quality joinery such as mortise-and-tenon, including wedged, pinned and so on, I rarely get to do all of the work by hand. Hand tools always come into it at the most crucial points, using chisels and hand planes to achieve the proper fit. But I don't cut most joinery fully by hand, so I've sort of reserved that special process for dovetails.

The point of the article was to get people thinking out of the box a little and maybe accept that something other than dovetails can still be aesthetically pleasing and strong. I spend a lot of time each year teaching hobbyists how to build furniture, so I see them struggle with the handcut dovetail. And while I encourage people to practise and keep trying (it's the only way you are going to get better at it), for a hobbyist who can only commit maybe 3 or 4 hours per week to their hobby, saying "you just have to practise" sometimes just doesn't cut the mustard. Basically, I don't want struggling beginners to feel that if they can't make nice dovetails then they are somehow incompetent and should never even build a drawer. I give them a strong but much more attainable joint so that they can get on with their hobby with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Then, as their skills increase, they will naturally develop an interest in dovetails and wish to do it. Very few, though, will have the kind of time required to not only make the joint, but be able to "practise".

If there's one thing that will kill a beginner's interest more than anything, it's giving them a task that takes so long to get good at that they simply give up and decide to hit the golf course instead. Keeping that interest alive involves simpler methods that get the person from A to B with a sense of accomplishment. The finer techniques and skills always follow, but it can be too much to jump right in prematurely.

Anyhow, it is clear that some people found the article to offer a "refreshing" perspective, while others find the idea of not using dovetails for drawers almost sacrilegious! As long as it gets people thinking and questioning their goals and techniques, I think it's a good thing.

All the best,

Hendrik Varju
Passion for Wood

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