Preventing Tablesaw Kickback
Many have experienced it, but few know why it happens
Synopsis: Before he lets students near a tablesaw, Lon Schleining shows them how dangerous kickback can be. A split-second series of photos shows Schleining’s demonstration. He explains how letting a piece rotate away from the rip fence results in kickback, and how other cuts are prone to it, too — a square piece being trimmed, such as drawer bottoms, or other small parts. With a splitter and blade guard in place, it’s much harder to lose control of your workpiece. Kelly Mehler’s accompanying article on building a shopmade splitter will help you avoid kickback.
On the first day of class I ask my woodworking students if they’ve had a kickback on the tablesaw. I always get a fair number of hands in the air, but few of the students can tell me what happened. And often those who have had the unsettling experience of carving a nice, deep furrow in a piece of wood and having it fly across the shop don’t usually know what caused it. It all happens so fast that it’s over by the time they realize it’s occurred.
Before I let my students get near a tablesaw, I do a little dog-and-pony show to demonstrate the dangers of kickback. Using styrofoam to represent a piece of plywood, I show how the cut should be made and then what occurs if the piece drifts away from the rip fence. Crouching out of the flight path, I simply let go of the piece for a second, and off it goes.
A kickback occurs when the leading corner of a piece being cut rotates away from the rip fence. The piece then gets caught up between the back of the blade and the fence. As the back of the blade—the part that cuts…