Table saw kickback is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening occurrence that can happen when using a table saw. It is essential for woodworkers to understand what kickback is and how to prevent it to keep themselves and others safe.
In this article, I go deeper into what table saw kickback is, what the consequences are, and how you can prevent yourself from kickback wounds.
What is Table Saw Kickback?
When the wood being cut on a table saw is suddenly thrown back towards the operator, this is referred to as table saw kickback. A number of factors can contribute to this, including a dull blade, poor blade alignment, or an incorrect feed rate.
Cuts, lacerations, and even amputations can result from kickback, as well as damage to the saw and the workpiece.
Table saw accidents happen faster than you think! For the ultimate guide to creating a customized first aid kit for your workshop, see my article ‘How To Make A Workshop First Aid Kit – N°1 Guide | FREE CHECKLIST‘. This step-by-step guide and free checklist I created will help you be ready for any accident that may occur. Don’t put it off until it’s too late; instead, be proactive and make your first aid kit today!
How Does Kickback Occur on a Table Saw?
A table saw kicking back can be caused by several mechanisms. One common cause is when the wood being cut binds or stalls on the blade, causing the blade to grab the wood during its rotation. This sudden action will cause the wood to be thrown back towards the operator with great force due to the table saw kickback speed.
Another cause of kickback is when the wood being cut is not properly supported and falls off the back of the table, pinching the blade and causing the blade to throw the wood back towards the operator.
Several factors can increase the likelihood of table saw kickback. The first, and perhaps most underappreciated, is using a dull blade. This is because a dull blade requires more force to cut through the wood and is more prone to binding. Get to know all about table saw binding in this article here.
This can lead to the wood stalling on the blade and causing kickback. Another risk factor is setting the blade at an improper alignment against the miter slots and rip fence, as this can cause the wood to bind on the blade and result in kickback. Incorrect feed rate is also a risk factor, as feeding the wood too quickly or slowly can cause the blade to bind and result in kickback.
In addition to these considerations, you should be aware that certain types of cuts are more prone to kickback. Crosscutting smaller pieces of wood is one example. These are more likely to turn on the table saw top, which will cause the wood to bind on the blade and cause kickback.
Long, narrow pieces of wood are more likely to close the saw cut because of the tension of the wood, pinch the blade, and cause kickback when cutting wood along the grain.
The Consequences of Kickback
The consequences of a table saw kicking back can be severe. Kickback injuries can range from scratches, cuts, and lacerations to more serious saw wounds such as amputations. In severe cases, kickbacks can even result in demise. I’ll go into more detail about this later in this article.
In addition to physical injuries, kickback can damage the saw and the workpiece, which can be expensive to repair. To avoid these consequences, it is critical to take the necessary precautions to stop kickback when using a table saw. More about this below.
Preventing Kickback on a Table Saw
Fortunately, there are several steps woodworkers can take to prevent kickback on a table saw. One effective method is to use a riving knives, which is a device that is placed behind the blade and helps to keep the saw cut open and prevent the wood from binding on the blade and causing kickback. This device works by keeping the saw cut in the wood open and guiding it through the blade and prevent it from stalling.
Another tip for preventing kickback is to keep your blade sharp. A sharp blade requires less force to cut through the wood and is less likely to bind and cause kickback. It is important to regularly check the sharpness of the blade and sharpen it or replace it as needed to maintain optimal cutting performance and reduce the risk of kickback. To find the right table saw blade for your device, check out this helping guide.
Another way to prevent kickback on a table saw is using one or more push blocks. These jigs are long, thin pieces of plastic or wood that are used to guide the wood being cut through the blade, so you as the operator can keep your hands away from the blade.
This helps to reduce the risk of the operator’s hands coming into contact with the blade and being injured in the event of kickback. It is important to use pushing devices correctly and to keep a firm hold on them to ensure that they do not slip and cause an accident.
In addition to these precautions discussed above, it is also essential to follow proper safety procedures when using a table saw. Please always read the manufacturer’s instructions before using your table saw, you have to wear the right PPE.
This will not prevent kickback directly, but it will protect you from table saw injuries. Wearing protective equipment, such as safety glasses and earplugs, is part of this. Clear any clutter or obstructions from the area around the table saw to ensure the operator has a clear line of sight and can move freely while using the saw.
Table Saw Kickback Injuries
As previously stated in this article, kickback injuries can range from minor cuts and lacerations to more serious injuries such as amputations. I have experienced kickback myself once, luckily I came away with only a few bruises, but boy I still remember that moment! In severe cases, it can be this serious that it will lead to table saw kickback death. It is essential to take the necessary precautions to prevent kickback and protect yourself while using a table saw.
What I have learned from my experience is that as a table saw operator, it is important to maintain a proper stance while using the saw to reduce the risk of injury in the event of kickback. In my opinion, the best stance is to stand to one side of the saw, feet shoulder-width apart, and weight evenly distributed.
This provides a solid foundation and allows you to move quickly if needed. Keep your hands and arms clear of the blade, and feed the wood through with pushing blocks rather than your hands.
By maintaining the proper stance described above and following proper safety procedures, you can reduce the risk of injury from table saw kickback. If you stand like this, when wood flies back from a table saw kickback, it won’t hit you.
More table saw safety tips can be found on my article, 12 Table saw safety tips, so you can keep all your fingers
How to Prevent Kickback on a Table Saw
There are several steps woodworkers can take into table saw kickback prevention. These include:
- Using a splitter or riving knife: This is a device that is placed behind the blade and helps to keep the wood from binding on the blade and causing kickback.
- Keeping the blade sharp: A sharp blade requires less force to cut through the wood and is less likely to bind and cause kickback. It is important to regularly check the sharpness of the blade and sharpen it as needed.
- Using push blocks/sticks: These jigs are long pieces of plastic or wood with a small recess or hook that are used to press the wood being cut through the blade of your table saw. You can buy or make these to keep your hands away from the blade. In the event of a kickback, this reduces the possibility of the operator’s hands coming into contact with the blade and being injured. Find more information on how to use push sticks properly in this guide.
- Following proper safety procedures: It is very important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and to clear the area around the table saw of any clutter or obstructions to ensure that the operator has a clear line of sight and can move freely while using the saw. a clean workspace will not only be safer, it will also improve your workflow.
By taking these precautions, woodworkers can significantly reduce the risk of kickback on a table saw and protect themselves from saw injuries.
Table saw kickback is a risky occurrence that can result in serious injuries as well as damage to the saw and workpiece. Woodworkers must understand the mechanisms that can cause kickback and take the necessary precautions to avoid it. Woodworkers can significantly reduce the risk of a table saw kicking back and protect themselves while using this powerful tool by using a table saw kickback guard, keeping the blade sharp, and following proper safety procedures.
Above that you can also take actions to make your table saw safer. In my article, How Can I Make My Table Saw Safer (7 Helpful Tips), you can read more on how to do this.
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