Sliding Table Saw Crosscut Fence Safety

The crosscut fence on a slider is positioned for managing large panel cuts. April 10, 2008

I would like to know why it is that these higher end sliding table saw machines have the cross cut fence to the top of the sliding table instead of at the bottom or close to the operator. I realize this is for cutting large panels, but currently I work in a shop where this "free hand cutting" or the stock being pressed into the fence instead of in front of the fence is considered normal. I consider this dangerous. Can anyone comment on whether this is proper procedure and why it conflicts with what I have been taught and instructed over the years?

Forum Responses
(Dust Collection Forum)
From contributor W:
I think you have the key idea, which is that it is for large panel cutting. It is much easier to push a piece against the reference fence and stops in the forward configuration. The tendency to come away from the fence is counteracted on most saws by a positionable bar that goes behind your thigh, giving you purchase to apply constant pressure forward.

From contributor L:
The shop is doing it right. With large panels you need to be able to hold up the back outside corner of the panel. Using the correct feed speed and hand positions will allow safe large panel cutting. As the panel gets smaller and lighter you will need to use one hand pushing the panel against the front fence and one hand on the sliding table to maintain a counter pressure on the sliding table. It works well and is safe. Sometimes an inexperienced operator will use too fast of a feed speed and cause the panel to move back away from the front fence, immediately binding the panel on the blade and hopefully learning the right technique.