Table-Saw Safety Accessories

How to keep a table saw safe, and why it matters. May 22, 2006

I have a contractor's table saw with a guard on it that has a guide on two sides. The guard is a real pain and is, in my opinion, dangerous. If you are ripping stock, you can not see about a three inch segment of what you are ripping, so you can't really see your cut or if you are tight to the fence. This guard looks very bulky and came with it stock, but was not well thought out at all. I need a splitter guide that I can just bolt to the saw behind the blade. The saw that I used to have, everyone used the miter option, but it stripped out. This saw is in much better shape and will miter, but the guard on it is very dangerous and many people will be using the saw. I have no problems with a guard. I would just like to be able to see what I am doing and have a guard that will not manipulate my stock as I rip it. The old one will actually pull your stock away from the fence if there is any bow or warp to the wood at all.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor F:
I can't in good conscience tell you to remove your saw guard. I can only tell you that if something built into a tool impedes my work to a much greater degree than it makes the operation safer, I will remove it. Many thousands of woodworkers use table saws daily that do not have guards. Some of them have been injured. I have been injured myself. You have to make that decision yourself. We all have to decide what risks we are willing to take to get the job done. I personally will use an unguarded tablesaw. I won't use a jointer with no guard unless I have to remove it for a special operation. Then the guard goes right back in place.

From contributor K:
We have had good luck with the Biesmeyer splitter on two Powermatic tablesaws in our shop. Once installed, it is easy to remove and replace, therefore it does get used almost all the time. The springs on the kickback pawls don't last, but the main benefit comes from the splitter itself keeping the work piece tight to the fence and free from engaging with the blade once cut. There are several aftermarket overhead guards available; I like the Excalibur. It has built-in dust collection and it's easy to slide aside for cuts under 1" wide or other oddities like cutting apart boxes. The best physical guard is the one that is sufficiently convenient to be used, but it is no substitute for the right mental attitude while using a potentially lethal tool.

From contributor J:
Am I reading this right? You've got a saw which a number of people are going to use, so presumably you have employees (or else lots of friends), and this saw has a design fault which means there is something wrong with the guard? There's a very simple answer to this: Get yourself a different saw. Even expensive ones are cheaper than fingers.

From contributor P:
Buy the Excalibur aftermarket overarm fence. Don't know if they make a large hood for bevel cutting, but it's very well made, non-obstructing, convenient to use or move out of the way when needed. Took me about a day to get used to it after 25 years of never using a guard - now I can't work without one!

Get this fixed right now! A shop that I rented space in had a bad tablesaw accident - three fingers, a $15,000 OSHA fine, $250,000 in medical costs (so much for saving a few dollars with an under-the-table employee!) and the shop failed in a matter of milliseconds. Owner ended up spending a year in prison jumpsuits, but that's a larger story.

If something happens to an employee, friend, client, or anyone else as the result of a tool that's in use without all of its safety features, the fault is yours. Open your wallet, hand over your house, close your business, and be prepared to spend the rest of your working life making restitution payments to the injured person and his/her legal team.

From contributor W:
First issue: Just you gonna use it, or someone else as well?

"We all have to decide what risks we are willing to take to get the job done."

Not true in the working world. If you instruct someone to do something unaccepted as safe, you're in deep doo-doo, and if you do something unsafe after being instructed not to, you're in deep doo-doo. If it's only you... have at it.

From contributor S:
One word... Sawstop. I just got mine today and am almost done setting it up. I didn't get it a moment too soon. Very cheap insurance! Compare the $3500 price to a lost finger. Not only that, but it is a very well-made and heavy saw. Comes with a splitter/riving knife, and clear blade guard. I'm just as much (or more) of a tightwad as anyone else, but if you're going to use a table saw on a daily basis, or especially if you have employees using it, it is literally impossible to imagine using anything but a SawStop. Go to the website, watch the hotdog demo. Amazing. Good luck and be careful.

From contributor B:
I wasn't going to reply because we all know to toss the guard first thing, right? My fairly new SCMI slider has a riving knife and a guard/dust collector. It works very well and eliminates (so far) kickback or any tendency to grab the stock. I have been teaching my 16-year-old to make cabinets. Last night he cut several pieces on the slider. I stood nearby, watching closely, and remembered this post. Until I purchased this saw, I never used the guard. I wouldn't have let him use it without the guard.

I would get a new guard with a riving knife or consider a safer saw, such as the SawStop. Either option is cheaper than a finger, especially if it isn't your finger.

From contributor L:
I think the Sawstop is a great innovation. I've seen the demonstration several times. They always run the hot dog into the blade very slowly and the blade stops instantaneously, with just the smallest of nicks on the hot dog. I've always wondered how much worse the injury would be if the operator was feeding the saw at the same rate that I run material? It seems as if the injury would have to be worse, but I'm sure it would still save you from a massive injury. Still, I would like to see a demonstration showing the dog being run into the blade at full speed. This would give a more realistic view of the Sawstop's capabilities.

From contributor S:
Go to the SawStop website and watch that video. They run the hot dog a lot faster than I (or I would imagine most people) run material through a table saw. About 1 ft/sec, I think. Still just nicks it. They say at that speed that about two or three teeth contact you before the blade drops. Pretty amazing.

I just saw the live demonstration at the Greensboro show, and the lady ran it through slowly. The nick looked identical. She said that she used to run it through fast, but slowed down because people said it went by too quickly for them to observe... She said there is almost no difference in going slow as opposed to going fast. Now, if you fell into the blade or if your hand slipped and hit it hard, it would cut deeper... but there's still no doubt that it wouldn't be as bad as a normal saw, which would just keep on cuttin' even after turning your whole hand into ground beef. To me, that's worth infinitely more than the money I paid for the saw.

I just got it set up and used it for the first time today. Steady as a rock (only heavier!) and beautiful cuts.