Tablesaw guards

Safe standard and alternative tablesaw guards and splitters. July 24, 2001

I recently started working in a cabinet/millwork shop that has two Powermatic 66's. As in many shops, the splitter/guard assemblies are long gone. I would like to find a solution that will be safe, convenient and used, not thrown away or sworn at.

In my own shop, I built an overhead guard suspended from the ceiling, sliding vertically with one wing nut to bind it, and installed a Delta pop-up splitter with anti-kickback fingers. It works for me, though the splitter should be thicker (to better match standard 1/8" blade thickness) and stiffer.

I know Biesemeyer makes a similar splitter for the Powermatic; has anyone used it? How does it compare to the stock splitter (forget the guard that comes with it)? How about the various after-market overhead guards? Considerations include easy removal for grooving, compatibility with shop-made throat plates, stiffness, side to side movement and removal of the guard for cutting apart goofed up boxes, mitering and the like. How do other people cope with this ubiquitous problem?

Forum Responses
The last shop I worked in had a Powermatic. We had an overhead guard, but I've got to admit I didn't use it very often. It was in the way more times than not. However, the splitter was always on. Except for those cuts that require it to be removed (like dados). It was a great splitter. It fit into a slot just behind the blade and was held in place by a spring-loaded pin. It took about 1 second to re-install the splitter and about 5-10 seconds to remove it. You just had to put an opening in the throat plate behind the blade for it to go through and install its holding mechanism. It also had those spring-loaded barbed fingers to help prevent kickback. For the extra safety it provided, it was awesome.

I have 2 Delta Unisaws and both have the Biesemeyer T-Square blade guards and snap in spreaders. I use them every day. The splitters are very easy to remove and install. The guards work very well. The only time I do not use them is for narrow rips.

I just made an overhead guard and set up the Biesemeyer removable splitter/anti-kickback fingers. The Biesemeyer splitter is very good, much better than the standard on the Delta, since the fingers actually touch the tabletop and don't leave a gap with the table. It fit my custom throat plate fine even though I had cut it for the standard Delta guard.

My guard design is a tremendous improvement over the stock one, but I'm not sure what you're looking for in a guard or why your own isn't satisfactory. I made one somewhat like an Excaliber, where there is a pantograph (folding X-bars) to raise and lower it, and the guard covers both the blade and the splitter. By using fender washers (large diameter washers) with 1/4" bolts, the entire assembly is very stiff with little side-to-side movement. Plus, my custom guard is clearer than the Delta.

Time to swap from full setup to a bare table or reverse is about 20 seconds.

We have the Biesemeyer removable splitter/anti-kickback fingers. The springs on the anti-kickback keep breaking and I don't think the anti-kickback is made well enough to actually be effective. It does snap in and out of place nicely.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
I just bought a used Jet saw and a Biesemeyer splitter for it to replace the horrid stock splitter and guard. The location I have the saw in does not support a top down guard. I did want one to protect myself with, so I modified the stock blade guard by shortening the attachment arm and then replaced the hardware holding the kickback pawls to allow attachment of the blade guard right to the removable splitter. I feel this arrangement gives me the best of both worlds - a quick remove splitter assembly and a blade guard you will actually use, not toss in the corner.

Comment from contributor B:
My splitter is the one Wood Magazine rated best buy from Grip-Tite (works as good as the $129 one but only costs $7). It is a pin set into the edge of a rotating button. It screws level with a zero clearance throat plate and moves left or right to match the blade. Itís way too simple and cheap to be adopted by a saw manufacturer (no profit), but it does the same job as the expensive riving knifes. You can make a non adjustable version by drilling a 1/8" hole into a zero clearance throat plate behind the blade and screwing in a hook pin. This keeps wood from pinching and does not get in the way of my magnetic hold down spring.