Shop Safety #1: Regarding Karson's Kickback Survey

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Blog entry by Lee A. Jesberger posted 08-07-2008 04:04 PM 1818 reads 0 times favorited 50 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Shop Safety series Part 2: Hand Tools, Dangerous? »

Hi All;

I thought I would pass on HOW my kickback occurred, so everyone might keep this is mind when working in their shop, or anywhere someone might surprise you.

First off, I do use a splitter for all through cuts, ALWAYS. (Obviously, cutting dodo’s and other cuts require it be removed)

I had just started to rip a piece of wood, the board was almost to the splitter, but not quite. That’s when my wife busted in and startled me. I turned to see what happed behind me and moved the board as I did. That board hit me in the center of my chest. And it HURT.

Typically kickbacks happen when a table saw is being used without a splitter, or better yet a combination splitter with anti kickback pawls on it. The board is either moved sideways enough for it to be out of parallel to the blade, and get bound in, or the board has internal stresses that cause to to close around the blade once the saw kerf releases some of this stress. This is when it becomes a missile.

At the woodworking shows I attended, promoting my product, many woodworkers felt the need to tell me about their war stories, including the various injuries they’ve received on this machine.

I cringe when I see someone using saw saw with no splitter on it. Sooner or later it WILL happen.

I know, the response of many reading this, “hasn’t happened to me and I use the saw all the time”.

Remember it only takes once. and it can be fatal! Either to you, or someone behind you.

I don’t have any statistics, but my guess is 99% occur without a splitter, or combination splitter and abti kickback pawls.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

50 comments so far

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3796 days

#1 posted 08-07-2008 04:10 PM

Thanks Lee. I am going to put my splitter and kickback pawls back on my saw. I get lazy sometimes and do not put them back on after removing them for certain applications.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3773 days

#2 posted 08-07-2008 04:10 PM

Thanks for the insight, Lee. I know I have less binding and chance of kickback, since I installed a simple splitter on my saw. I posted the one I made, and several others have posted homemade splitters that only take minutes to make and may save them from injury. Also, I’ve tried to make myself never look away from the work when cutting, routing, etc. Keep your eye on the ball, Forrest. Thanks for the post, Lee.

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4050 days

#3 posted 08-07-2008 04:16 PM

I’ll second your observations Lee.

A lot of folks don’t mentally think through the cut before they start the saw.
This can leave them with a board they can’t push properly or an obstacle on the exit path or both.
The material that has always given me nightmares is Styrofoam.
It is so light it lifts away from the table if not properly feather boarded.
It can give you quite a whack too.
Pushing small thin pieces past the blade with a push stick or worse is another opportunity for the board to skew.
I now use the Grr ripper for that operation and it seems much more controllable.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3797 days

#4 posted 08-07-2008 04:22 PM

thanks for explaining kickback to all of us. its not a fun thing to experience and i agree that the splitter it a necessary thing. thanks for the post,

View Suliman Syria 's profile

Suliman Syria

424 posts in 3833 days

#5 posted 08-07-2008 04:29 PM

Thanks and be carefull , it could happen to me.

-- Suliman , Syria, jablah ,

View bhack's profile


349 posts in 3749 days

#6 posted 08-07-2008 04:32 PM

Thanks Lee for the post. Sometimes I wish power tools were illegal. But they are not and I have them. Everyone of them are dangerous so please be mindful of that.

When my wife comes into the shop, she tries very hard to not ‘surprise me’. I appreciate that very much. May be a good thing to pass along to the family. We cannot hear them with power tools running.

-- Bill - If I knew GRANDKIDS were so much fun I would have had them first.

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3717 days

#7 posted 08-07-2008 04:54 PM

Yes I have experienced boards with the internal stress issues and have been lucky enough so far that other than a lot of smoke from the binding against the blade , I have not been injured . I have a JET 3HP cabinet saw and of course it was able to “power” its way through the pieces , ( which you never know about until you start cutting into them ) and I never dared to try to back out of the cut for fear of a serious kickback , so of course I had to continue all the way through the cut. Thankfully they were not long pieces and God was looking over my shoulder and kept me safe.

That being said , and just in case God might be busy with another matter next time , I guess I’ll make a splitter top priority before I do anything else in the shop today . : ) Take care everyone and have a great day !

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Brent Livingwell's profile

Brent Livingwell

75 posts in 3786 days

#8 posted 08-07-2008 05:01 PM

Thanks for the post, I am guilty of saying it wont happen to me, and I hate putting it on and off all the time. I would hate to be injured even more, so thanks to your post, I will use a splitter more often.

-- Things of the greatest worth are from the Earth. If you tell yourself that something is "close enough" it is it again.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6859 posts in 4008 days

#9 posted 08-07-2008 05:48 PM

Hi Guys;

I was hesitant about “preaching to the choir” about this post, and am most grateful to you all for accepting it for how it was meant. Just to keep us all woodworkers, with a complete set of workers.( some people call them fingers)

There is a video on my website, showing a “controlled kickback” at the bottom of the page.

The board was clocked at 108 M.P.H. leaving the saw. I’ve seen them embedded in cinder block walls, and steel fire doors. Even with my hard head, I would stand a chance!

Again thank you all for your gracious response to this post.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4024 posts in 4092 days

#10 posted 08-07-2008 06:08 PM

My splitter/pawls/blade guard has hung in a locker since my saw was installed. You’ve convinced me to order a microsplitter. Thanks, Lee and to Karson (sorry you had to pay with blood to get the word out) for bring the topic to fore.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View itsme_timd's profile


690 posts in 3860 days

#11 posted 08-07-2008 08:07 PM

Thanks Lee, I think it is very important to “keep it real” in woodworking. Admitting mistakes, looking at how they happen and sharing that knowledge with other is very important. Being able to share these as insight to us all is excellent.

-- Tim D. - Woodstock, GA

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4017 days

#12 posted 08-07-2008 08:33 PM

I have never even taken my unisaw splitter and guard out of the box. (still there)

I do use a splitter on my table saw insert though when I can. Works great.

I also use my little clamp whenever I get the chance.

Click for details

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6859 posts in 4008 days

#13 posted 08-07-2008 08:39 PM

Hi Tim;

I’ve been watching some of the posts, regarding the small plastic splitter fastened to homemade blade inserts.

I have to be honest and say I’m not 100% comfortable with them.

I have trouble believing that such a small piece can deal with the force generated from a table saw. I prefer the splitters with the pawls to prevent the piece from being able to come back at you. It not only is acting as the splitter, it is also preventing the board from being lifted. And I do know first hand the pawls do stop the board from kicking back towards you.

Call me old fashion, (or even something worse if you desire), but they’re the ones I’m sticking with.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6859 posts in 4008 days

#14 posted 08-07-2008 08:41 PM

Amen Bob!


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6859 posts in 4008 days

#15 posted 08-07-2008 08:44 PM


I’m glade to hear you never attempted to back the piece out.

NEVER try it if the saw is on.

You’re almost guaranteed to have a dent in the head doing that.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

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