Table Saw Kickback

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Forum topic by airfieldman posted 01-02-2008 06:25 PM 5707 views 0 times favorited 42 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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184 posts in 4045 days

01-02-2008 06:25 PM

Topic tags/keywords: kickback safety

So there I was…Don’t all good stories start that way? I always think so. But this isn’t really a good story. So there I was (oops, already said that), first project with my new tools. Thinking I knew what I was doing, I started ripping some wood (sawdust is our friend)!

Now, before I go too much further, I should explain that my job is safety. I work for the US Federal Government to ensure safety in the aviation industry. I wear blinky lights at night when biking, reflective belts when walking, I never run with scissors, you get the idea. So for there to be a safety hazard in my own woodshop, is almost too much for me to handle!

But alas, there was. First, I set up my fence on the wrong side (I had to cross the blades path to get to the power switch). Plus, unbeknownst to me, the fence and the blade weren’t dead-on parallel.

Results? First 2 inch square I cut binds up and shoots out at about 140 MPH. Where was I? Bent over trying to kill the power. Where did I get hit? About 2 inches west of my bellybutton. Fortunately for me, I carry a certain amount of extra protection in that area for just such an occasion (I’m fat).

However, the good news is I learned my lesson. And, to ensure I don’t forget the lesson, I now have that piece of wood attached to my workbench as seen in the picture. Anyone else maintain a piece of memento from an accident?

Kickback Reminder

-- Measure with a micrometer, mark with a crayon, cut it with a chainsaw.

42 replies so far

View airfieldman's profile


184 posts in 4045 days

#1 posted 01-02-2008 06:26 PM

Ok, my picture doesn’t seem to work…any suggestions?

-- Measure with a micrometer, mark with a crayon, cut it with a chainsaw.

View Martin Sojka's profile

Martin Sojka

1893 posts in 4707 days

#2 posted 01-02-2008 06:29 PM

Did you upload your picture to Photobucket, flickr or other picture hosting site?

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4395 days

#3 posted 01-02-2008 06:45 PM

how easy it is to walk right into an accident waiting to happen.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View airfieldman's profile


184 posts in 4045 days

#4 posted 01-02-2008 06:51 PM

I posted the picture at flickr. here’s the address:

-- Measure with a micrometer, mark with a crayon, cut it with a chainsaw.

View Jamie's profile


161 posts in 4048 days

#5 posted 01-02-2008 07:09 PM

I too am a safety professional (but in the oil and gas industry), and alot of times I am overly cautious just because of my job. I wouldn’t want anyone at work to find out that I wasn’t unsafe. Not that I would lose my job, but that I would be made fun of for quite some time.. We’re all like family there.

Alot of times at home though, complacency rears it’s ugly head. We all get complacent in the things that we do, just because we have always done them in a certain way, or that the safer way takes more time.

A good example of this is to ask yourself these questions:

At home, how many times have I worn fall protection (such as a lanyard and safety harness) when I was 6’ or more above the ground. We’ve all been up ladders on the sides of our houses, or on the roof putting up christmas decorations.

How many of you have worn shorts while cutting grass? It’s just too hot outside to wear pants…

Or cut grass without ‘safety glasses’ and side shields?

Or cut grass with your shirt off? (this may not pertain to everyone MsDebbie!)

All I can say is that I’ve been there/done that.

I have a friend at work, about 14 years ago, he was cutting some wood on a tablesaw. He didn’t have the guard on. The wood kicked back and struck him in the head. He became disoriented, and placed his hand on the tablesaw. He cut off his index finger and partially through his thumb. They reattached his thumb, but couldn’t save the finger. It was too mangled up. To this day, he won’t go anywhere near a table saw and he has limited use of his thumb.

The best approach I have found to working in the shop and being safe is to analyze the hazards prior to starting any work. I just take a couple of minutes to go over what I’ll be doing in the shop to identify any hazards that will be present, then make sure the appropriate protection is in place. It only takes a couple of seconds.

Sorry… I didn’t mean to hijack this thread.. Just made me start to think about safety in my shop..

-- Jamie, Kentucky

View Zipsss's profile


205 posts in 4347 days

#6 posted 01-02-2008 07:22 PM

As an individual missing 1/8 of an inch of bone in my middle finger, I fully understand you. I have a piece of wood screwed to a very visible place in my shop as a reminder, with the date inscribed in it. There are not stupid accidents. After mine I follow a set of rules, and I do not deviate for any reason. But don’t be intimidated by the accident. My first project after the finger healed was a new set of push sticks.

-- Zipsss

View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 4147 days

#7 posted 01-02-2008 08:34 PM

First, I’m glad to hear that your accident was not any worse. The memento of the kicked-back piece will serve as a good reminder to carefully evaluate all shop operations that you contemplate in the future.

You did not give any details on exactly what you were doing but, it is probably worth exploring this a bit to potentially help others who may be inexperienced.

Looking at the piece in the picture and the fact that you said you were using your fence I would assume that you were trying to rip (i.e. not crosscut) the piece of wood. If that is the case, that was the real issue…trying to cut anything that small using the just the fence and no other specialty safety device (like the Grripper) is an accident waiting to happen (potentially much worse than a kickback). Something like that piece should be crosscut using the miter gauge without contacting or using the the fence. In general, I do not try to rip pieces that are less than about 16” in length – even then I use either a push stick or a Grripper to do so. Another rule of thumb is that you should never try to cut a piece using the fence where the shorter of the two dimensions is against the fence – this kind of a piece has the tendency to rotate away from the fence and into the blade causing kickback like you experienced – worse it could carry your hand into the blade as it does.

Please let us know the details of how this happened (as my account could be incorrect) so that others can better understand how to avoid such accidents.

-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at

View rockom's profile


134 posts in 4105 days

#8 posted 01-02-2008 08:37 PM

Yup….I can still feel the pain. I consider myself very safe…just not very seasoned on power tools.

Mine was similar.
Mistake one. I bound a small wood block between the blade and fence.
It hit me in the chest at mach 5 after it bounced off my hand (luckily out of blades path). Disoriented? I couldn’t open my eyes for a few minutes and I was hopping around the room in pain.

Hmm that never happened before, I wonder what I did wrong…..

Mistake two. I did it again. Doh! Same results. Hit me in the same place….got some blood this time. My guess is the flesh was already “thin” from the first stike. LOL! A day later I looked like I took a softball to the chest. Took many months for the purple spot to go away.

Took about three months for me to build enough courage to touch that power switch again.

- hangs head in shame -


-- -> Malta, IL -<

View rockom's profile


134 posts in 4105 days

#9 posted 01-02-2008 08:39 PM

One more note….I didn’t keep any souvenirs. I burned them.

My son did not get his handcrafted blocks from Dad…I bought some. It was much less painful.


-- -> Malta, IL -<

View patrick m's profile

patrick m

197 posts in 4047 days

#10 posted 01-02-2008 08:58 PM

Ouch. Yes Ouch is a daily word for me, sometimes several times a day. I’v inherited this gift. I tend to muscle through things sometimes rather than stop and RELAX. Think it comes from sports. Not a good combo w wood and metal working. Lots of splinters slices bangs smash’s and a few shocks. Part of the game no matter how careful … But when it comes to table saws I happen to have respect and now take that time to put myself in check..

6 yrs ago, I picked up my buddy’s Index Finger , cup of ice and off to the hospital. Since i saw that, I try try my best to use push sticks, or some homemade jig contraption… Respect the horse power!

-- PJM.`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸ ><((((º> ""BY HAMMER AND HAND ALL ARTS DO STAND""1785-1974 nyc Semper Fi, Patrick M

View airfieldman's profile


184 posts in 4045 days

#11 posted 01-02-2008 09:17 PM


Thanks for the help. I posted this story for just this reason. As for rip/crosscut, that’s a difficult question. I was working with plywood and don’t really see the grain as a factor. That being said, I did have the short end against the fence. I now use that same block as a stop block on my fence when cutting in the same fassion. That way, the peice is aligned, but not bound. Plus, I’m in the process of building a sled.

One thing I’m interested in purchasing, if anyone has any suggestions, is an aftermarket kerf knife. The one that comes with the table works wonderfully, however is a tad challenging to swap in/out.

-- Measure with a micrometer, mark with a crayon, cut it with a chainsaw.

View DocK16's profile


1184 posts in 4321 days

#12 posted 01-02-2008 09:29 PM

At least you didn’t get a piece of 2×4 in the chest, I have been very careful since but an occasional reminder is always great, it’s easy to get careless.

-- Common sense is so rare anymore when you do see it, it looks like pure genius.

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4109 days

#13 posted 01-02-2008 11:27 PM

I had a kickback about two weeks ago. Fortunately it missed. It was a good opportunity for me to refocus on the consequences of complacency.

View Dano's profile


222 posts in 4266 days

#14 posted 01-03-2008 02:49 AM

You post immediately caught my attention when it starts with “So there I was…” as they say the only difference between a fairy tale and a hanger story is one starts with “Once upon a time….” and the other starts as your’s did.

I too have been there and done that, mine was a hexagonally shaped piece of red cedar about an inch thick. Came across my thumb and into my stomach, it hurts every time I think about it! Funny thing was that I had just read some stuff on kickback and had never experienced it, next day – game over.

-- Dan in Central Oklahoma, Able to turn good wood into saw dust in the blink of an eye!

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4033 days

#15 posted 01-03-2008 04:01 AM

My favorite kickback story started at a local woodworking store. I was buying some new bits and heard a customer wanting to return the router table he purchased since it “didn’t work” and was “dangerous”. He explained that he was trying to make some long moldings and every time he put the wood to the bit, it shot off like a rocket and stuck in the wall like a spear.

My curiosity was aroused. How could that be. The sales man asked him to show how he set up the table. Most likely you have figured this out… yes … the inexperienced guy was trying to make his moldings by running the wood between the bit and the fence… He used his router to create a high speed javelin tosser… I still have the image of long pieces of wood stuck in his garage wall in my imagination.

He lived 15 minutes from my house so I offered him to come by my shop for a quick lesson on how to use it properly and had no idea what I was getting myself into. I spent 1 hour with the guy and had him run some stock. He then went home and called me a few days later to tell me that he was giving up. I asked why only to find that he outdid himself trying to crosscut boards using a sled and the rip fence without an offset… Yes, kickback from his garage took out the windshield of his car parked in the driveway.

Last I heard he sold off all of his equipment.

-- making sawdust....

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