where to stand to avoid kickback

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Forum topic by HokieMojo posted 06-29-2010 04:32 PM 2547 views 0 times favorited 55 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2104 posts in 3756 days

06-29-2010 04:32 PM

I should know this by now, but I’ll admit that I don’t . Where is the safest place to stand when ripping boards on a tablesaw?

In most pictures I’ve seen from woodworking magazines, it appears that you should stand on the opposite side of the table that the fence is on. In other words, if the fence is to the right of the blade, you’d stand far enough over to the left to allow the board to shoot past you (between you and the fence) in the event of a kickback. IF this is incorrect, please let me know.

Now that I’ve stated what I think I’m being told, here is where I’m having trouble from a common sense perspective. It would seem to me to be safer to have the fence act as a shield so that the board can’t hit you. If the fence is to the right of the blade, I’d want to stand to the right of the fence. Another positive of this is you wouldn’t need to reach over the blade to push a board through the cut. While the blade guard should be on, accidentally bumping the guard can jostle the splitter and CAUSE a kickback. not to mention, trying to maneuver around the guard seems hazardous too if it makes the cut more awkward.

I’ve got to be wrong somewhere in this post. Either my observations about how I see people cutting are incorrect or my assumptions about what makes my method safer. Can someone enlighten me?

55 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3676 days

#1 posted 06-29-2010 04:47 PM

in the Kitchen ;)

but seriously – if you stand behind the fence, the fence will be in your way pushing you lumber, more than that – what about the cutoff? now you have the blade between you and the cutoff and you cannot safely push it out of the way.

if anything will be kicked back it’ll be the piece trapped between the blade and fence, and it’ll be kicked back directly backwards , so as long as you’re to the side of the table on the cutoff side, you can safely push the cutoff completely through, and are away from the danger zone of kickback

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Alexander's profile


193 posts in 3139 days

#2 posted 06-29-2010 05:19 PM

I started working with a table saw as a young boy, maybe 10 years old. My dad did not teach me any table saw safety that I can remember. I just stand to the cutoff side without thinking about it. I have had a few kick backs that made me glad I was where I was standing.

-- John at Sugarloft Mountain........Don't argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference.

View chewbuddy13's profile


150 posts in 3313 days

#3 posted 06-29-2010 06:57 PM

I had a bad kickback once and had 2 broken fingers as a result. It was when I was just starting out and didn’t know that you shouldn’t cut something wider than long when using the rip fence. I now stand to cutoff side of the blade, never behind it.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4246 days

#4 posted 06-29-2010 07:20 PM

Hokie, I stand exactly as you describe in the second method. With the fence to the right of the blade, I stand to the right of the fence, pushing the work piece through with my left hand. This works very well for me because I’m left handed anyway. I also have my switch mounted on that side, so if I experience any problems with the cut, the switch is right in front of me and I can easily hit it with my right hand without reaching over anything that might be about to kick back.

As for Sharon’s question about moving the cutoff, I either tip it away from in front of the blade, or I stop the saw first. I’m very careful about moving cutoffs while the blade is spinning.

The photo below, which I posted in an earlier topic on this subject, shows pretty much how I stand:

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View ChuckV's profile


3124 posts in 3555 days

#5 posted 06-29-2010 07:51 PM

I stand on the side opposite the fence, as you first describe. My fence is on the right, the power switch is on the left, and I am right-handed, so this is the best all around.

Also, I find that standing there allows me to better provide some pressure against the fence as the wood passes through. In other words, rather than pushing parallel to the blade, I am pushing slightly into the fence.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3508 days

#6 posted 06-29-2010 08:10 PM

I stand where I have the most control over the piece that I am cutting. The best thing to prevent kick-back is to push the stock straight keeping it against the fence, dont cut boards larger that what you can safely handle, and always have a splitter or riving knife on your saw.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View CottageWorkshop's profile


12 posts in 3128 days

#7 posted 06-29-2010 08:34 PM

I have had kick back before. Fortunately I wasn’t injured. In both cases I believe it was the result of cutting a piece that was too short, not having a splitter/guard, and using poor technique.
When I am at the table saw I stand to the left side of center with center being the blade. I believe this to be the best position for me because:

I can use my hands to put pressure on the cut piece in both the direction of the blade and toward the fence. It is very important to stress that pressure against the fence only truly works in tandem with a proper splitter.

This position also allows me to fully see what’s going on. Of course it’s good to see the blade and what it’s cutting, but I think it’s more important to see that the work piece is constantly against the fence until at least well past the blade. If I can see space forming between the cut piece and the fence as it is passing the blade then I have a potentially dangerous situation.

The other reason that may be the most important is that, on my saw at least, the paddle switch is on the left. I can easily bump it with my hip to turn off the saw. This has been very helpful on different occasions as I have gone to rip solid wood which then warped as I cut it, forming space between itself and the fence, pinching the blade. I kept pressure on the piece as I turned off the saw with my hip.

I guess my approach to kickback is mainly to prevent it before it happens.
Most importantly, I use a splitter for ripping EVERY TIME.
If a piece is too small to rip (maybe less than 12”) especially if it’s wider than it is long, I use the band saw and clean it up on the jointer or with a jack plane.
I make sure the edge that will ride against the fence is straight. If not, I’ll make a few passes on the jointer.
I use a splitter for ripping EVERY TIME.

Oh, I also use the same face shield I use for turning!

I hope this helps. This is a great topic to discuss. Thanks for posting!!!

-- Visit me in the Cottage Workshop!

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3188 days

#8 posted 06-29-2010 08:40 PM

Purplev, you beat me to it. I was gonna say the Living Room though. :D


I guess I don’t fear kickback as much as many here on the list do. I’ve been around power tools a while and was introduced to a TS at 13 or 14. IMO, once you fully understand what kickback is, then it is mostly a matter of seeing which of your cuts is most likely to cause it and be ready for it. Most of what I read (including on this list) treats it like it is some big unknown snake that’s likely to just reach up and bite you one day without you knowing it. Please understand that I’m not trying to minimize its danger, but if someone is that scared of it, then they are likely doing something wrong and they’re more likely to get ‘bit’ by it.

Kickback, for the most part, is the after affect of something getting bound up in the blade(cutting freehand, for instance), or getting bound between the blade and something else(most likely, the fence). Keeping your board from changing orientation from the start of the cut to the end of the cut can eliminate most kickbacks. About the only other case is when a cut relieves internal stresses of the wood and thus binding around the blade(i.e. the board has changed orientation). Riving knives and splitters are supposed to help to keep that from happening though.

When ripping with a fence, you want to be pushing the board through the blade, but also slightly TOWARD the fence to maintain a straight path through the blade.

If one were to stand to the right of the fence and reach over the fence to push the board, then I’d say they’re gonna have less control of the board because they are having to push the board through the blade, all the while trying to ‘sweep’ it toward the fence. The natural ‘tendency’ in that position would be to push the board INTO the blade and away from the fence(two things you DON’T want to do). If you are to the left of the blade, then the ONE operation of pushing the board automagically pushes it through the blade AND toward the fence. It’s a no-brainer. So I suggest you stand to the left(or opposite the fence).

I never stand directly behind the blade. Nor do I operate it when others are standing in line with the blade(forward or back), lest a tooth become separated from the blade. Its just not a good idea. If folks find that reaching across the blade does not suit them, then they might want to consider another profession. Using WW equipment is inherently more dangerous than (insert your favorite sport here). You HAVE to be on your toes at all times. :)

I believe more instances of kickback are caused by using improper push sticks than from where one stands. Actually, that has nothing to do with what you asked. I believe it is infinitely more important for folks to find out what CAUSES kickback.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View WoodenSoldier's profile


161 posts in 2973 days

#9 posted 06-29-2010 08:57 PM

I once had a kickback a few years ago. A 4/4 piece of walnut about the size of a greeting card came back and hit me in the stomach. It was like the most painful punch in the gut I’ve ever received. I learned my lesson for sure though.
Great lesson in physics too. The reason the wood kicked back on me was because I didn’t know/wasn’t taught to push the wood all the way past the blade. So, as soon as the piece was cut, I let go and the piece went airborne (after taking a nasty gouge out of my finger as I recall).

-- Create something everyday.

View big_wood's profile


31 posts in 3154 days

#10 posted 06-29-2010 10:14 PM

I have had (3” by 1-1/2” PT) kick back at me when I was 16 while building a deck. Being Canadian I was going to use the analogy of being cross-checked by a NHL’r (since hockey isn’t too popular in the US…lol) How about getting a 100 mph fast ball into your gut by the best pitcher in the MLB? The impact not only knocked the wind out of me but left a purple bruise for over a month. At the time I didn’t know there could be stress in the wood and the combination of the of the big gap in the insert of the saw. I guess it could have been prevented if I had a splitter/riving knife with a zero clearance insert but I was 16 and inexperienced.

Just remember that saw blade spins at >3500 RPM? That’s quite fast if you think about it.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4246 days

#11 posted 06-29-2010 10:57 PM

I think we can probably all agree it’s best not to stand directly behind the blade. And I think we can all agree that the workpiece needs to remain snug against the fence.

After that, I would say exactly where you stand should depend mainly on what makes you feel most comfortable and in control of the cut.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 2950 days

#12 posted 06-30-2010 12:18 AM

Okay, conflict!. At tech school we were taught to stand to the right of the fence. It seems to make sense to me that I don’t want my hand and pusher crossing in front of the blade? The switch is also to the right of the fence also.

It also makes sense that if I am left I am pushing against the fence with the wood.


-- curious woodworker

View WoodenSoldier's profile


161 posts in 2973 days

#13 posted 06-30-2010 02:28 AM

Yikes, that was frightening.

-- Create something everyday.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4246 days

#14 posted 06-30-2010 04:32 AM

Kathy (and others): Just because you stand to the right of the fence doesn’t mean you are pushing the wood away from the fence. Look again at the photo in my post above. By properly positioning the left hand and the push stick at the correct angle, you can easily be pushing slightly back towards the fence and keeping the workpiece snug against it.

Now I can’t blame you right-handers for not finding this the most natural position, but for a lefty I can’t see a problem with it.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 2950 days

#15 posted 06-30-2010 01:03 PM

I think from seeing that video I don’t want to be standing to the left. Did this kickback occur because he stopped pushing the wood through?

-- curious woodworker

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