Table saw safety advice needed: Repeated thin rips

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Forum topic by lumberjoe posted 09-10-2012 06:45 PM 2545 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2899 posts in 2217 days

09-10-2012 06:45 PM

I really enjoy making cutting boards but I am having a little trouble figuring out the best way to cut the strips. I generally cut the individual strips at 1 1/4 to 1 1/2” depending on the board. I lock my fence down at one of the two mentioned settings and make the cuts. Because the fence is so close to the blade, I cannot use the blade guard or the kickback pawls. There simply isn’t enough room between the rip fence.

I know what you are going to say – “use the GR-riper!” I tried and I can’t for two reasons:

1 – some of the boards are wide, like 12 to 14”. I don’t feel like I have enough control. Yes, I could rip them in half first, however it messes up the grain patterns I am going for sometimes. Also the biggest reason:

2 – I am too short! The R4512 is kind of tall for a table saw. I am kind of short for a guy. With that combination, I can’t really push the gripper all the way past the blade without over-reaching.

I currently use a puchstick like this one:

But I feel like I could have better control with other methods. Any ideas?


25 replies so far

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2079 days

#1 posted 09-10-2012 06:56 PM

I use a simple 6-7” wide x ~ 12-14” long, rectangular 3/4” scrap birch plywood strip with a bottom cut in ~ a 1/2” to 3/4” deep “L”. The tail of the “L” acts as a hook. The palm of my hand goes on top of the strip. The blade is raised to a height where the bottom of the gullets match the thickness of the stock.

It makes it really easy to push down and forward, and it was essentially free.

My current one is pretty, ‘cause it’s made from prefinished maple plywood.

View Sodabowski's profile


2373 posts in 2802 days

#2 posted 09-10-2012 07:17 PM

You can always build yourself a step stool and some long-handled push sticks, but another good way is the rolling stuff I saw somewhere that acts as a featherboard and that pulls the wood towards the fence as it keeps it flat on the tablesaw’s surface. I’m pretty sure some of the guys here will know what I’m talking about and will be able to give the name of that thing. Beats the GR-ripper for such a setup IMO.

OR, if you don’t want to spend any money at all, you can always use a basic featherboard on the fence to keep the wood flat, and tilt your whole saw to the right side, and gravity will keep your lumber flat onto the fence. Just sayin’.

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2217 days

#3 posted 09-10-2012 07:21 PM

I forgot to mention I definitely use a featherboard. I have enough reach with a push stick for this type of cut, I just don’t feel as safe as I should. I generally make 20 to 30 cuts and when I am done with each one I count my digits. A step stool seems like a bad idea.


View jmos's profile


823 posts in 2339 days

#4 posted 09-10-2012 07:28 PM

You could try something like this

Seems like you could build you own pretty easily too. You just bump the fence over with each cut and it keeps the main portion of the board between the fence and the blade.

-- John

View MrRon's profile


4720 posts in 3213 days

#5 posted 09-10-2012 07:32 PM

I get the feeling you are not very comfortable around power tools, table saws in particular. I’ve been using saws for over 50 years and still have all 10 fingers. I don’t use a blade guard. The only safety device I use is a wood push stick. I rip lumber strips as thin as 1/4” with never a problem. I treat my saw the same as driving a car. I obey the rules of the road; I know what my car is capable of, and that knowledge keeps me safe. I’m not suggesting you throw caution to the wind. Do whatever you feel comfortable with, but don’t depend on after market safety devices to keep you safe. To be really safe around dangerous power tools, is to know your tool intimately and respect what it can do. Safety is a frame of mind; common sense being the ruling force.

View harrywho's profile


119 posts in 3201 days

#6 posted 09-10-2012 07:34 PM

You might look at Rocklers Thin Rip Tablesaw Jig. It allows you to cut on the left side of the blade. I have an older model but it works great. Actually when I just looked at their site it’s on sale for $18.99.
Good luck!
Just saw John posted the same suggestion.

-- Harry, Indiana

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2217 days

#7 posted 09-10-2012 07:41 PM

I have a very healthy respect for my table saw. I wouldn’t say I am uncomfortable around it, but I know what it is capable of. I’ve had a few cuts where the wood was so stressed it clamped shut on the riving knife and I had to shut the saw down free it. Those are the kinds of situations I wish I had a little more between my hand and the blade. I also know there has to be a safer way to make these cuts.

John, That looks like a great idea. Exactly what I was looking for


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2899 posts in 2217 days

#8 posted 09-10-2012 07:43 PM

Harry, I’m just going to make one. I have the track that goes in the miter slot from a featherboard already, and a few old router it bearings. Looks like a fun little project


View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3128 days

#9 posted 09-10-2012 10:22 PM

Featherboard and a longer push stick. Or, a sacrificial push “block.”.

I’m all for safety, but this is one of those applications where a push stick isn’t a bad idea.

-- jay,

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2255 days

#10 posted 09-10-2012 10:59 PM

I had to rip some 3/4” strips out of maple the other day, and since I had to rip quite a few I locked my fence down at that dimension. Then I looked real hard at the saw. 3/4” is not very dang far away from the blade, and my push stick is about 1/2” wide, meaning I had roughly 1/4” of space between the push stick and the blade. You better believe I was watching the cut with both eyes. Of course I could have just kept resetting the fence and made my cuts on the other side of the blade, but I just took it slow and easy and maintained control over the board through every cut. I guess everyone needs to determine for themselves what feels safe when using their saw.

I also use a 4512, and I ditched the blade guard and pawls almost from day one. To me, they seemed to hinder my visibility and made me feel less safe. Again, to each his own. The riving knife, though, I wouldn’t do without.

-- John, BC, Canada

View Sodabowski's profile


2373 posts in 2802 days

#11 posted 09-10-2012 11:05 PM

Guys, did you ever consider making a sled with hold-down toggle clamps BTW? This could solve such cases.

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2966 days

#12 posted 09-10-2012 11:18 PM

I really do not want to tell you to remove blade guard or riving knife, BUT some cuts on a saw are safer without them ! (ONLY YOU SHOULD DECIDE THAT FOR YOURSELF)
You also mentioned you cannot reach past the blade. This concerns me, a push stick works well when material is pushed well past the blade. I would consider making a “STABLE” platform in front of you saw tostand on. EVEN 3-4 inches high will make all the difference.. I do NOT think a stool is the answer either.I am certain people that work from wheel chair run into same scenario’s as being a shorter person. THE WHOLE goal is to be comfortable doing what you are doing.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View knotheadswoodshed's profile


217 posts in 2142 days

#13 posted 09-11-2012 12:25 AM

buy or make a thin rip guide, thats what I use when making my strips for cutting boards and I find it works quite well. It also eliminates any burning issues.

-- Randy - "I dont make mistakes, I make design change opportunities"

View derosa's profile


1572 posts in 2805 days

#14 posted 09-11-2012 02:39 AM

I’m gonna second the step stool being a bad idea, seems unstable and dangerous. From the pics of the saw it seems like it would be easy to modify the saw with a hacksaw and drill. Literally cut 6” off the legs and shorten up the pieces that make up the wheel assembly. A sharp metal bit would let you move the wheels up 6”. That will solve your reach issue.
For the strips I use 2 sticks of scrap wood that have cut outs on the end and set the fence to the desired width. One stick to push and the other to push pn the side since I lack featherboards. Honestly never felt unsafe this way as long as the stick slips between the blade and the fence.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2217 days

#15 posted 09-11-2012 02:47 AM

John, that would be a little scary for me! I don’t find the guards a hindrance, except for the kickback pawls which score up the wood pretty bad.

Canadianchips, I can reach pass the blade, but not comfortably. I’d like to be able to keep the angle of my arm high in relationship to the blade. To go ALL the way past the blade with my Grripper puts my arm a little lower than I would like it to be. It’s fine with a push stick though, I just don’t feel I have enough downward control with a push stick. I’m sure it’s all in my head, but accidents happen when you feel out of control. I’ve thought about making a platform. but I don’t intend on keeping this saw forever and it’s another thing to clean around/under and trip over. A standard height table saw is perfect. For some reason Ridgid wanted to make the R4512 really tall.

I made a prototype thin rip jig. It works, but after trying it out I can see ways to make a MUCH nicer one. That’s tomorrow’s project.

On a sad note, winter is coming!! It’s actually too cold in the garage right now to apply finish!! Since there is no heat in the garage, I have a long woodworking hiatus coming up. Fortunately I have 8 weeks vacation time in the bank, and I am going to take 3 of them pretty soon. I have some BIG projects I need to start and complete (executive desk, Morris chair, 2 arts and crafts end tables and a coffee table).


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