Safe Table Saw technique for short person

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Forum topic by CharlesA posted 06-30-2013 03:34 AM 1677 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3322 posts in 1796 days

06-30-2013 03:34 AM

My daughter wanted me to build something today, so she decided to help me. She’s 17 and I’ve taught her to use tools over the years. Today I demonstrated how to use the table saw. I use a Grr-ripper most of the time, so I had her use it. She is only 5-2, and by the time the Grr-ripper got past the blade, her forearm was a lot closer to the blade than I was comfy with.

I wouldn’t normally suggest a stool, but she has a hard time reaching to the middle of the saw (I have a Shop Fox classic fence that juts out several inches from the table).

Any thoughts?

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

23 replies so far

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2841 days

#1 posted 06-30-2013 03:46 AM

At seventeen and 5’2”, I would not allow my daughter to use the saw you describe. It is just dangerous.
Now, if she really wanted to get into wood working, and would be useing the saw on a regular basis, I would recommend building a custom saw cabinet that is lowered so that she could more safely use it. Another option would be to build a peranent stool that would bring her up to a safe height.
With the saw lower, or her higher, her arm should easily be long enough to use the saw safely.
With all that being said, I would not feel safe for my own daughter to use a saw with a moveable stool. It would have to be large enough to be very stable, or permanently attached so as to provide stabilty. The mention of most stooles bring to mind images of what could happen if the stool was to slip while using the saw.


View LenH's profile


5 posts in 2644 days

#2 posted 06-30-2013 03:57 AM

Bottom line is “if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.” Someone of that size should find a saw that is suitable to their height and reach. Years ago I had an Inca model 250 (I think) that would be suitable for a smaller person. there is probably something on the market that will work for her. Stroll through the woodworking shops and the big box stores to get a feel for what will work. It just ain’t worth the risk to try to jury rig something.

View NormG's profile


6111 posts in 3002 days

#3 posted 06-30-2013 04:12 AM

I do not know what to suggest

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View CharlesA's profile


3322 posts in 1796 days

#4 posted 06-30-2013 04:37 AM

i’m assuming that a lot of 5’2” folks have been taught to use a table saw in shop class.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View knotscott's profile


8014 posts in 3374 days

#5 posted 06-30-2013 06:18 AM

A good platform would be more stable than a stool.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Bampei's profile


48 posts in 3342 days

#6 posted 06-30-2013 06:35 AM

Long Push sticks and feather boards. The Gripper is not the solution because she’ll always reach.
With a push stick designed for her, she will always remain behind the blade during a cut, and the feather board(s) will keep the wood against the fence.

Also hope your saw has a riving knife or jaws to prevent kickback.

-- "Winter is Coming"...Game of Thrones is BACK! Season 5

View Jeremy Greiner's profile

Jeremy Greiner

568 posts in 2770 days

#7 posted 06-30-2013 07:10 AM

As a 5’0’’ tall woodworker, I can certainly understand your concern. For my table saw, I made a custom stand that lowered the saw a considerable amount. I doubt you want to lower the saw, so really your only option is to raise her up some. For her I’d make a box platform, a stool is too unstable to be used around a fast spinning blade. You want to make the platform is large enough so she can stand to the saw, but also take a step back without having to “step down”.

As for people saying the gripper isn’t a good push stick of that height, I love my gripper. :) and when you are at the appropriate table height it works just fine. (I also use long push stick, it all depends the type of cut).

As a completely unsafe alternative, tell her to wear 6’’ heals :)

If you have any questions about how I use any specific tool at my height feel free to message me.


-- Easy to use end grain cutting board designer:

View Loren's profile (online now)


10394 posts in 3646 days

#8 posted 06-30-2013 08:01 AM

When I got my first table saw I bought a book by
Roger Cliffe. Terrible book by today’s standards,
but I read it cover-to-cover and equipped my mind
to work with the tool.

Machines do what hand tools do, only much faster
and with less tolerance for user safety errors.

“Showing” somebody how to “use a table saw”
strikes me as an error. Would you do the same
with a car?

I’m being nice, actually, so take this nicely – the
machine can do a lot of damage and the best
way to avoid incidents is for the operator to
be intellectually aware of the risks and how to
mitigate them. I have found books to be the
best organized and most thorough sources for
safety and technique instruction in the use of
woodworking machinery.

View Picklehead's profile


1041 posts in 1928 days

#9 posted 06-30-2013 11:55 AM

Maybe a pallet topped with plywood for a big, flat platform.

-- You've got to be smarter than the tree.

View Sergio's profile


470 posts in 2691 days

#10 posted 06-30-2013 12:10 PM

A Platform is a way to go. I donĀ“t agree that 17 is too early to start as Willian said. Actually she is used to the work in the shop, so she knew at leat a little about everything and has to go forward. Imagination and Ingenuity is the key. Sleds and customized push blocks will help.

-- - Greetings from Brazil - --

View LakeLover's profile


283 posts in 1938 days

#11 posted 06-30-2013 12:52 PM

I also do ortho shoe work. You could get some elevated shop shoes.

Congrats on getting your child doing WW. My daughters have no interest sigh.

View CharlesA's profile


3322 posts in 1796 days

#12 posted 06-30-2013 01:15 PM

Thanks for all the replies, especially from Jeremy as someone who has personal experience with this.

Loren, I know you’re trying to be helpful, so I’m going to measure my reply. How do most of us learn to use a table saw? Not by reading a book cover to cover (although I do a lot of that in woodworking), but by having someone with experience show us. You read my short description too literally. We talked about kickback, splitters, blade height, how to push the wood through, eye and hearing protection, where to stand, etc. Her first two cuts were on a crosscut sled and went quite well. I was being very aware of safety, which is why we put a stop to it after her first rip cut and I was concerned about her arm and the blade.

She has experience with many tools and is very careful. I am much more confident with her than my 6’1” 20 year old son, who doesn’t like direction and is prone to carelessness. I’m guessing that 10’s of thousands of 17 year olds learn to use a table saw each year in shop class or from someone in their family.

The platform idea sounds really promising. If she decides to do more, we’ll skip the table saw until we build a platform.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View HorizontalMike's profile


7757 posts in 2912 days

#13 posted 06-30-2013 01:29 PM

I agree with the platform idea. Since I missed it or didn’t notice anyone offering dimensions of such a platform, Might I suggest something like 4ft long by 3ft wide by 8in high. IMO, that 3ft wide is most important in that that will keep it from tipping at all. I am thinking a simple box design of 3/4in ply with 2×8s as a wall, then flipped over.

Again, I am just brainstorming here but having TWO of these, one for the normal front use and one for the side of the TS might be useful. when not in use, store stuff in them…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View fredj's profile


186 posts in 1816 days

#14 posted 06-30-2013 05:41 PM

I don’t think you can get better advise than what you got from Jeremy. I’ve been in charge of safety at more than one company, and never had deal with an issue of a person’s height. But that should be easier than dealing with someone being short on IQ.

My son and daughter are both in their 20s and have no interest in woodworking. My son has helped me a few times with cutting plywood before I got a sliding table for my largest table saw. I came home one day and there was this large plywood box in the shop that he made. I was pissed because I didn’t think he knew how to use the saw safely. He came back with my word for word instructions on safety, and the comment “I’ve been watching you use table saws all my life !”.

As for Loren’s comment; I don’t mean to sound harsh, books are great, but I don’t know how else you would teach a person how to use a table saw other than by showing them, and telling them what not to do and why.

-- Fredj

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3307 days

#15 posted 06-30-2013 06:00 PM

Another vote for the platform…but also invest in a Sawstop. It is better than seeing a 17 year old start off her adult life missing a few fingers.

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