Cutting Small Pieces on a Table Saw

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Forum topic by Chris posted 06-20-2014 07:18 PM 2554 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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177 posts in 1550 days

06-20-2014 07:18 PM

So this is an embarrassing experience to share but I really believe mistakes should be shared so they can be learned from. I am new to wood working and I have tried to be very intentional about safety because the table saw I inherited just makes me nervous.

Last night I was in the middle of a project and I needed a small 2×2 inch block of fur. Basically, I tried to cut a 3×2 inch down to 2×2. I used a push stick and with my right hand I pushed the wood through the cut. Before I could even blink, the smaller, 1×2 inch block that was on the left side of the blade somehow bounced back into the blade and flew back over my head against the wall. I am so lucky this thing didn’t hit me in the face. I was wearing safety glasses but that piece of wood was moving so I don’t know if it would have even protected my eyes anyway.

So long story short, this was my first experience with kickback, and even though it was a really small piece of wood it was a scary feeling. Are there some golden rules I don’t know about not cutting small pieces on a table saw without a jig? GRIPPER? Sled? Or do I need to use 2 push sticks and with my left hand get the small piece of wood on the left out of the way asap?

I have an old 113 craftsman table saw. Thanks and I hope this thread helps myself and others keep learning.

19 replies so far

View TiggerWood's profile


271 posts in 1572 days

#1 posted 06-20-2014 07:33 PM

I have never had a cut off go flying on me. They usually just kick off to the side or stay right where the cut finished. I will say that when I do small rips, I stand on the right side of the saw and push with my left hand. Anything that goes flying I just let fly.

View ChrisK's profile


1942 posts in 3047 days

#2 posted 06-20-2014 07:35 PM

There are sleds than can made to clamp small pieces down. I have had the same experience, fortunately no cuts. I will never again try pieces that small. When I can I will make smaller pieces from larger and make extra large pieces in case I need more stock.

The sleds work well. Search here for some ideas.

-- Chris K

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2453 days

#3 posted 06-20-2014 07:40 PM

It will generally be better to use a larger board to rip down into a smaller board and then cross cut the smaller piece into your blocks using the miter gauge.

I know how you feel about the thought of that chunk of wood coming at you at about the same velocity as a 200 grain 30.06 round.

Since I am left handed, I stand on the right side of the blade. SO far, unless I get something caught between the fence and the blade, I don’t have a lot of problem with kickback.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View johnintecumseh's profile


127 posts in 3383 days

#4 posted 06-20-2014 07:41 PM

Chris, first ALWAYS stand to the side of the blade. wear a shield. for small pieces …use a bigger one with the small one taped to it…this idea is from Malcolm Tibbetts ...look at tahoe turner or his turning book jig ever. keep smiling John

-- retired and smiling

View jmartel's profile


7806 posts in 2116 days

#5 posted 06-20-2014 07:41 PM

For something that size, you can make a sled with a hold-down, but I would honestly make a cross-cutting jig to use with a handsaw. Something like that will take 30 seconds to cut through, and no danger of hurting yourself unless the saw slips.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4184 days

#6 posted 06-20-2014 07:41 PM

IMO, a sled is a must-have item for cutting small pieces like that on the table saw. Not only is it safer, but it also makes that kind of cut quick and easy.

That being said, I also agree with TiggerWood. I never position my body directly behind the blade.

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

View Chris 's profile


177 posts in 1550 days

#7 posted 06-20-2014 07:48 PM

Thanks all. I will have to look at the sled designs more thoroughly and also cut small pieces off bigger pieces using the miter saw when I can. Using a handsaw is a really good idea.

Being a right-hander makes guiding all the cuts with my left hand really uncomfortable. So, I feel like I am either standing in the line of kickback, leaning to the right, trying to use my right hand to guide the wood … or using my left hand and feeling very awkward.

View ColonelTravis's profile


1756 posts in 1860 days

#8 posted 06-20-2014 08:02 PM

Were you using a miter gauge? Not asking as criticism, just asking because I wasn’t sure.

View jmartel's profile


7806 posts in 2116 days

#9 posted 06-20-2014 08:04 PM

Here’s what I’m talking about. Make a bench hook.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View TiggerWood's profile


271 posts in 1572 days

#10 posted 06-20-2014 08:09 PM

Oh, I think someone should mention that if the piece you are pushing is kicked back, your hand will move towards the blade, almost like it was being pulled into it. I use extra long wooden push sticks.

View Chris 's profile


177 posts in 1550 days

#11 posted 06-20-2014 08:40 PM

Sorry folks I was pulled away from the computer for a bit. I was using a 16-18 inch long shop made push stick. The piece I cut went through with no problems. The cut-off piece was the one that flew back. Would this have been different if I used the miter gauge?

View Pimzedd's profile


598 posts in 4108 days

#12 posted 06-20-2014 09:40 PM

I agree that a sled would do the job. However, I must say that I don’t have a sled.

I would have used my miter guage with a sacrificial board either clamped or screwed to it. The pieces can still be caught so you have to make sure they don’t come in contact with the blade.

Those little pieces can really go flying if they come in contact with the blade. Probably would scare you more than they would do real harm if they hit you. Getting scared with fingers around spinning blades in not a good idea.

-- Bill - Mesquite, TX --- "Everything with a power cord eventually winds up in the trash.” John Sarge , timber framer and blacksmith instructor at Tillers International school

View retfr8flyr's profile


384 posts in 1635 days

#13 posted 06-20-2014 09:51 PM

That’s one of the many things I like about my Grr-Ripper push block, it holds the off cut as well, when making small cuts.

-- Earl

View Redoak49's profile


3196 posts in 1954 days

#14 posted 06-20-2014 09:58 PM

I am having some trouble picturing this. He had a 3×2 inch piece and was cutting it down to 2×2 inch essentially like ripping it. He was not using a miter gauge and only a push stick. He is lucky that both pieces did not come back at him no matter where he was standing.

I think that he is extremely lucky and needs to stop and rethink the use of the table saw. The ideas given before such as a miter gauge with an extra fence on it or a sled are an absolute must. I hope that he will do one or both of these things before he suffers a bad injury.

View Planeman40's profile


1152 posts in 2727 days

#15 posted 06-22-2014 04:36 PM

The Internet is an amazing resource. Use it! Try searching the term “How to cut small pieces of wood on a table saw?”. There are some great answers.

To do these “question searches” on the Internet, you need to know haw to set up the question so the search engine can understand it. Begin your question with “How to” so the search engine knows that is the type of answer you want. End it with a ”?” question mark to let the search engine know it is being asked a question.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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