Newbie table saw safety question

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Forum topic by Brian posted 01-24-2015 11:26 PM 1288 views 0 times favorited 36 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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45 posts in 755 days

01-24-2015 11:26 PM

I’ve watched probably hundreds of videos and read hundreds of web pages on table saws, table saw safety, what can go wrong, etc., to the point that I felt I was ready for a table saw. So, I went out and got one (another post).

I made a couple of quick cuts with it, nothing major, just to make sure everything works correctly. However, I’m getting ready to do a project and when I get ready to rip an actual piece of wood, I’m literally too terrified to do it, to the point where I’m considering taking the damn thing back to the store and forgetting all about it. I have visions of wood flying back at me, or worse. I probably read a little too much on the bad stuff that can happen, lol.

Anyway, my question: has anyone here felt such a fear/phobia initially, and what did you do to overcome it? I’ve looked at the grr-ripper blocks, all kinds of featherboards, board buddies….you name it, anything that will hold the piece of wood in place (and out of my face) in case something happens (is there even anything that would/could do that, btw?) and I just don’t know what to do.

My brother swears up and down to “just go ahead, you’ll get over it!” but I’m the youngest of the family and I tend to overthink things, to a fault, but I just can’t bring myself to just “go ahead!!!” when it’s something as serious as this. I kinda like having ten fingers, after all.

-- Brian

36 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


6467 posts in 1571 days

#1 posted 01-24-2015 11:28 PM

If your saw has a riving knife or splitter, make sure you use it. Use a push stick and a featherboard to prevent it from moving off of the fence. Stand out of the direct line of fire from kickback, and just do it. You’ll get used to it quickly. Or have someone else show you.

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

View ElChe's profile


630 posts in 757 days

#2 posted 01-24-2015 11:33 PM

Every time I turn my table saw on. I use a splitter and no blade guard as the stock blade guard on my unisaw is worthless. I keep my hands away from the blade. I find the push sticks and magnetic featherboards to be indispensable. I do have two grrippers but I don’t use them because the push sticks I made work fine and the grrippers are a hassle to adjust. Follow your brother’s advice and let the saw rip!

-- Tom - Measure twice cut once. Then measure again. Curse. Fudge.

View MrUnix's profile


4031 posts in 1620 days

#3 posted 01-24-2015 11:41 PM

My first table saw was a POS sub-$100 thing I bought at the borg back in the 70’s.. my general operational setup was to sit it on the floor of the garage (it was a benchtop thing without any kind of stand or base) and run 8 foot PT 2×4’s through it. It would wobble and move around, so I would usually have to chase it around with the 2×4 trying to keep it straight into the blade. Must of used it like that for 10 years or so before it finally just died. Never felt any fear of using it, never took any precaution other than try to keep my hands away from the blade, and never had an incident. Don’t over think it. Just keep cautious, use common sense and follow the general safety tips that can be found in the various you-tube videos you have been watching.


Obvious note to others: The procedure described above is NOT recommended!!!!!

-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

View MT_Stringer's profile


2820 posts in 2652 days

#4 posted 01-24-2015 11:52 PM

Definitely buy or make a push stick. I have been using the one sold by Kreg for several years.

Another thing that helps with wider boards such as sheet goods, is a pair of Bench Dog Push Blocks. Feather board? You betcha.

It’s OK to be skeered. That saw can be intimidating. You might want to buy a 24×24 x 3/4 inch piece of pine plywood to practice on. Make a few rip cuts. That size of plywood is easy to handle. I suggest that you make several rips that are 3 1/2 inches wide. Who knows, you may need them later for A drawer side or two. :-).

Use the miter bar and make a few cross cuts. I suggest that you cut a piece of wood and clamp it to the miter bar to help support the piece you are cross cutting.

Start small, and practice. And don’t lose your focus! Women and pets can be an easy distraction. Shut the saw down and shoo them out of the shop! Safety first.

Good luck.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View DIYaholic's profile (online now)


19140 posts in 2096 days

#5 posted 01-25-2015 12:04 AM

Fear & intimidation IS a good thing….
It means that you WILL be careful and focused!!!
& that is the key to using it safely!!!

Yup, a few practice cuts will help alleviate the “first time jitters”!!!

There also may be a beginner’s woodworking class, at your local tech or high school.
That would potentially be a great way to “test the waters”.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View Brian's profile


45 posts in 755 days

#6 posted 01-25-2015 12:25 AM

The saw came with a push stick but I have my doubts on how useful it would be (seems like it’s too big). I’m confident I made a good purchase, I checked it out front to back, top to bottom, etc., and it’s great. I made a cross-cut using the miter gauge and a rip cut on a plywood panel, and it did fine with the included blade, but even while doing those two cuts, I was really…I don’t know the word for it (uncomfortable? Feaked out? Paranoid? lol). Cutting something smaller, like a piece for a table leg…I just can’t bring myself to do it.

I’ve been thinking of putting a couple featherboards on the fence to help keep things down, and one on the table (in front of the blade, so it’s not pushing anything into it) to help in that area. I guess my major concern is that with having to push in three directions all at the same time, I’m gonna screw up and not push properly one way or another and BAM! I have a face full of wood, lol.

The thing is, I have a 12” sliding compound miter saw, a circular saw, router w/ a table, etc., and I use them all the time, so I shouldn’t be gun-shy about a power tool at all, but this saw just freaks me out for some reason.

-- Brian

View Brian's profile


45 posts in 755 days

#7 posted 01-25-2015 12:30 AM

I know, btw, that there is no sure-fire way to prevent a kickback using some kind of accessory or attachment, but if you had to recommend something that would go the furthest in prevention (besides the riving knife and gaurd, which—believe me—I WILL be using), what would it be?

-- Brian

View Picklehead's profile


991 posts in 1350 days

#8 posted 01-25-2015 01:02 AM

The best advice I can give you at this point is “DON’T BE IN THE WAY OF THE KICKBACK”. Stand off to the left of the blade (assuming the workpiece and the fence are to the right of the blade). I think you may reach a point adding safety devices (specifically featherboards ON the fence) that you won’t have enough room to properly use your push stick, be able to see the process, and be able to adjust and follow through with your cut. Many times you can see that something’s not right and adjust your technique to prevent a problem. That riving knife will keep the workpiece from moving away from the fence after it passes the blade, preventing it from contacting the rear of the blade, which is how kickback happens. Keep working with larger pieces where there’s lots of room between the fence and the blade. Push your workpiece from somewhere LEFT of the center of the distance between the blade and the fence so that A) It keeps the workpiece from rotating away from the fence and B) it allows you to stand to the left of the workpiece, where you’re out of the way. And here we are back where we started. Congratulations on having enough sense to be cautious, not it’s time to carefully get enough experience to relax. Enjoy.

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

View lepelerin's profile


471 posts in 1746 days

#9 posted 01-25-2015 01:09 AM

The other way around, if it makes you feel better and safer is to bring back the saw and get a few hand saws. Way safer for you maybe. When you are ready to overcome your fear, maybe you could reconsider a table saw.
As long as you are careful there should not be any problem.

View Big_Bob's profile


173 posts in 3130 days

#10 posted 01-25-2015 01:15 AM

A little trepidation is a good thing. It is what keeps us safe. When you stop thinking of what bad things can happen you get complacent, fail to use safety devices and forget to follow the safety rules. Just follow the rules be a safe as you can, when cutting tiny pieces use jigs that make cutting things safer. If someone comes into your shop to talk stop working until they leave.

-- Bob Clark, Tool Collector and Sawdust Maker

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3639 days

#11 posted 01-25-2015 01:22 AM

About 10 years ago, I was walking through Home Depot with a few extra dollars in my pocket, and this dinky little Ryobi benchtop table saw caught my eye. It was only $89, and I thought “What the heck… that might come in handy.” At the time I wasn’t into woodworking at all. I was just an around-the-house-handyman type. But the first time I ripped a piece of lumber to the width I wanted it to be, I knew life would never be the same. It was like a whole new world had opened up.

My point in saying all this: I think once you make those first few cuts, you’ll be hooked. You will not know how you lived this long without a table saw. You’ve watched the videos. You are going to be cautious. Now take a tip from Nike and your brother… just DO it. :-)

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

View gfadvm's profile


14929 posts in 2111 days

#12 posted 01-25-2015 02:09 AM

The first thing you need to do is THROW THOSE PUSH STICKS AWAY!!! Then make a “push shoe” that will give you a lot more control of the workpiece. I use a shop made hand held featherboard to both hold the workpiece against the fence and to hold the workpiece flat to the table. I respect my tablesaw but certainly do not fear it!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View gfadvm's profile


14929 posts in 2111 days

#13 posted 01-25-2015 03:12 AM

Some pics of my push shoes and hand held featherboard. Remember to keep the featherboard BEHIND the near edge of your blade. I think you can see how this featherboard serves 2 functions: holds stock against the fence and keeps stock from riding up on the blade.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View davidls's profile


15 posts in 962 days

#14 posted 01-25-2015 03:39 AM

1. Always cut stock that is flat and has a straight edge. I usually run my stock over the jointer first.
2. Always use a kerf splitter such as a riving knife. The last time I had a kick back is when I didn’t use a splitter. Use the blade guard.
3. When ripping keep the stock against the fence. No need to push hard just keep it in contact.
4. Stand off to the side so you’ll be out of the path of a kickback.
5. On longer boards there is the tendency to push down on the end of the board while feeding it thus raising the end of the board as it meets the blade. Keep it flat against the table with your left hand or use a roller for support.
6. Use an out feed table or roller.
7. Use a push shoe. I really like these –,42207,49759&ap=1 I use one in my left hand to keep the stock against the fence and another in my right hand to push the stock through.
8. Don’t cut a piece on the table that is too big for your comfort level. I have a big Sawstop with 52” capacity but I cut sheet goods down to smaller pieces before it hits the table saw.

Finally, just practice a few minutes pushing a board through with the fence set just slightly wider than the board. Soon you’ll be using your saw with confidence.

View mrg's profile


655 posts in 2420 days

#15 posted 01-25-2015 04:01 AM

Do you have a Woodcraft store that has classes? If thou do see if they have a basic table saw class. You will have some show you how to use it and give you pointers. If not, see if the local college or high school has a wood shop class.

-- mrg

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