Table saws are one of the most common power tools in a workshop. They allow woodworkers to perform a wide variety of tasks quickly and easily. However, these machines are notoriously dangerous and can create kickback hazards. Owners of these saws must take care to minimize the risk of injury by protecting themselves. Unfortunately, even experienced users don’t always secure their table saws properly, which can lead to severe injuries. 

Most people associate a kickback with an unexpected jerk on the tool as it cuts into a piece of wood. However, it is not the case. This article will help you understand how kickbacks happen on table saws and what you can do to get rid of them.


What Are the Kickbacks?

A kickback occurs when a saw blade gets stuck on the wood. This is caused by protruding parts of the wood that prevent the blade from sliding freely. Kickbacks are a typical result of improper saw operation. Furthermore, a standard and safe saw can produce an accidental kickback due to someone’s error. It is almost impossible to do things right 100% of the time.

To understand what kickbacks are, we have to consider how table saws work. Most of the power comes from the motor of the saw. Since it is a motor, it can deliver too much force. This can be dangerous if the user doesn’t use the proper setup and cuts a high load in a short period. In such situations, the motor can lose control over the blade, and it can start spinning very fast. However, this is not the only way kickbacks happen.


How Do Kickbacks Happen on Table Saws?

One way to increase cutting speed is by raising the blade height using a wood stop. The problem is that people tend to raise their blades too high, which means they are making their saw work harder than necessary. This can lead to kickback since they are using a saw that is not set up correctly.

Kickback often occurs when someone is cutting hardwoods such as oak, hickory, cherry, or maple. It is rare with softwoods such as pine and spruce. Other factors can affect the situation, such as:

The saw’s ability to support the load. If a saw can not support the weight of the wood, it cannot cut well. The sign is that you will see chipping or roughing of the wood.

The weight of the cut stock is significant because if you have a heavy piece of wood, no matter how well you cut it, there is no way for the saw to support its weight.

The angle at which you are cutting. Some saws can cut at different angles depending on where the blade reaches. This means that if your saw is not set up correctly, it can easily kick back without warning.

As the blade exits the wood, it can create a lot of kickback if you don’t use the proper technique. It is something to remember when you are performing plunge cuts.


Side Effects of Kickbacks:

Most people think that the kickback creates a more significant cut than they usually intended. However, it is not the case. The problem with kickbacks is that if you are not careful, the blade can come back and hit you in the face or chest. This can be very risky if you have body parts close to the blade, such as fingers or hands. The table saw blade is very sharp, and it can easily cut your fingers or hands. The kickback will toss the blade far back, and its velocity will be higher than what you are used to.

If kickback happens when you are changing blades, you could cut yourself or have a fatal injury.


How to Avoid Kickbacks?

The most important thing to do to avoid kickbacks is always to use the proper saw setup. This means you will have an accurate cut with the saw.

1) Before starting your work, measure the distance between the blade start and stop. The idea is to make sure that your blade will not exceed this distance while you are cutting. However, if you are cutting a massive piece of softwood, it might be necessary for you to extend your blade about one inch beyond these points to allow for friction and prevent kickback.

2) You must use your blade in the correct orientation. This means that you must push the blade at an angle through the wood. Otherwise, it might retract when cutting. The kickback will throw the blade forward, and it will hit you from close range. This can easily cause injury if you are not wearing proper protective gear such as safety glasses and leather gloves to avoid cuts.

3) Never use a single block wood stop to control the cut depth. A kickback can happen when using a single wood stop if you extend your blade beyond it to cut harder wood. The saw will not be able to handle the load, and this could result in a kickback.

4) You must always use an appropriate blade for whatever cut you intend to make. A general-purpose blade is not ideal for cuts that involve hardwood. You should have a specially designed blade that can handle these cuts more easily. Otherwise, there would be a risk of kickback.

5) Never force the blade on a cut that has already taken place. The chance of kickback is high if you try to push a blade through wood that is already cut. This means that you will not be able to make it through this space, and the riving knife will come back at you. Remember, once the blade comes back, it will impale itself into you or your workbench.

6) Always wear safety glasses and leather gloves when cutting hardwood or plywood pieces with your table saw. It is common to get cuts, splinters, and burns when using your saw to cut wood pieces.

7) Always take safety measures for your ears when you are working with your table saw. The table saw is equipped with a very loud motor, and you can expose your ears to severe damage if you do not wear ear protection. 

8) The best way to learn how to use a table saw is by practicing on it. Most people that use table saws did not know how to use them. Friends or family members have taught them. You can practice with your riving knife by cutting small pieces of wood first before moving on to larger pieces. Once you have mastered more minor cuts, find a piece of wood that is more difficult to cut with. Practice on this until you are ready for bigger cuts.

10) Cutting wood with a table saw is not an exact science, but there are some pointers that you can follow that will make your job easier and safer. Reading the manual of your table saw is a great way to learn other practices and ideas that will help you get the most from your table saw. You should never turn your table saw on without first making sure that it is turned off. Always make sure the switch is in the off position before turning it on.

11) The table saw is a tool that should be used with some additional safety measures. Always make sure that you are wearing safety glasses to minimize the risk of injury. Try to avoid using the blade with the fence and making freehand cuts with it, as this takes away from the power you have and could cause damage.


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Bottom Line: 

Conclusively, read about your saw’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safety and use. Most table saws have multiple settings that you can use to help you get started. You should also try every setting on the saw before cutting.

To extend the life of your table saw, make sure that it is cleaned from time to time by wiping it down with a wet cloth and allow it to dry completely before starting another project.