Saw safety: Table saws and circular saws


Circular and table saws both have their pros and cons. While circular saws are better for beginner woodworkers, we will discuss safety precautions that you need to take when operating both. We will go over safety rules, and ultimately, which saw is safer, the table saw or the circular saw.

Directory

  1. Circular saw safety rules
  2. Table saw safety rules

“Your fingers are closer to the blade for table saws, thus causing them to be more dangerous”

Circular saw safety rules

A circular saw is safe when you follow a few safety rules.

Circular saw
  1. Always use the blade guard
  2. Start the saw before touching wood
  3. Keep the saw flat
  4. Don’t turn the saw
  5. Always wear PPE
  6. Don’t force the saw through the wood
  7. Don’t allow the blade to extend too long
  8. Have support as close to the cut point as possible
  9. Elevate middle cuts
  10. Don’t set the saw down until blade guard has dropped
  11. Never adjust saw when its powered on

Below, I will describe each rule in detail, why it is important, and the implications if the rule is not followed.

  1. Always use the blade guard
    • The blade guard is the first piece of protection between you and the blade. You should never take it off, especially if you are a beginner. Some professionals may take it off to make faster cuts. But in my opinion, the risks outweigh the benefits.
    • The circular saw blade takes a couple of seconds to stop. So if you place the blade on the ground before it stops, the saw will shoot across the room and potentially cut someone or damage something.
    • The blade guard is also good to protect the saw from running away when you sit it down.
  2. Start the saw before touching wood
    • Never start the saw with the blade touching the wood. Always start it first and then proceed with the cut.
    • Now this may seem like common sense, but the issue normally arises when a woodworker has to stop cutting before cutting all the way through. When you put the blade back into the wood, make sure that the blade is pushed back like a centimeter away from the wood so that you wont receive massive kickback.
  3. Keep the saw flat
    • Always try to keep the saw level when you are cutting. Many times, cutters may accidentally have the saw tilted, and then try to correct themselves. More pressure it put on the side of the blade that causes either kickback or chipped wood which can mess up your piece.
  4. Don’t turn the saw
    • Circular saws are not good for non-straight lines. If your piece requires you to cut on a curve or a turn, then you should probably look at other cutting methods like by using a router.
    • Like the same as tilting the saw, when you try to turn the saw your blade will be pressed to one side of the wood more than the other. This will result in damage to your piece, or worse, kickback and damage to yourself.
  5. Always wear PPE
    • Always wear glasses, hearing protection, and a mask to prevent injury to your eyes and face and longer term effect to your respiratory system
  6. Don’t force the saw through the wood
    • If the saw will not cut through, do not force it. Your guard may be in the way, you may have hit a wood knot, or you may be building up pressure on one side of the blade. You may also be stepping on the cord or may have something in the way
    • The reason why its important not to force the blade is because it can result in kickback or your hands can slip off the handles.
  7. Don’t allow the blade to extend too long
    • Make sure the blade is long enough to fully cut the piece of wood, but is not more than a quarter of an inch longer than the wood
    • A long blade makes injuries more likely and it can result in kickback
  8. Have support as close to the cut point as possible
    • If you have to elevate the wood when you are cutting, you will want to have the support as close to the cut point as possible
    • This is because the further your support is to your cut point, the more the wood will bend inwards as you are cutting it. Bent wood can lead to the wood touching the blade more after it has been cut, thus resulting in un-square cuts or possible kickback
  9. Elevate middle cuts
    • If you are cutting roughly in the middle of the wood, then you would want to have support on both sides of the board.
    • You will need to have support on the other side of the wood, then it will bend as you get towards the end of the cut and break off.
    • Sometimes, you will not be able to have the piece that you want cut off hanging off of the side of the table. In that case, you will need to elevate the wood so that the blade will not hit the table when you cut it.
  10. Don’t set the saw down until guard has dropped
    • Setting the saw down before the blade guard goes down will result in the moving blade coming in contact with the ground. As a result, the saw will go flying across the room, possibly injuring someone
  11. Never adjust saw when its powered on
    • Never try to make any form of adjustments when the saw is on

Table saw safety rules

When operating a table saw, you should follow these safety rules.

Table saw
  1. Wear PPE
  2. Do not force wood
  3. Don’t try to twist the wood
  4. Use an outfeed table when needed
  5. Use a push stick for thin pieces
  6. Use a jig for trimming wood
  7. Start machine before wood touches blade
  8. Use blade guard

Below, I will describe each rule in detail, why it is important, and the implications if the rule is not followed.

  1. Wear PPE
  2. Do not force wood
  3. Don’t try to twist the wood
  4. Use an outfeed table when needed
    • A limitation to tables saws is that longer pieces of wood can pose a hazard without the right accessories. Wood outfeed can fall over the other side of the saw thus potentially causing you to slip or fall.
    • An outfeed table will allow your wood to stay parallel to the saw, thus eliminating the risk
  5. Use a push stick for thin pieces
    • Push sticks are used to push the wood through the saw without your fingers having to risk coming close to the blade. This is especially essential when working with smaller pieces
  6. Use a jig for trimming wood
    • Normal table saws should not be used to trim wood. Cutting small pieces off wood can result in the pieces falling in the hole of the spinning blade and potentially shooting back at you.
    • A work-around for this is to use a zero-clearance insert. You can buy one to match the make and model of your saw, or you could just make your own.
  7. Start machine before wood touches blade
    • Just like the circular saw, having the blade touch the wood before the saw is powered on can result in kickback
  8. Use blade guard
    • Just like the circular saw, for the table saw, the blade guard is used to protect you from the blade
    • The blade guard is not as effective in preventing you from cutting your fingers when you are pushing the wood. This is due to the way they are made. However, it can be really beneficial if your outfeed falls and you slip and fall over the table.
    • While that is pretty rare, it is life saving if it does happen

Overall verdict

We discussed the safety precautions that you should take when operating a table saw and a circular saw. Now I will explain which one is safer and why.

  • The circular saw is slightly safer than the table saw when all safety measures are taken. While the safety precautions can limit kickbacks and other events that can result injuries, they are still possible. The main difference between the safety of the table saw and circular saw when all safety precautions are followed is that your fingers are closer to the blade for table saws. Human error is still possible and without undivided attention, mistakes can and will still happen

Conclusion

In this article, we went over the safety rules while operating a table saw and a circular saw. I also described the implications for not following each rule and why each step is important.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!

Rachel

My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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