Dear James: I try to do some home improvement projects myself, but many require the use of a table saw. My father hurt himself badly with one many years ago. Do you have a list of safety tips for using one? — Rod H.
Dear Rod: A table saw is an indispensable tool when doing most home improvement projects with lumber, but it is also one of the most dangerous power tools. Table saws have powerful motors, and the exposed blade continues to spin until you switch off the electric power.
If you follow proper safety guidelines when using a table saw, the potential danger can be greatly reduced. Experienced users often have more accidents with table saws than beginners. Once someone gets comfortable with using a table saw or any other power tools, he often becomes confident with his skills and bypasses safety guidelines.
Most new table saws have blade guards, which move up as the piece of wood moves into the blade. The guard can get in the way for some cutting jobs, and you seldom see a guard on a table saw used by professionals on a job site. It slows them down. Don't try to emulate the pros. Do not remove the blade guard from your table saw.
It might sound obvious, but keep the area around the table saw free from pieces of lumber, electric cords, etc. There are many table saw accidents each year because someone stumbled and his hand came down on the spinning saw blade.
Even if you are doing a small, quick job, place a table saw on a sturdy table, preferably one designed for it. If you try to make a quick cut while bending over or kneeling down, it is too easy to lose your balance and touch the blade.
When doing many cuts, attach some type of sawdust collection device. Most new table saws are designed to be connected to such a device or a wet/dry vacuum. This reduces the buildup of sawdust so you can better see where the blade is. Also wear a respirator and safety glasses.
Always use a push stick to push the piece of lumber you are sawing past the blade. This keeps your hands at a safe distance from it. The vibration from using a table saw can cause your finger to get numb. One worker cut off his thumb and did not realize it until he went to push the next piece of lumber through — only to find the tip of his thumb was gone.
You can push a long, narrow piece of lumber into the blade with your hand until you reach the edge of the table. At this point, use a push stick to push it the rest of the way through. Some people use a narrow push stick with a knock in the end. A safer push stick design has a tall handle on it so your hand is well above the saw blade teeth.
Kickback can cause the piece of lumber to flip up off the table or move unexpectedly fast. Keep the rip fence parallel to the blade so the wood does not get pinched and thrown up from the table. Stand to the left of the saw blade so if there is kickback, you will not get hit by the wood.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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