One of the most useful, but also most dangerous, tools in any workshop or wood working room is the table saw. The table saw is an amazingly versatile tool which allows the user to cut large or small pieces of both hard and soft wood with amazing accuracy and precision time and time again. But with this accuracy comes a very dangerous and powerful tool that can injure or even kill you if you’re not careful.
There are lots of general safety rules for using all power tools, but some of the safety rules for using a table saw are different than what you might be expecting. Here are the top five safety rules to keep in mind specifically for using a table saw.
Do not wear gloves when using a table saw: This is the top safety rule I always see being violated with a table saw. I know, it’s a spinning blade and you want to protect your fingers, but how about protecting the rest of your body? When you wear just about any sort of glove you lose some ability to feel the wood move and bend under your touch, so you can’t always be sure that it is moving straight along the fence. Work gloves actually make your hands “bigger” and allow for a blade to grab your glove and actually pull your hand into the blade. If a table saw blade can cut through oak like hot butter then why wouldn’t it also slice through your glove just as easily?
Do wear eye, ear and breathing protection: You probably know you should wear goggles and ear plugs for fairly obvious reasons. You want to protect your eyes from flying debris and your ears from the piercing sound of the table saw. But what about breathing? A table saw cuts a lot of wood very quickly and creates an enormous amount of sawdust, much of which lingers in the air for quite some time. Think about what a lot of different woods are treated with and then think about whether or not you want that stuff in your lungs.
Only use a table saw when it feels right: This is hard to define, but basically you need to make sure you are comfortable while working with the table saw and not bending over or stretching or doing anything that would throw you off balance or make you vulnerable to falling on or around the saw while it is operating. If you’re ever working at a table saw and you’re uncomfortable or you’re feeling bad about how you’re feeding the wood or standing around the table then it’s time to step back and think about what you are doing.
Have an easy cut off switch: Here’s one I often see overlooked in professional wood shops. I’ve seen power switches tucked to the side, encrusted in sawdust and even completely disabled in some cases. A table saw should have one, if not two easy ways to turn it off in an emergency. I’ve seen foot switches and table power switches in reach wired together so if either is tripped the entire table saw shuts down.
Read the manual: Yes, this is something you should do with any power tool, but given the power and danger associated with most table saws this is really a must. And though the basics of many tables saws are the same: table, saw, miter guage, fence system, etc. the actual methods for adjusting, using and operating around those features is not always the same. Take a lunch break, have a cold glass of iced tea and read through your manual every so often, familiarizing yourself with not only operation but also general maintenance and maybe even features you forgot about.
The table saw is also responsible for more injuries and accidents than almost any other power tool in the work shop. Be careful and operate your table saw safely and it will give you years of service that almost no other power tool can.