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Why didn't I do this sooner

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Review by jamsomito posted 02-02-2019 04:32 PM 1147 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Why didn't I do this sooner Why didn't I do this sooner No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I’ve been using my tablesaw with a naked blade since I got it 3 years ago (relatively new to the hobby). I suppose there’s no better way to learn than being exposed to ALL the risks at once! It’s been bothering me the more I read about tablesaw safety, especially given the fact that I’m in one of the statistically highest risk groups of woodworkers (occasional user / weekend warrior) for incidents. I was hit by a kickback about 20 years ago as I was learning, and you bet I learned right quick what not to do. However, despite awareness and careful attention today, kickbacks and blade contact can happen to anyone at any time. As I get older, I also have a growing concern for the amount of dust produced in my shop. Enter Shark Guard.

Note I have a Powermatic 63, made in 1986. I checked my bolt holes prior to ordering and mine were not typical, being 6mm, but the kind folks at Shark Guard made note of this and shipped me the correct mounting bolts for my saw.

close-up

REVIEW
This thing is great. It is very well built, visibility is still good, dust collection is excellent, and most importantly, it is easy to use. The stainless clip at the back of the guard to lock it onto its mount is a nice safety device that is easy to move out of the way to remove the guard from the mount. The guard bracket, I’ll call it, that sits on the riving knife / splitter comes off with as little as two 1/8” turns of the thumb-knobs and off it comes for non-through cuts. The whole thing comes off in a matter of seconds.

guard and bracket removed. also showing maximum height of riving knife does not interfere with maximum blade height – maintains full adjustability

can be adjusted fully below the table

I got the Delta ARK (adjustable riving knife) version, which is different from the usual splitter version you see most people getting. This was developed for some Delta saws, but it actually fits quite a few that share a similar guard mount (see the list on the Delta ARK version section of their webpage). They mount mostly the same way with a bracket at the rear of the saw mounted on the trunnion, except saws where this version will fit have room enough below the bracket such that the knife can clear if it’s moved up and down with the blade. I did have to cut a notch in my blade shroud below the table in order for the riving knife to clear it, but it was a minor modification and didn’t bother me.

There’s some debate about whether this is indeed a riving knife, but I’m going to go ahead and call it one because it can be adjusted to sit directly behind the blade, will tilt with the blade, and can remain in place for non-through cuts – the height just needs to be manually adjusted. The manual adjustment, by the way, is done with a ratcheting lever that tightens down the RK. It’s very easy to use, easy to find, and is easy to get out of the way when you’re done adjusting. It’s a great solution that makes ease of use a priority.

see ratcheting adjustment lever in orange

- note that the “delta” height adjustment swings the blade forward near the bottom extent of it’s range. this increases the distance of the blade from the riving knife, but cuts like this arguably require less protection anyway, so I’m really ok with it. They have a good look at its range of motion on their website here.

Having a riving knife is a HUGE improvement over not having one. I thought when I ordered it that even if the guard sucked I would still use the RK (it ended up not sucking, except for the dust collection, but that sucked in a good way as I’ll explain later), and let me tell you it is indeed a big selling point for this guard. I can tell it will prevent the vast majority of kickbacks, and, to me, it seems it keeps my workpieces from pulling away from the fence at the back of the blade which in turn gives cleaner and more consistent cuts.

Dust collection is tremendous. I hooked it up straight to my 2HP HF DC w/ wynn filter – only a 6ft 4” hose, and it captured about 95% of the dust. If you watch the video below closely, a small puff of dust comes out the front of the workpiece as it just clears the blade (the very end of the cut), and a couple chips were thrown forward too. Otherwise, it catches it all. There’s lots of suction with the 4” port, even with my relatively weak HF DC. I’m really happy with it.

dust collection demonstration video: https://photos.app.goo.gl/d3HmeX6L55ez1Hax6

The guard when fully installed is very easy to work with. It has a roller in front that easily hops up on top of your workpiece as you push it through the blade. You can lift the guard completely up vertical where it will stay so you can inspect the blade or measure to the fence or something, or you can lift it slightly (2-3 inches) and slide it back and it will stay attached to the mounting bracket yet remain in an upward position so you can fine tune any adjustments. Pull it forward again and it drops right back into place. It’s super easy to use.

I got the 0.090” thick, thin-kerf riving knife since I use thin kerf blades. My blades are 0.093” kerf, so I had about 3 thousandths of wiggle room. My understanding is this is a “perfect” fit for a RK thickness – you want it close, but smaller than the kerf. Shark Guard actually recommends this size RK for use with both thin- and standard-kerf blades. I was curious if the thinner RK would have much flex to it when I ordered. I does have some, but you really need to put a lot of pressure on the guard before it will hit the teeth. It’s stiff enough that I am 100% confident this will never happen during regular use. It is plenty sturdy.

I paid $15 to add the pawls to the guard, because, why not. If I’m spending $250 on a guard I might as well get the complete kit. They are fully removable if you don’t like them, and the pawl kit comes with the parts necessary to return it back into a pawl-less configuration. Since I ordered them with the guard, they came pre-installed, which was nice. My opinion on them: ...ehhhh shrugs. They tuck up nicely when you don’t need them, and they’re contained within the guard so it’s not like they’re in the way of anything. They’re nice and sharp. I have a hard time seeing how a kickback could happen with the riving knife in place, and so I suppose the pawls are more to prevent ejection if your push stick were to slip or something. I figured I’d use these if I was cutting questionable stock or thin slices or … I don’t know. As of now, they seem a little unnecessary, and one of the springs seems to slip out of it’s housing a little when I remove the guard bracket from the riving knife occasionally, which is a slight inconvenience. My solution to that was to only back off the clamping knobs as little as possible to remove the bracket and that seems to keep it in place ok.

DOWNSIDES
1. extra work. This is an added device that will inherently add extra steps to every cut you make on the saw. This cannot be avoided, even with overarm systems that don’t connect to the riving knife. So, as such, being the very nature of the device, I simply cannot deduct stars. Just know going in that you will need to set the height of the guard with the height of the blade. That involves removing the guard, removing the throat plate, raising the riving knife, setting the height of the blade, resetting the height of the riving knife, replacing the throat plate, and replacing the guard. It sounds like a lot, but when you’re used to it, it’s just part of making a saw adjustment, and they really thought of everything to make the process as simple as possible. It is painless.

2. I don’t think I’ll use the guard as much as I thought I would because it simply takes up space. You can’t use it on non-through cuts, you can’t use it with a crosscut sled, and you can’t use it on narrow through-cuts. For me, I think anything less than about a 3” wide rip cut would be a no-go for the guard, especially with the 4-inch dust port on top. It just gets in the way, and there’s barely room for a push stick. Again, an inherent issue with any guard, not just the SG. I actually went out and bought a Bench Dog Push Loc offset pushstick, just so I could push my workpiece through without my hand punching the dust port on the way through.

pic showing what I think is the minimum rip width with the guard installed

3. I need to ask Leeway workshop about this yet, but the top of the riving knife does not appear to be square to the back edge, so when you’re going for non-through cuts you need to watch the back edge of the knife so it’s not protruding above the top of the kerf. I haven’t actually held a square up to it though, and it could very well be how it mounts to my particular saw. Just something to note, not a huge downside. (see full height extension pic above)

4. I also need to ask Leeway workshop about this yet, but the spring on the left pawl seems to slip out of its housing hole if you unscrew the clamping knobs on the guard mount bracket too far. I’ve tried bending the tab on the end of the spring different ways and I found that in combination with limited movement of the bracket knobs, it stays in place ok. It’s a minor annoyance. I may just be removing the pawls anyway since I don’t see a huge need.

5. I have had off-cuts get stuck between the riving knife and the guard with the blade spinning. This made me really nervous. Maybe just take note of this when you’re making your cuts before you get in this situation. I don’t know if it can cause a kickback or not, but it did make me uncomfortable. Again though, not a Shark-Guard specific issue, but rather a blade guard issue. Thought I would note it.

PACKAGING
I don’t know why I’m putting this here, but other people do, so here you go. Packaging was all in one box, had some thick cardboard tube cutoffs to prevent crushing, and was otherwise protected really well from damage and scratches.

MOUNTING

The ARK version has a mounting bracket you screw into the back of the trunnions directly behind the blade. My mounting location looks like this:

Note I had to request a non-common 6mm bolt size – check yours before ordering.

The bracket has 2 screws with lots of play to allow for alignment.

The guard then mounts to a bracket that slips into the slots on top of the riving knife and clamps down with 2 thumb knobs. The guard slips over the protruding “rods” on the sides of the mounting bracket, and a stainless clip is lowered over the connecting points to lock it onto the bracket. A little push-clip holds the stainless bracket in place.

ALIGNING

I believe the official method is to use a straight-edge against the blade to align the riving knife. This was cumbersome for me because I had to remove the blade in order to tighten the screws on the mounting bracket on the trunions without slicing my hand while it’s cramped down under the table through the throat. So, what I did was aligned the fence directly with the blade (already done since everything was aligned with the miter slots pretty closely), pulled the fence over so it was just kissing both the front and rear teeth of the blade, removed the blade, and now I had a big reference surface for mounting the riving knife bracket.

Simply hold the riving knife flat against the fence (being careful not to stress the fence and flex it) and tighten down the mounting screws. I found that my trunion mount was not machined perfectly 90 degrees to the arbor, so I had to shim the left hand side of the mounting bracket to bring it into full alignment. This was easy enough with some flat brass shim stock (you can see my shims in the close-up photo of the mounting bracket with orange ratchet lever above). It took me about 15 minutes all-in to find the right shims and get it all squared away and mounted perfectly in alignment. Easy as cake.

I really like this guard. Any guard is going to present some limitations and a few extra steps here and there, but it is well worth the investment. Highly recommend.

Any questions, I’ll be happy to answer. Some of these photos aren’t the best because I was just excited to finally be installing it and I wasn’t thinking about the review at the time. I’d be happy to take more photos on request. Have fun and be safe.




View jamsomito's profile

jamsomito

412 posts in 690 days



10 comments so far

View builtinbkyn's profile

builtinbkyn

2790 posts in 1205 days


#1 posted 02-02-2019 04:56 PM

Great review. Though my Unisaw has a true riving knife, the other pros and cons you stated are the same I’ve experienced with the 4” dust port- no space to the right of the guard for your hand or push block to pass between that and the fence. Almost wish I went with the 2” port so narrower cuts could be achieved more easily. I have the pawls too, but took them off. They’re a little flimsy and present more problems than they’re worth.

Regarding it’s use with a sled, I’m thinking there’s a way to do it with an overhead system. William Ng uses a piece of plexiglass over the kerf area on his sled. I’m sure something could be rigged to that to receive the guard so it clips on and get the benefits of dust collection.

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View jamsomito's profile

jamsomito

412 posts in 690 days


#2 posted 02-02-2019 05:47 PM


Great review. Though my Unisaw has a true riving knife, the other pros and cons you stated are the same I ve experienced with the 4” dust port- no space to the right of the guard for your hand or push block to pass between that and the fence. Almost wish I went with the 2” port so narrower cuts could be achieved more easily. I have the pawls too, but took them off. They re a little flimsy and present more problems than they re worth.

Regarding it s use with a sled, I m thinking there s a way to do it with an overhead system. William Ng uses a piece of plexiglass over the kerf area on his sled. I m sure something could be rigged to that to receive the guard so it clips on and get the benefits of dust collection.

- builtinbkyn

Haha, yes, same exact experience here.

I think Shark Guard actually sells a bracket so you can mount this guard as an overhead-style setup. It’s $25. Check it out: http://thesharkguard.com/overhead.html

I almost bought this with the rest of the kit because I use my crosscut sled a lot. I thought about switching between the mounts for various cuts, but eventually decided against it. It actually looks easy enough to swtich between the two mounts. The problem with the sled, in my opinion, is not the attachment point of the guard (you could just make a longer sled), but rather as you push the sled forward the front of the guard will ram the tall front fence on the sled and prevent you from completing the cut. If you can fix the guard up higher so it doesn’t do that it could work, but then I question the effectiveness of the dust collection doing it that anyway. It would seem you need a wider or different “chute” design to direct airflow better. Much like you describe Mr. Ng’s setup to be.

View fivecodys's profile

fivecodys

1311 posts in 1900 days


#3 posted 02-02-2019 07:21 PM

Great review. I just added my SharkGuard to my saw last month. Yes, it will slow me down a little but for me that is a good thing. The little time I lose will mean nothing compared to the time it takes to heal.
Thank you for the time you put into this review. I think it will be very helpful to those who read it.

-- I always knew I would grow old, But I expected it to take longer!

View Peteybadboy's profile

Peteybadboy

615 posts in 2214 days


#4 posted 02-03-2019 12:40 PM

Brooklyn Bill, I have a Delta 36-L51X table saw. I can’t find a riving knife for it. What do you use?

BTW fantastic review. I have been thinking about the safety of no guard for some time know. I will re read your review. Thanks for the review.

-- Petey

View TheDane's profile

TheDane

5590 posts in 3927 days


#5 posted 02-04-2019 08:41 PM

I put a Shark Guard system on my Jet tablesaw … it worked great, and was one of the reasons I was able to sell that saw for more than I paid for it!

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

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WayneC

13989 posts in 4362 days


#6 posted 02-04-2019 08:58 PM

Nice. I need to figure out something similar for my unisaw.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View jamsomito's profile

jamsomito

412 posts in 690 days


#7 posted 02-04-2019 09:42 PM

I looked at the squareness of the riving knife today and it’s actually very slightly out of square in the opposite direction. What I found was it has some forward/backward play between the slot and locking bolt, so it could be adjusted so the front is higher than the rear for those non-thru cuts.

View Holbs's profile (online now)

Holbs

2071 posts in 2294 days


#8 posted 02-04-2019 11:58 PM

I had the PM66 only version (splitter) that was not capable of having the ARK due to the forward/rearward motion of the PM66 blade during raising and lowering.
And now I have the Delta Unisaw version (same as one reviewed here). Yes, there are drawbacks, but the safety and dust collection outweigh the inconvenience of those drawbacks. Due to the mechanical retrofit of pre-riving knife table saws, this would be the best option out there.
I too have that issue where the off-cut gets trapped by the guard. So far, no flinging. I am aware of such a danger and do not stand behind the blade anyways.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View edapp's profile

edapp

218 posts in 1694 days


#9 posted 02-05-2019 01:03 PM

Absolutely love my sharkguard. Mounts easily on a sawstop, and I very very rarely remove it.

View michelletwo's profile

michelletwo

2777 posts in 3280 days


#10 posted 02-06-2019 07:12 PM

after 30 yrs of a naked blade on my 1986 era delta contractor I got the sharkguard. Best investment in keeping my hands from the blade, and dust collection at the source. No complaints here.

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