The great table saw guard debate (or are you sure you'd like to risk going to hospital?)

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Blog entry by oldskoolmodder posted 09-09-2008 05:17 PM 1679 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So, even experienced and long time(of which I am) woodworkers sometimes question if they are doing the right thing by taking “safety” equipment off of their tools, for a god reason. Almost anyone I know has taken the table saw guard off at some point, or maybe never even put it on, when they got a new saw. I’m certainly NO exception at all. Does it make me smart? Does it make me stupid? Well, that’s something that much like everything else, is something that only the individual working on the tool(s) can answer.

Well, I’m here to say that all it takes is common sense, as most of you no doubt know by now. Tools are dangerous, and we sometimes take them and the safety required for granted. I’ll call it cockiness, because for me, I’ve been doing it for so long without any major accidents (30+ years), that I let myself feel like NOTHING was going to go wrong.

That is until yesterday morning, when I got distracted (just for a moment) while using my table saw (which doesn’t have the blade guard installed). Let me tell you that the pain is excruciating to say the least. Without too many gory details, let’s just say that 50+ stitches inside and outside, and a thumb nail now gone, aren’t worth it sometimes. You have to be alert AT ALL TIMES, people!!!

Sure we’ll all nick our hands or get a piece of wood kicked back at us, or something in our eyes, but these things can be prevented with some common sense, which I was convinced that I actually had, even if I don’t always use it.

Well, the bottom line of course is that you can’t be too careful. So don’t think that you are invincible, EVER, while using a power tool. RESPECT the tool, and maybe just maybe, you’ll get the job done safely.

I hope this made SOME sense, because of the pain meds, my thoughts are more jumbled than usual.


-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

12 comments so far

View dalec's profile


612 posts in 4335 days

#1 posted 09-09-2008 05:50 PM

Ouch! I wish you a speedy recovery. I know that a serious injury can occur in a fraction of a second. No one wants to tangle with a moving saw blade, so we are all careful, but even the most careful woodworkers can have an accident.

I have been considering a new saw because I want a more stable and accurate saw. I am more and more leaning toward a sawstop. The price is high, but in my mind, if the Sawstop can minimize the severity of a cut it would be worth it. Even better if I never set off the blade brake.


View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 4127 days

#2 posted 09-09-2008 05:55 PM

thanks for well wishes.

You know what’s “funny”, is while I was in the waiting room, i was planning a meeting for a possible job, as well as designing a layout, since I had a little time on my hand(s).

The comments from Docs and Nurses about how they were sure I wouldn’t do it again (cut without a guard), and my response of “I bet I do”, were things that I think about, to make a smile, when the pain hits hard.

I was asked, why are you so calm? Shock perhaps? Or maybe because I’m smart enough after a stupid moment, to know, that it’s no one’s fault but mine.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View Charles Mullins's profile

Charles Mullins

94 posts in 4159 days

#3 posted 09-09-2008 05:56 PM

I am so sorry to hear of your accident. I pray for a quick recovery.

I too have had accidents, TWICE! I’m a slow learner, I guess.

Both times were because I was cutting small pieces. The first time I lost the left index finger up past the nail and shortened the middle finger about a quarter inch.

The second time was also cutting something small and I couldn’t use the supplied guard but was lazy and in a hurry and didn’t install a feather board. I was cut on my left middle finger again and lost about an eighth of an inch of length.

It has healed back again and I am again playing the mandolin, but with only three fingers. The index finger is too big and soft on the end.

Folks, do be careful. It takes only a few milliseconds and your life is altered for ever.

Charlie Mullins

-- God makes the wood beautiful--I simply rearrange it to make it more useful, hopefully.

View Big_Bob's profile


173 posts in 4156 days

#4 posted 09-09-2008 08:38 PM

Best wishes and a speedy recovery!
I have found that the older I get the more I use the guards the hearing and eye protection. I have added magnetic switches to all my saws. Now I always try to use ear muffs and safety glasses. Maybe if I had been as this smart when I was younger I would hear better now.

-- Bob Clark, Tool Collector and Sawdust Maker

View Darell's profile


436 posts in 4041 days

#5 posted 09-09-2008 09:29 PM

Hope your recovery goes well. Very sorry to hear about your accident.

Oldskoolmodder, this blog and your accident are the very reasons I waited 2 years and spent a large amount of money on a Saw Stop contractors table saw. While I would have loved to have the SS cabinet saw, I have to move my saw around and couldn’t see myself moving over 600 lbs. around my shop as I get older. That said, I have read several posts on LJ’s from guys that scoff at the need for this saw or complain about the price. They always claim that they, their father, grandfather, etc used table saws for lifetimes and still had all their fingers and that they are all smart, attentive, careful and are full of common sense so they know nothing will happen to them. Your accident and the two mentioned by Charles, above, show that it happens to the best of us. My brother-in-law lost his left forefinger a few years ago to just such an accident. That figured heavily in my decision to buy the SS, as well as the fact that I’m on blood thinners and an accident like those mentioned above could be catastrophic for me. I could easily bleed out before getting help. I’m reminded every time I turn that saw on and have to wait on it to run its diagnostics before it will start to be careful. That extra step is a great reminder to be safe. Yes, I wish the SS was less expensive. They have the market cornered on blade brake technology at the moment and I do think they’re taking advantage of that. If all saws had this technology available to them then the prices would come down due to competition. I recently read an article on the new Delta Unisaw. I also read a bunch of the comments on that saw. While everyone seemed to love what that new Unisaw does, a large majority of the comments mentioned the fact that it doesn’t have a blade brake and thought that was something that Delta should have included on the saw. To me that shows that a large number of people are aware of the technology and would like to have it available on a wider variety of table saws.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. Thanks for reading and letting me rant.

-- Darell, Norman, Ok.

View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 4127 days

#6 posted 09-10-2008 07:30 PM

This blog entry was specifically so we could share our experiences with mishaps. We’ll never learn anything, if we do everything right all the time. You only learn from mistakes. They’re called accidents for a reason, and honestly, I can’t name one person that’s intentionally put their hand/fingers through a saw on purpose.

I’m extremely lucky in that I have full feeling and use of my thumb. Or at least will, when I get this cast off. I hope that I’ll learn something from this, I really do. But who knows?

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 4524 days

#7 posted 09-11-2008 03:18 PM

Ouch !! I thank you for your post and hope you heal up quickly.

Posts like yours remind me every time I fire up the table saw, roll out the band saw and plug in the drill press . . . to be careful.


-- BLOG -

View SteveKorz's profile


2139 posts in 4161 days

#8 posted 09-11-2008 04:46 PM

Yikes! I’m sorry to hear about your injury… wishing you a full and speedy recovery on this end.

Remember that your saw can become more dangerous AFTER the injury if you are gun shy around it. Handling it overconfidently is bad, but being timid and afraid to get the material through, or comprimising yourself due to a severe lack of confidence (or just being scared of it) is MUCH WORSE!! When you start back up, you’ll be thinking about that accident for a while every time you use it. Let is serve as a reminder, but don’t let it rule your woodworking experience. If you do, you’ll be a walking wreck in your shop, and that will lead to another injury soon.

Just take your time, think it through, and enjoy it.

Wishing you the best in recovery…


-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 4127 days

#9 posted 09-11-2008 05:02 PM

You’re absolutely right guys. We need to think safety first, and as has been pointed out, you can’t get right back in and be OVER confident.

Steve, I know for sure that I’ll think about it at first when getting back to the saw, but I have a feeling that it will stay with me forever. That’s not to psyche myself out, but so I don’t allow myself to get overly confident.

Fact is, I’m already (literally) itching to get back to the shop and do something, but the reality is that I need to heed the strong suggestion of the Doctor, and take it easy for at least a few weeks. At least anything that would be deemed major.

Here’s hoping I can learn to take my time.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View Dusty56's profile


11850 posts in 4135 days

#10 posted 09-14-2008 01:10 AM

God bless you and a speedy recovery as well….I lost the end of one of my fingers as well by being in a hurry and NOT using a push stick on a narrow piece of wood …lucky for me that I had adjusted the blade to be about a quarter inch higher than the wood was thick….I see so many ppl making cuts with their blades at full height no matter what the wood thickness is …

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 4127 days

#11 posted 09-14-2008 05:08 AM

I was taught long ago, not to put the blade up much higher than the wood, so fortunately for me, it wasn’t as bad as it would have been had the blade been up all the way, as you described. I could have been safer by using the crosscut sled, but you know… coulda shoulda woulda.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View uutank's profile


79 posts in 4058 days

#12 posted 10-22-2008 05:42 PM

This is a great reminder to everyone. I remember when my dad gave me my first contractor table saw. He got a very VERY serious look in his eyes and said ” Boy better men then you have lost fingers and worse to these tools so you just remember that when you start it up” ..I’ve heard his voice in my head EVERY time I’ve turned a saw on and thus far (Praise God for his mercies) no issues.
Actually I did get my hand (well my thumb) caught in a belt sander ( nothing was seriously hurt just my pride) cause I was “cleaning the belt” by smacking it while running. Dumbest thing I’ve ever done but I retel the story just to remind that it’s the tools that we think CAN’T hurt us that offten does.

-- Ray,VA

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