Beware the BORK

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Forum topic by RipFence posted 11-19-2011 11:09 PM 25372 views 0 times favorited 35 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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107 posts in 3659 days

11-19-2011 11:09 PM

Hello All:
Several months ago I installed a BORK riving knife / splitter. While I had a few issues with installation I eventually got those worked out and the BORK seemed like a nice addition to my Unisaw. I should also mention that Bob was helpful with questions I had along the way.
Then yesterday morning before work I was making a few cuts. On one of the cuts, just as I switched on the saw I got hit hard by the BORK riving knife. Lucky for me it hit me right on the collarbone and I was wearing a thick jacket. The impact resulted in a serious contusion and I may have a knot on the bone but it could have been SO much worse. As in I could easily have one eye right now. So, those of you who are so interested in tablesaw safety that you have bought or are considering buying the BORK, beware. Its not for no reason he has you sign a waiver before purchasing. I contacted him and his response included “I’ve used my BORK for 3+ years and have shipped over 200 of them. I’ve been made aware of 3 splitter/saw blade collisions prior to yours and all were attributed to user error.” While I suppose its possible that I made a user error I am very careful when it comes to tablesaw safety and am relatively handy with mechanical devices. At any rate, his numbers indicate that 4 (including me) out of 200 BORKs he has sold have eventually give the user an issue of some kind. You can make your own decision on buying one or continuing to use the one you have. Let me emphasize that I do not have an axe to grind with Bob, but I feel morally obligated to share my experience. Below you will see pics of the riving knife after it was ejected and of my collarbone. Oh the irony of being injured by a safety device.
Good luck,

35 replies so far

View muleskinner's profile


941 posts in 3403 days

#1 posted 11-20-2011 03:48 AM

I don’t know anything about the Bork but I’d think that a safety device turning into a hazard at a 2% rate would be unacceptable from a design perspective.

-- Visualize whirled peas

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8406 posts in 4342 days

#2 posted 11-20-2011 04:50 AM

That’s quite a first post. I’ve had good performance from my BORK since August 2008…..really like it. It’s possible that the knife wasn’t tightened down fully.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View RipFence's profile


107 posts in 3659 days

#3 posted 11-21-2011 05:26 AM

Hello All:
I just received the email shown below in italics from Bob Ross. I want to keep this whole thing completely transparent so here are my responses addressed directly to Bob:
First, I have no interest in a public debate, only in putting the information out there so that others can make informed decisions. Remember that I asked you to disseminate this information and you indicated you had no intention of doing so. You could have even framed the information within the context of “Four user errors have occurred resulting in… The errors typically occur due to… ” I simply had to let woodworkers know since you would not.
Second, in the original post I mentioned that I had issues with alignment and that you were helpful and that it seemed to be working fine. I also said it might have been user error. What else do you want? As to returning it because of the alignment issues, I certainly wish I had.
Third: You wrote: “using a star or lock washer and a fender washer” To which I say “Excuse Me?” What star or lock washer? None was included with mine and none are mentioned in the instructions which you sent me. Mine has always been mounted with just the flat washer as per the instructions. Here is the picture directly from the instructions, please note the text on the pic, it says nothing about a star or lock washer. Nor do the words star or lock appear anywhere in the document according to the acrobat search feature. Perhaps you amended the instructions somewhere along the line and didn’t bother telling current owners?
Fourth: When did you change the design to have an open end as opposed to the closed slot shown here If the design still had a closed slot I would not be icing my collarbone right now.

Finally, regardless of what you wrote below the BORK did contact the saw blade in my case and perhaps in three other cases. How badly were the other three “user errors” injured?
I have gotten this information out to the woodworking community and my conscience is clear.
Stay safe,

On 11/20/2011 7:04 PM, Bob Ross wrote:

Rather than get into a public debate with you on the forums, I will ask you to amend your posts to include the following facts:

Six months after purchase you wanted to return the BORK because you were having trouble adjusting it.

Following that exchange and your reporting that you had successfully aligned the splitter, you suggested using Locktite to keep the adjustment screws in position when the splitter was not in use. I responded that keeping the fender washer tightened against the adjustment screws would hold them in place.

The BORK splitter is mounted to the adjustment plate using a star or lock washer and a fender washer which compress the splitter against four small screw heads. When properly tightened, it is virtually impossible to rotate or move the splitter on the adjustment plate. In addition, a safety stop is included below the splitter mounting bolt as a backup. This stop prevents the splitter from rotating if the tightening knob is not secured. In other words, if the BORK is properly aligned and the knob is tight and the stop is properly positioned and tight, the BORK splitter cannot contact the saw blade. Therefore, if the BORK splitter contacted the saw blade, it was misaligned or the mounting hardware was loose. I would call this user error.


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933 posts in 3659 days

#4 posted 11-21-2011 04:41 PM

I’m sorry if this is an improper response for here remove it if you like I really don’t want to start trouble but want to express my opinion.
That being, after looking at this accessory I wouldn’t use it. The design, the installation, just too prototype-ish for something purchased. I understand the safety issue of the riving knife but 4 accidents out of 200 sales. Not acceptable at all. I hope Bob has LOTS of liability insurance because if he doesn’t he could loose everything he owns one of these days when someone really gets hurt.

The views and comments expressed here may not necessarily be the personal views of all persons but are solely the personal views and comments of the writer and not that of all LumberJocks or the LumberJocks internet site or it’s owners.

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View fussy's profile


980 posts in 4017 days

#5 posted 11-22-2011 01:49 AM

ON the other hand, any two-bit half-wit attorney can break a waiver at the courthouse door. In liability issues a waiver isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Git him.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

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jim C

1472 posts in 4065 days

#6 posted 11-22-2011 01:56 AM

I think the revelation is the picture of the closed slot versus the picture of your open slot.
You are correct that the closed slot would have prevented the riving knife from becoming a projectile.
If this was manufactured to reduce costs, that’s a serious problem.
Just my .02 cents

View jeepturner's profile


946 posts in 3759 days

#7 posted 11-22-2011 02:13 AM

Thanks for the post. I have thought about a riving knife for my unisaw, and I will certainly pass on this one.
I know that, working in manufacturing, we couldn’t continue to operate with a two percent failure rate.

-- Mel,

View knotscott's profile


8406 posts in 4342 days

#8 posted 11-22-2011 02:18 AM

To the best of my knowledge this is the first accident that’s been brought to light…Bob mentioned that there had been 3 occasions where the back of a BORK knife contacted the blade due to user error, but the knives were secure enough that they stayed put, resulting in no injuries… which further suggests that this one was loose. He’s made some updates to the design, so it’s hard to know which versions are in question.

With only 200 units or so in the field, it basically is a prototype. AFAIK, they’re all hand made by Bob in his little workshop, not mass produced. He’s just a part time woodworker like many of us and retired military medic, trying to develelop an alternative to older saws that don’t have a riving knife, so why would anyone want to ”git him” Steve?

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View IrreverentJack's profile


728 posts in 3809 days

#9 posted 11-22-2011 02:46 AM

Here is a post, a few months old, by an LJ designing a riving knife to retrofit an old Delta cabinet saw. His design, fit and finish looks very professional and robust. I would encourage anyone interested in riving knives and older table saws to check out the link to his blog. He’s finished it and has video. -Jack

View SnowyRiver's profile


51458 posts in 4447 days

#10 posted 11-22-2011 03:38 AM

I am not familiar with Bork. I have installed an after-market riving knife on my Powermatic a couple of years ago. It does have an open slot. I have been very pleased with it and I have had no problems. I have attached the website to the maker if you are interested in trying someone else’s. Lee is an excellent person to work with and very responsive to questions.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 4017 days

#11 posted 11-22-2011 08:39 AM


While I do not advocate lawsuites as a way of life, nor do I discourage people from using their brains to invent something useful, people who short circuit the development and testing process in order to rush a product to market in hopes of making a quick buck at the risk of people’s lives, deserve to be “gitten” (gotted?). Instead of a bad bruise, Jim could have been KILLED. And being part-time tinkerer, former medic, or savior of mis-placed children does not relieve him of his liability. What is most disturbing, is his reluctance to admit a problem with a product, that with the limited exposure seen here, sends chills up and down my spine.

Anyone who jumps into a market niche that big manufacturers have studiously avoided does so at considerable risk. At the very least, he should have sought Underrighter’s Laboratory approval and had several millions of dollars in liability insurance. To do otherwise is at the least overly optomistic, and at the worst lunacy. It’s expensive, but is so for a reason; product safety.

I bear Bob no ill will, but by golly, this is going to bite him in the patushka. Scott, I find your posts informative, and your willingness to help fellow LJs refreshing, but I must disagree with you here. But anyway, have a happy and SAFE Thanksgiving.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View RipFence's profile


107 posts in 3659 days

#12 posted 11-22-2011 06:26 PM

Hello All:
Since my last post Bob Ross and I have exchanged a few emails. In my effort to maintain full transparency and fairness I have copied them below. The first is his response to the specific questions I posed in an earlier post. Below that you will see my responses and his responses etc. As before, I will let you make your own decisions about using or buying B0RK and about dealing with Mr. Ross. I need to be shed of this as I actually have a demanding job and I now feel that I have discharged my moral duty of making woodworkers aware of potential risks. As I stated in my original post it is possible that I may have made a user error but for the life of me I cannot see what that was. Finally, while you guys don’t know me, rest assured that I am not the type of user who owns one pair of pliers. While I was earning my mechanical engineering degree I worked for three summers in an extrusion die shop. These days I run a research lab where I build or modify all of the equipment myself. So, while I may not have credentials as a master tool maker I do have some experience and am not completely incompetent.
Be safe,

  • Bob’s first Response to my email.
    First I want to correct something you posted. At no time did I “indicate” that I was not going to do something regarding notifying past, current or future users about potential dangers. When I twice asked you for specific details, your response was “Beats me what went wrong”. I wanted specifics in order to formulate a response. I have never claimed the
    design to be perfect but I will stand by my earlier statement: Unless something was allowed to become misaligned or loose, the splitter CANNOT contact the saw blade.

I can’t respond on SMC; I’m persona non gratin there. It’s ironic that when the was being developed, discussions were prohibited because they were considered advertising and now the feeding frenzy is front and center. To those of you that have not seen or used a , you’re opinions are welcome but a lot of you are assuming details that are not true. Also, I’m not doing this to get rich and I’m not knowingly putting something dangerous out there. Properly installed and maintained (like any other power tool accessory), the has proven itself to be safe and useful. As to my being a dork, I’ve been called worse by better.

The photo marked #5 is from the old instructions (the new ones are dated 3/19/11). I don’t remember exactly when I added the star/lock washers but I’m pretty sure you got one. The new instructions do not mention the washers at all. I can tell you from my own experience that lock washer or no, if the knob is tightened reasonably tight, the splitter will not move.

The other photo is of a prototype. I don’t think I’ve ever shipped one that had a closed slot. The thinking is that if the splitter can be removed without removing the knob and washers, dropping the knob/washers into the bottom of the saw can be avoided. Once affixed to the mounting plate, the strength of splitter is not compromised by the through cut of the slot. I am considering including a plate and screws to allow those that aren’t confident that they can keep the knob and safety stop tight a method of closing the slot.

I hope this helps,

  • My response
    First: The impression I got was that you wanted to call this another case of user error and pass it off as “not Bob’s fault”. As to my response of “beats me”, it does beat me, what else do you want me to say? I don’t know why I got shot by your
    . Further, I’m not sure what my obligation is to help you re engineer your product. Did you intend to pay me an engineering consulting fee? I doubt that. Do you even intend to refund my purchase fee? I doubt that too. Finally, where exactly have you made others aware of the previous three “user errors”? That would help me believe you might have actually posted my experience.
    Second: I will post this to SMC for you. I’ll wait for your responses to these points.
    Third: I didn’t do any name calling, that was someone on the forum.
    Forth: So, just to confirm, you changed the instructions but did not send out updates to users.
    Fifth: While the open slot might be a convenience, a closed slot has a safety value you might consider.

  • My second response
    Okay, but did you post that or the user? Looks like it was someone named Andrew.

  • Bobs third response
    I’m very sorry you got hurt and I’m very grateful it wasn’t worse but I’m tired of playing 5th grade with you. I strongly believe you failed to keep your
    connections tight and you’re blaming me for that failure. Provide definitive proof that the failed because of something for which I am responsible and I will refund your purchase price and provide full disclosure to the woodworking public and any potential ** buyers in the future. Except for responding to any proof that you provide, I will no longer communicate with you.
View RipFence's profile


107 posts in 3659 days

#13 posted 11-25-2011 04:25 AM

The discussion over at Sawmill Creek has been even more spirited.
Here is the link.

View runswithscissors's profile


3124 posts in 2991 days

#14 posted 02-24-2013 01:00 AM

I understand the early BORKs were aluminum. The saw tooth marks on the one in question are very apparent. Problem is, aluminum is a sticky material, and can easily get grabbed by saw teeth. Seems to me that steel (or SS, if you prefer) is a much better material than aluminum. I did get the impression that BORKs are now made with steel, which is a good modification.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View ScottKaye's profile


788 posts in 2919 days

#15 posted 11-17-2013 04:51 PM

I’m not going to get into a debate with anyone reference the Bork or no Bork. I didn’t like the way this thread was run and I didn’t care for the attacks even though the author said he was providing full disclosure. It still seemed like an attack to me. Having said that. I agree that the early BORK’s had a problem the main one being that the riving knife itself was a poor design using an open end instead of a closed end. I fully believe that the authors experience with his older generation BORK caused the inventor of the BORK to redesign his BORK with a closed end and upgraded the material to stainless steel. As far as I can tell, the new design is far superior and infinitely safer than the old. And that is why I’m going to buy a BORK

my two cents

-- "Nothing happens until you build it"

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