What are the most dangerous, but useful, cuts on a table saw--and how do you make them safer?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Power Tools, Hardware and Accessories forum

Forum topic by Rob posted 03-14-2014 05:46 AM 3545 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Rob's profile


704 posts in 4152 days

03-14-2014 05:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tablesaw safety

As I mentioned in another thread, I’m trying to get a better understanding about a table saw’s standard safety equipment. I know a lot of woodworkers don’t use certain safety devices for various reasons. I know it might be a somewhat lofty goal (and maybe a little less practical at times), but I want to make every cut as safely as possible.

Assuming your saw is equipped with the latest standard safety equipment and you’re trying to use good safety practices, what are some dangerous cuts you can make on a table saw? What safety equipment needs to be removed and what equipment can you still use to make the cut as safely as possible? How would you rate the danger of that cut on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being most dangerous?

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

14 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile (online now)


5986 posts in 3432 days

#1 posted 03-14-2014 05:54 AM

For me I’ve had the most problems when I try rip short pieces. Now I never rip anything shorter than 14” on the table saw because of kickbacks.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 4152 days

#2 posted 03-14-2014 06:56 AM

Thanks Bondo, what do you use to rip shorter pieces? A bandsaw?

Would you be able to solve the short rip table saw problem by clamping both sides into a crosscut sled, or would that create a new safety issue?

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View knotscott's profile


8418 posts in 4457 days

#3 posted 03-14-2014 09:05 AM

Making long tapered rips (like tapered legs) with one of those lightweight $10 aluminum jigs that follows the fence was always pretty hairy for me. I added some mass to it by putting a piece of wood inside both arms of the jig to help keep it from bouncing….that was an improvement, but later a friend gave me a nice taper sled with hold down clamps that works much better.

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

View The Box Whisperer's profile

The Box Whisperer

678 posts in 3152 days

#4 posted 03-14-2014 10:34 AM

As stated, this rips and small rips are a little hairy. I tend to put the small rips on my mini table saw, and the gripper helps with the thin ones.

-- "despite you best efforts and your confidence that your smarter and faster than a saw blade at 10k rpm…. your not …." - Charles Neil

View MrFid's profile


910 posts in 2986 days

#5 posted 03-14-2014 10:38 AM

I agree with Knotscott that tapering cuts can be dangerous. To avoid danger, build and use a tapering jig (search LJ for ‘tapering jig’, there’s lots of suggestions on here).

Personally, I used to find dado cuts to be a tad intimidating. Here are some things that I find help me feel comfortable about them, though:

1. Using a stacked dado set rather than a wobble blade.
2. Using a sacrificial fence if planning on using your dado blade for rabbeting.
3. Taking two or more passes for deeper dadoes so as to not remove too much material at once.
4. Making the cut slowly (slower than a normal blade) but not too slow as to encourage binding or kickback.
5. Using a sacrificial piece attached to a miter gauge or whatever you’re guiding the wood with. This also has the benefit of reducing tearout on the back of the cut.
6. Using a zero clearance insert for the table saw. I have ZCIs for every common dado width, and I always keep a few blank ZCIs around so that I could make a new one in case I need a new dado width.

Good topic I’ll be following along!

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View CharlesA's profile


3466 posts in 2879 days

#6 posted 03-14-2014 10:40 AM

Thin rips, 1/2-1/4” are very dangerous, and easy as heck with a Grr-ripper. i don’t hesitate to make short or thin rips with it.

I, too, find the aluminum taper jig to feel dangerous. Although I will probably build a slick adjustable taper jig some day, I’ve found using a plywood board (sled) with a piece screwed in that where I just unscrew one screw, change the angle, and screw it in again to work pretty well and it feels safer than the aluminum thing.

Bottom line: if there’s no way for me to do it in a way that I feel is as safe as a regular cut, I’ll find another way to do it. If the bandsaw can do it, that seems like a safer option.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 3686 days

#7 posted 03-14-2014 10:45 AM

Cove cuts and raised panel cuts. Both require jigs to work, the cover cut is clamped to your table saw which always bothers me and the raised panel cut just freaks me out having all that wood hanging out in the air.

View Robert Tidwell's profile

Robert Tidwell

19 posts in 2699 days

#8 posted 03-14-2014 02:29 PM

The most dangerous cuts for me on the table saw so far have been thin strips. I have seen multiple jigs that are simple to make that will help make cutting thin strips much easier, but have yet to make one.

As for general table saw safety, a cross-cut sled is a great thing to utilize. It is simple to make, inexspensive, and worth it’s weight in gold. I made my first one last week and used it for the first time last night and I felt 100% in control of the cut I was making, with still fearing the saw, of course ;).

View DrDirt's profile


4615 posts in 4824 days

#9 posted 03-14-2014 02:42 PM

If you read the stories on injuries – - the most dangerous cut is that “last cut of the day when tired”

For me it was crosscutting odd items, that were unwieldy – - – so easy to kick back.

Tablesaw sled has been a real key to safety and accuracy in the shop.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View carver1942's profile


93 posts in 2786 days

#10 posted 03-14-2014 02:44 PM

I never do short rip cuts. I cut into a longer piece to a length a little longer than I need. Shut the saw and back out the piece. Then I just cross cut the length I need off the long one.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30615 posts in 3419 days

#11 posted 03-14-2014 02:49 PM

Short pieces. Too easy for kickbacks. Gripper works great.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View bondogaposis's profile (online now)


5986 posts in 3432 days

#12 posted 03-14-2014 02:57 PM

To avoid ripping short pieces, I will rip a longer board then cross cut to final size later in the build. Every once in while to use a special piece of wood I may want to rip a short piece. Then I go to the bandsaw, and clean up with a handplane.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Woodknack's profile


13557 posts in 3461 days

#13 posted 03-14-2014 04:47 PM

Cutting wood that isn’t flat is the most dangerous cut I’ve done, it can wobble and shift, avoid at all costs. Ripping in general is the most dangerous type of cut and how people hurt themselves. Most common errors seem to be ripping wet wood or pushing with your hand inline with the blade. Using a dull blade is dangerous because you have to push harder and have less control. Never had any qualms or issues ripping short lengths. Raised panels can feel awkward if you don’t make a tall jig to hold the piece but otherwise are fairly simple. I’ve only done cove cutting once and was surprised that it was so easy, no issues at all, just take small bites.

-- Rick M,

View oldnovice's profile


7702 posts in 4449 days

#14 posted 03-14-2014 06:40 PM

A log time ago I had to make two 24” frames out of 2×4 that were glued together in an octagon. I made a jig that held the center of the octagon the radius distance from the table saw blade. I rotated the octagon and slowly raised the blade with a lot of trepidation … fortunately every turned out OK and I ended up with two decent looking circles and a lot more sawdust/chips that I expected.
This was one of the most scary cuts I have ever done!

Other than that, short piece rips are the worst so I tend to start with stock that is longer than required and cross cut to size later.

-- "It's fine in practise but it will never work in theory"

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics