Oops -- forgot to respond to the second part of your question.
I'm using one now because I believe it's an important safety practice to use
*all* guards on *all* machines for *all* operations, whenever possible.
The combined guard and spliiter comes off my table saw when I need to make a
cut that's impossible with them in place -- usually this means a cut that's
impossible with the splitter, specifically, in place -- and it goes right back
on as soon as I'm done with that operation.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Not necessarily at all Doug. I'd agree that short cuts done free hand offer
a significant potential for problems. The smaller the piece, the more
likely it is that you can't control the travel of the piece through the
blade accurately enough to maintain a proper straight path. However, long
rips do not pose the same threats. He's not in any way guaranteed to have a
problem by cutting freehand - depending on what the definition of freehand
is. I have been forced to make many free hand cuts on a table saw over the
years. It's not my prefered technique or approach, but I've done it. You'd
have to do more than simply assert that this is something that *will* some
day result in a big crisis.
Mabe we'd better agree on a definition first. My definition of a freehand cut
is one in which only the operator's hands are used to guide the work past the
blade (this would include hand-held pushsticks etc), without using a guide of
any sort -- no fences, jigs, fixtures, sleds, whatever, just the hands and
OK, change that to "will probably"... It's not a good idea.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
(snip) I disagree completely. I think a lot of accidents in the shop happen
who are knowledgeable and aware, but whose attention slips briefly at just
I have to disagree with your disagreement. To operate table saw safely it
requires the operators full undivided attention. If someone is not
disciplined enough to give it their full attention, there is a good chance
that there will be an accident in their future with or without a guard.
As an example, if you get American Woodworker mag, check out page 28 in this
months issue. The owner of a small woodworking shop and operator of a new
SawStop says he was in a hurry batch cutting stock when his finger went
under the blade guard and hit the blade. Of course the brake saved him for
major injury, but, as you noted, accidents can happen when attention wanders
even briefly. This is the part of running a machine that takes discipline.
IMHO, if one can give their machine their full undivided attention at all
times, the chances of an accident are small.
BTW, I do not think I'm invincible or anything because I can run a table saw
comfortably with no guard, or believe for a second that an accident could
never happen to me. I run a table saw almost daily and am disciplined
enough to not let anything distract me while I'm running it. Regardless of
whether or not it has a guard, MY fingers are at stake here, and the saw
has my full undivided attention at all times. This has played the key role
for me in keeping all 10 intact.
I do think, however, that it is very possible that people who do use a guard
may get a false sense of security and may become a little more relaxed with
regards to giving their undivided attenion to the saw during a cut.
With that said, I certainly don't recommend anyone remove their guard but to
run their table saw as if it wasn't there at all. The guard is merely to
HELP prevent accidents, not eliminate them. Safe use of a table saw still
lands squarely on the operators shoulders. --dave
Add to that the further stipulations that the operator is fully knowledgeable
of proper operating procedures, and is using all appropriate guides, guards,
hold-downs, pushsticks, etc. -- *and* that the wood being milled contains no
hidden defects that could cause unanticipated problems -- and we're close to
being in agreement.
I hope you're right about your level of discipline and attention. Fact is,
though, all of us are only human, and IME most of us are not as good at
anything as we think we are. That's why there are guards on machines.
Let us hope that full undivided attention never wanders.
And on *that* point we are solidly in agreement.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
This is a rant. If you read it, don't complain later that it was too
long or about what it says.
All this back and forth over a blade guard. Not one of you is going to
change. Those who believe that they are invincible will continue to
believe that they are invincible. those who have either taken advice or
have seen enough accidents will be using a blade guard. So be it.
There are two times when one is an accident waiting to happen, The first
is when they are just beginning, and the second is when they think that
they have mastered it and think that they are in control, thus becoming
comfortable with what they are doing.
I do not know about the rest of you, but I have spent a lifetime working
in dangerous places and situations around moving machinery and high
voltage. And in that lifetime,of over 70 years, I have see a great many
accidents around machinery, and virtually all of them happened to
someone who had been doing that job for many years. Then it happened to
What roofer or carpenter has not seen someone fall off a building? What
meat cutter has not cut them self? So you really think that it won't
happen to you?? Every one of them was sure that it only happens to
someone else, and won't happen to them. All you have to do is to sneeze
once without warning, and you are going to move where you do not expect
to be. I personally knew a man who was hit by an airplane propeller,
and yes he lived. That he lived was so unusual that the navy sent him
all over the world to teach safety. He had worked around those
airplanes for many years. He knew where the danger zone was, but a gust
of wind at just the wrong time. I saw a man physically picked up and
drawn into the intake of a Jet engine in less than 4/10 of a second, he
got too close. Again a man who had worked around those engines for
years. He knew where he should not be, but just one foot too close. I
saw men loose fingers and hands and eyes, just because they grew
comfortable around moving machinery. And you think that it will not
happen to you? Good luck all, I hope that you never find out the hard
way as so many do. No it does not have to be your fault. strange things
happen sometimes. A single thread hanging down can be caught and drag
you into whatever is moving. One strand of hair is all it takes to grab
you and pull you in. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I
have see that happen also. I saw a man one day slip and have his hand
run into a moving band saw blade faster than you could blink, his hand
had been at least a foot away from the blade. Cut three inches into his
hand between the thumb and first finger before he could stop his hand
from moving. Every one of them was doing what they did day in and day
out. Professionals every one.
I have watched those carpenters and other workers who have thrown safety
out the window just because the boss is pushing for just a little more
You all should really look at power company workers, the hot linemen.
You have two extremes of their ages. Either very young just starting
out, and very old men. The only way for the very young to reach the old
age is to listen to the old men who practice extreme safety at all
times. If it cannot be done safely, it just will not be done.
I have refused to do some jobs because they could not be done safely,
and I refused to take a chance. They could keep the job, and I'll keep
my life. Every time they found someone else who would gamble their life,
gamble their hands, eyes, etc that they could get away with it. And
mostly they did win the gamble. But once in awhile some one lost the
You go ahead and gamble, it's not going to hurt me. It's going to hurt
But I still have all my fingers, all my toes, both my eyes. You say that
you have too? Well some of us are trying to help you keep them.
So much for this rant.
Dave Jackson wrote:
You're right about that ... however, as a builder, I often count fewer
fingers on jobsites than should be.
I really like my Uniguard ... has an excellent splitter, two guards that can
be used independently and/or swung up out of the way, and it can be removed
in less time than it takes to tell.
In short, it is "convenient" ... a quality which fosters use.
When I cut sheet goods I use a guard that I made from plywood that
encompass the blade and that is attached to a section of 1-1/2" pipe,
which is connected to the dust collector. It is suspended from the
ceiling over the saw.
This is a great comfort, particularly when cutting MDF, as the flow
from both above and below takes away most of the offending dust.
When I cut solid stock, particularly "interesting" stock that may be
reaction wood and needs a bit of visual monitoring, I take the guard
I also do not use hearing protection when doing this.
I want to see and hear and feel how that piece is going through that
If the accumulated wisdom of my senses tells me to bail on that cut, I
want to be able to shut that saw down with a clear understanding of
the problem that made that necessary.
I, like you, have been running equipment for about forty years.
This is my choice of how to get by with good results, both from the
safety and the production end.
I have, as do all of those that I respect, all of my digits.
The mind is the best and most appropriate safety device.
I understand that when talking on the Wreck we are addressing multiple
understandings of the process and multiple levels of experience.
I would simply like to preach the gospel of mind as the premier safety
device, as slavish dependence on contrivances does not answer fully.
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
: When I cut solid stock, particularly "interesting" stock that may be
: reaction wood and needs a bit of visual monitoring, I take the guard
But this is irrational. Reaction wood is dangerous because it
can twist and bind against the blade and/or fence, and cause
kickback and kickup. With a splitter and guard you have protection
against this. Whithout them you just plain don't.
: If the accumulated wisdom of my senses tells me to bail on that cut, I
: want to be able to shut that saw down with a clear understanding of
: the problem that made that necessary.
You don't seem to understand how rapidly kickback occurs, when it
: The mind is the best and most appropriate safety device.
No one is saying it isn't. Just as it's the most appropriate
safety device when driving. That doesn't negate the
actual, verifiable safety advantages of wearing a seatbelt.
: I understand that when talking on the Wreck we are addressing multiple
: understandings of the process and multiple levels of experience.
: I would simply like to preach the gospel of mind as the premier safety
: device, as slavish dependence on contrivances does not answer fully.
Sure. But you're solving the equation wrong. Attendant
mind + guards/igs/splitters outsafties attendant mind alone.
You sound like one of those people (and I've known a bunch) who don't
wear seatbelts in cars (they want to, variously: be able to
get to the other side to avoid a side collision; get out of a burning car;
be thrown free [through the windshield] instead of stuck in a wreck), and
don't wear helmets on a motorcycle (they impair vision!!!).
Doesn't make it smart.
-- Andy Barss
With all due respect to your experience, good quality hearing protection
will allow you to hear far more audio detail than without protection.
As the overall sound pressure level goes up, your ears become less
sensitive to certain frequencies, and the overall level will mask the
problem. You may already suffer from hearing damage due to your years
of exposure to site and shop noise, so your personal experience may differ.
I can hear chip out, cracking, binding, etc... much sooner when I'm
wearing good muffs than without.
Likewise, I've never owned a table saw with a guard, so I don't use a guard.
That said, my miter saw came with a guard and I have no philosophical or
practical problem with it in place. Since I've never had a blade guard,
I've come to look at my table saw in the same manner that I look at my chain
saw or my circular saw. All of them have exposed business ends and require
a certain attention on the part of the operator.
Contrary to the alarmist voices, it is no more a matter of "when" than any
other equally harmful accident is. The presence or absence of a guard in no
way affects "when" anything will happen. In fact assuming that the guard
affects "when" is probably a more dangerous position. Pay attention to the
irrevocable laws about saw safety as they relate to the physics of things
and you are far more likely to avoid an accident than by relying on the
false security of a guard. A guard will not protect against bad cutting
practices and trusting in devices like this may well be the very downfall of
what one trusts as a safe program.
I would not have any philosophical or practical issue with a guard on my
table saw, if it had one. As it is, I have always known a table saw to be a
tool with a pretty significant business end and have approached the use of
it as a tool accordingly - just like my chainsaw and my circular saw. It
becomes the way you view the tool. You approach it with more than respect,
you approach it with a knowldege and a certainty of what the blade can do.
It's simply the way it is.
Warning- I am biased- I manufacture a safety tool for ripping.
But you shoud really know- there is a better way to rip wood than using
I have ripped over 5 million linear feet of thin, knotty, warped, and
cupped lumber over the last 15 years at woodworking shows without
kickbacks or fingers near the blade.
I get to see the short fingers for three days per weekend at
woodworking shows. A question I ask is "Has anyone in this group (of
10 or so) tangled with a tablesaw?" Almost always someone has.
Usually the fingers have been sewed up or back on, but do not work as
The key to finger safety when ripping or dadoing is to use something
other than your fingers to hold the wood against the fence, down (both
before and after the blade), and use something other than your fingers
to push the wood by the blade.
How often do you use a featherboard instead of your fingers?
The reason you don't is that clamped feather boards take too long
to clamp in place and remove. You use them only when you have to.
The solution is a magnetic featherboard or roller feeder that sets up
with one hand, as quick as putting your fingers there- Something you
actually use. It exists- and 250,000 table saw owners use it on every
rip, and jointer cut.
I apologize for the rant, but I have seen too many short fingers to
PS: we are giving away 25 Grip-Tites to public school shop programs
this fall- please tell any shop teachers you know about this.
The Grip-tite fins are made from polycarbonate-(lexan). We do guarantee
that they will last at least 2 years. They will eventuallly wear out if
you are cutting corian or run a millwork shop cutting lots of
hardwoods. (on oak, etc. they tend to wear at the sharp wood corner.)
After that they cost $1.50 / pair to replace...
You should not spray wd40 or other sprays on them. Polycarbonate gets
brittle when sprayed with that kind of stuff.
Amost all the fins we replace are ones which the blade has eaten,
instead of fingers.
Good for you.
I have no problem with a manufacturer weighing in on an on topic discussion.
Good luck with your safety products.
And you are right. No matter how good a job the doc does. It rarely equals
the original finger.
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