I just purchased my first table saw this weekend and I'm trying to get
a better handle on how to most effectively (and safely) use it. I need
to rip some 2" wide pieces of 3/4" plywood and I'm trying to figure out
the best way to do it where I don't end up wasting a bunch of wood.
Say the plywood is 4' x 4' and I want to cut (4) 2" x 4' strips from
it. It would seem the most accurate way to do this would be to set the
rip fence (which is to the right of the blade) 2" from the blade and
then run the board with the majority of the board to the left of the
blade. My concern is that I'm asking for kickback with the waste side
being so much larger than the piece I'm trying to create. On the other
hand, I've never heard of someone (but I'm new so this doesn't mean
much) putting the waste on the fence side. What's the proper way to
make these cuts?
First, a question - you say you bought a table saw... more information,
please. How big is the table? Do you have table extensions? Outfeed
table? A basic 27" table is insufficient for cutting sheet goods. You will
need support for the width of the piece that supports 2/3 of it, at a
minimum. You'll also need some sort of support at the outfeed.
Assuming you have adequate support for sheet goods, then set your rip fence
at some distance (arbitrary) greater than the desired 2". Secure a block of
wood to the fence nearest you, at the edge of the saw table, that is equal
to the "arbitrary" distance you cranked into the fence position. ie: if
you put the fence 3 inches from the blade, then secure a 1" block to the
fence. Now you can butt your stock up against the block to get a precise 2"
position relative to the blade, but your stock will not be binding against
the fence. That eliminates your kickback risk, and you can freely cut all
the way through. Your block should only be a couple of inches long. You're
not trying to run it up to the blade.
Fabricate and use a panel cutter (tons of stuff on the net about these) so
that you have adequate support for your piece along it's back side. Don't
try to simply use your miter as it came with the saw as it will not provide
enough support to keep a 4' piece from rotating. If your sheet stock
rotates you'll discover an entire world of high velocity excitement.
One way to help lower the chance kickback is to have sufficient support
tables for infeed and outfeed. If that's not possible, then I'd cut the
4'x4' piece down a bit with a circular saw or jigsaw and then cut to exact
size on the tablesaw. Typically, if you're right handed, the wood being cut
on the tablesaw is passed by the blade on the left side of the fence with
your body being further to the left out of the flight path if a kickback
occurs. Use a pushstick to run the board past the blade, (which means your
hand is not reaching over the blade as you're cutting), the only part of
your body that is exposed to the kickback flight path is your arm. Better
that than the family jewels or something equally as bad.
Unfortunately, if you experience a real kickback, you're directly in the
line of fire. Kelly Mehler ("The Table Saw Book" and strong proponent of
table saw safety) calls what I think you're talking about "ejection", where
a typically narrow piece is forced straight back. In a true kickback (at
least by his definition), a typically larger piece gets pinned between the
blade and the fence. The rear of the blade picks up the back and you get
free demonstration of the physics of moving bodies as the panel is shot out
at approximately a 45 degree angle. Maybe we're just dealing with
semantics, but I want to stress that standing to the left of the blade when
the fence is on the right is not necessarily a safe location. As someone
here said once, the only completely safe place to stand when cutting with a
table saw is in the other room.
Can you give me some more information about the 45-degree angle, Todd?
I was always taught to stand to the left of the blade (right-side
fence). Which plane is the kickback going to travel 45 degrees in? Is
it upwards from the table or rearwards from the blade?
I have a set of Grrripers I use to rip with, and I find the easiest
place to stand is often directly on the left side of the saw (legs
braced against the cabinet)...that way I can keep the wood pressed down
throughout the length of the cut and my hands are (relatively)
protected from the blade even though they pass directly over it.
Thanks in advance Todd.
I saw Kelly Mehler demonstrate this once at a woodworking show. Since he
didn't want to shoot a piece of plywood to the other side of the room, he
used an acoustical tile. As he pushed it through the blade, he let it bind.
The rear of the blade picked it up and shot it backwards. It made an
approximately 45 degree angle relative to the fence in the plane of the saw
top at maybe a 30 degree elevation. The fix for kickback is to have a saw
with a riving knife. Unfortunately, almost no saws sold in the US are
equipped with riving knives, so Kelly shows how to approximate one in his
book by mounting a thin piece of wood directly behind the saw blade. No
access to the rear of the blade, no kickback.
Since you say you are new to table saws, I'll offer these other two
suggestions and/or pieces of advice: (1) set the blade height to just
clear the top of the wood being cut (1/4" to 3/8" max); and (2) watch
your clothing (sleeve, etc.) to make SURE nothing can get caught in the
A pushstick? - DEFINITELY! I use one with a handle about two inches
above the wood surface with a pusher block on the back. It's long
enough to be able to get downward pressure on the wood all the way thru
the cut as well as making sure all parts of my hand are well above the
blade. The long surface in contact with the wood and the downward
pressure provides for good control.
Oh!, and keep a healthy respect for that saw FOREVER! It's not fear,
exactly, but just remember THAT BLADE AIN'T YOUR FRIEND!
Good luck, be safe, and enjoy!
I was always taught to have the blade 1" above the wood you are cutting, if
your blade is just clearing the wood, then the blade is pushing back on the
piece, when the blade is higher, it is pushing down on the piece, much less
likely to result in a kickback.
Of course I am relatively new to this, so please correct me if this is
The proper way to make these cuts is the way you described. Set the fence
to 2" and cut. Use a push stick to push the right side and "Gently" keep
the piece against the fence with your left hand by "Gently" pushing towards
Since the waste side is not trapped between the fence and the blade, kick
back is not much of a risk or likely. I seriously doubt that the blade
would be able to flip a 4' square piece of 3/4" plywood and throw it back at
With more practice and experience you will learn to recognize what
situations are likely to produce kickback. This is not one of them.
Absolutely agree. Started to post similar sentiments earlier this morning,
but got sidetracked, then OE barfed and deleted my carefully worded
masterpiece, so said to hell with it.
Simplest solution is to just cut the 4 x 4 sheet of plywood roughly in half
based on the number of parts he needs, then proceed with his accurate cuts
against the fence.
... a roller stand to the left of the table to support the width of the
cutoff until it gets small enough not to want to tip off the saw table.
Tipping is liable to cause a good deal of harm to the edge of his cutoff,
but unlikely to kick back, IME.
... more likely it will just provide an opportunity for an unscheduled
change of under drawers.
Started to post similar sentiments earlier this morning,
Humm... Actually, ALL of my posts are masterpieceseses'es that my son's
English professor would swoon over, but I too use OE and from this point on
blame any thing that does not look quite right, any where near right, or
just simply totally off base on OE.
That's my excuse and I'm'a sticking with it.
Thanks Swingman for the inspiration. ;~)
Ahh, but you see ... mine post was so elegant in its composition, and so
piercing in its logic, that, had it not ended up in the OE bit bucket, the
thread, and possibly the entire wRec, would have dried up immediately ...
words would have even escaped Tom Watson.
The world's loss, without doubt ... but TW's, and Shakespeare's, reputations
> Ahh, but you see ... mine post was so elegant in its composition,
> piercing in its logic, that, had it not ended up in the OE bit
> thread, and possibly the entire wRec, would have dried up
> words would have even escaped Tom Watson.
> The world's loss, without doubt ... but TW's, and Shakespeare's,
> remain intact.
Ah yes, from deep in the heart of Texas.<G>
I agree with almost all other the above. Good support is absolutely
necessary. Lack of support is essentially the same as trying to saw twisted
stock (see below).
I am not, however, a big fan of roller stands. I prefer a saw horse with a
waxed top. Roller stands tend to pull you work to one side or the other if
they are not perfectly aligned with your fence.... that can actually lead to
kickback. I used to have two rollers permanently attached to the back of my
saw. That worked pretty well; the alignment was fixed.
Now I have a dedicated outfeed table and one saw horse that I can position
for infeed or side support as necessary. I also use it to support the
extension table on my band saw. I just find it to be a more flexible shop
As for kickback, I'll probably get flamed for my technique:
I stand in front of the blade.... yup that's right. From that position I can
best place positive pressure both down and to the right (against the fence)
in a position to the right of the blade. This puts my hand's "follow
through" away from the blade.
IF the TS is set up correctly, AND the reference faces (both table and
fence) of the stock are jointed true AND modest pressure is applied both
down and toward the fence, kickback is just nearly impossible.
Twisted stock and sloppy feed pressure both recipes for kickback.
Sorry, I should have been more explicit. They don't have to be "rollers" ...
the ball bearing type "roller stands" move in any axis (particularly the
commercial ones with multiple rows of ball bearings) making it easy to guide
in any direction with no pull ... a much better choice for a table saw if
you have the room and the need.
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