The thought of a major saw injury crosses our minds every time we use a saw but there has to be a safer way. I researched this question on a lot of different woodworking forums and websites to find the absolute consensus from top woodworkers on what is the safest saw.
What is the safest saw? By far the safest saw to use would be a “SawStop” table saw. They have this incredible technology that uses a small electrical signal to detect when the human body makes contact with the saw blade. Within 5 milliseconds the aluminum brake stops the saw blade and retracts it down beneath the table while shutting off the motor. You have to watch the video demonstration it is unbelievable.
If you want to learn more about this extraordinary saw technology that has created the safest saw on the market watch the video and read more below. Plus I’ve added a Woodworking Joke at the end of the article.
Table of Contents
How A SawStop Works.
1. Monitor & Detect
- The blade carries a small electrical signal.
- When skin contacts the blade, the signal changes because the human body is conductive.
- The change to the signal activates the safety system.
2. Brake Activation
- An aluminum brake springs into the spinning blade, stopping it in less than 5 milliseconds!
- The blade’s angular momentum drives it beneath the table, removing the risk of subsequent contact.
- Power to the motor is shut off.
Resetting the saw yourself is easy. Simply replace the blade and affordable brake cartridge and your saw is operational. The entire reset process takes less than five minutes.
How is a SawStop Engineered?
The first table saws were designed in the late 1800’s. The core design of most of today’s table saws was born in the 1950’s. Over the past 60 years, companies built saws by looking at the competition and selecting already-created components to cobble together a complete tool.
SawStop saws are different.
Each SawStop model is designed and engineered by woodworkers, for woodworkers. They take advantage of the freedom, and take on the obligation, to make a different and better tool. Their engineers avoid off-the-shelf components and old designs in favor of practical innovation.
Their engineers know that the right materials, whether cast-iron or steel, are just as important as advanced technology. And the right time to use advanced electronics is when they improve the experience of the operator.
Why Are Table Saws So Dangerous?
They are so dangerous because many tasks cannot be performed unless the manufacturer’s plastic blade guard is removed so most consumers don’t even use the safety guard. Also one engineer for the Consumer Product Safety Commission linked the high injury toll to poor design of these guards.
A frequent comment from woodworkers is “the typical stock guard is so frustrating to mount, align, adjust, remove and work with their tempted to leave it off permanently.”
Even with guards intact injury can still occur. These guards are still produced using designs created over 50 years ago.
For most novice woodworkers the sight and sound of a table saw is a thing to give them nightmares. Compared to other home power tools including chain saws, circular saws and nail guns; table saws are the most dangerous home power tool and can deliver extreme injuries.
It is estimated that there are up to 10 Million table saws in use across the United States. Every year thousands of people sustain injuries to fingers and hands.
With a 10-in blade spinning at about 4000 rpm and the outside blade spinning at around 108 mph you can easily imagine the extent of damage it can do.
This massive amount of power can also cause the wood it’s cutting to kickback and hit the user in the head, chest or torso.
Table saw accidents account for around 67,000 recorded injuries every year. Lacerations are the most common damage but around 4,000 injuries result in amputations after direct contact with the table saw blade. The medical costs for treating these injuries has been estimated to be around $2.1 Billion every year.
How Do I Stop My Table Saw From Kicking Back?
- Use A Reviving Knife
- Use A Splitter
- Consider A Crosscut Sled
- Always Use A Push Stick
- Don’t Let Your Guard Down
You should be aware of how the wood will react when it is being cut on a table saw. Obviously you are aware of the knots and should know to try and avoid those when cutting.
In addition to that 2X4’s are notorious for kickbacks. They are harvested green and then during the process they get sent through a kiln to rapidly remove the moist to between 12%-18% and they dry out even more when they sit at the store or in your storage until used.
It’s not the moisture that is the problem, but stresses build up in the wood when you rapidly dry it. The density differences in the wood is what causes it to have stress points. The longer it is stored prior to use the more the stresses naturally work themselves out.
Use A Riving Knife.
The riving knife is a thin piece of metal shaped like a shark or surfboard fin on the backside of your table saw blade. This prevents the wood from getting caught on the back of the blade if the wood drifts away from the fence. It can also help prevent the wood at the beginning of your cut from pinching and catching the blade which can cause a kickback.
Use A Splitter.
A lower profile option is a splitter. It is a smaller metal piece that performs the same function as the riving knife by keeping the wood from drifting away from the fence.
Consider A Crosscut Sled.
The crosscut sled uses jigs to keep your hands away from the blade and moves the fence forward along the blade instead of the side.
Always Use A Push Stick.
Using a push stick can help you keep more of a safe distance from the saw blade. It is a very easy technique to implement that is commonly forgotten or not followed. You can buy a push stick or create your own from some scrap wood.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down.
Maintain 100% focus when using this dangerous but extremely effective machine. Remember to implement all of the recommended safety equipment and procedures before starting your cuts.
What Is The Best Saw For A Beginner?
The best and safest saw for an absolute beginner would be any hand powered saw. This will help you understand the difference and danger level in hand saws vs power saws while learning how certain types of wood cut. You get a better feel when having to muscle through the wood on your own and can develop a higher appreciation for the material.
Traditionally There Are 3 Categories Of Hand Saws:
Also referred to as a panel saw. These hand saws have a thin flexible blade, handle and no rigid back on top of the blade or any kind of frame. They typically have larger teeth on the blade and are used for quicker rough cutting to length or width. They are pretty inexpensive and a quality one can be found for between $10-$20. The name happens to also be synonymous with all non-machine powered saws because they are powered by hand.
Back saws have a rigid steel or brass backing on top of the blade. This keeps it from bending allowing you to make more accurate and precise cuts into wood. They have smaller fine teeth on the blade creating a finer cut. They are more expensive in price and are used more for joinery and cabinet making.
Frame saws also known as “bow saws” or “turning saws” use tension to tighten a blade between two saw arms. These saws come in all types of variety for whatever purpose is needed like small or large teeth for fine and rough cutting. These are commonly used with a narrow blade and is great for cutting curves similar to a power bandsaw.
For more extensive information on Hand Saws check out https://woodandshop.com/woodworking-hand-tool-buying-guide-handsaws/#sawtypes.