Accuracy of cuts is a vital thing for woodworkers. For quick and accurate works table saw is an excellent yet risky choice. Especially you can get a smooth straight cut in a short time. It is a powerful tool. Hence it comes with built-in safety features. The blade guard is one of those safety features.
Now, what is this blade guard? It is a plastic-made facility that bars the blade physically when the human skin touches the blade. It is placed on the table saw blade. This part is usually made of transparent plastics. The primary purpose of a table saw blade guard is pretty loud and clear.
To keep your fingers safe from getting cut is the first task of this tool. It has the word ‘guard’ in the name. Besides, the blade guard prevents woods to land on the spinning blade right and left. The interesting thing is that this is another basic task of the blade guard.
Is Blade Guard Necessary for a Table Saw?
This is a debatable question to answer directly. Now we are not going to advocate for using blade guards. What we are trying here is to throw a shade on different aspects. You will make your own judgment. We are going to find out the answer through several long discussions. First, we will be talking about blade guard on table saw purposes a little more elaborately. Then we will discuss if it is safe to use or not.
We talked earlier about the purposes of the blade. But only guarding woodworkers or operators is certainly not the purpose of the machine. Let’s see those other major purposes in detail:
- Retraining the woods from falling on the spinning blade is a major one. These woods can hit your face or run around the workshop due to the speed rush of the table saw. If you are not an experienced worker, then there are high chances that the wood would hurtle toward you. This happens often.
- Wood pieces can straight run toward your face sometimes. Table saw blade guard prevents that possibility. We all know that these chips are very good for your gardens. You can recycle them. They can be used for mulching! But without the blade guard, they can create sores in your face quite easily.
- A large amount of dust can be, or rather should be a concern for woodworkers. Managing dust sometimes gives us headaches. Some table saws come with a dust collection feature and they keep the collection place right at the blade guards.
- A table saw blade guard can significantly minimize potential accidental cuts while working. That means the tool is capable of reducing risks.
Lots of people find blade guards irritating or unnecessary. Many people do not consider it as an effective safety feature. Sometimes you have to remove and replace the splitter. Experienced workers do not like to do that. We have gathered some reasons behind this reluctance:
- The first thing we found out is that after working consistently people learn to control the table saw. Most of the time they actually get good control with better and tougher guarding techniques. So, they do not feel the necessity to use blade guards.
- Some operators complain that they cannot properly see the cuts being made. Because the blade guard makes it difficult for them to see clearly. They do not prefer anything between their sight and the blade even if it is something transparent. As per my observation, this is more like psychological than technical issues.
- Sometimes operators have to remove the guard several times back-to-back while working. For example, table saw blades are very good for some non-through cuts. Now, while doing cuts like dados and grooves they need to remove the guard. In addition, they have to remove the guard while making thin cuts.
Some cuts are easy for them with blade guards. Some cuts are difficult. Those cuts are easier for them with different safety techniques. The noticeable point here is these people are expert enough to save their fingers while working.
Also, the operator needs to choose the direction of the next cuts. The see-through body of the blade guard ensures this facility. So all these things make the point that blade guard is necessary for at least the beginners. You cannot ignore this safety issue as a fresher.
Now, let’s see something from a different view. One of the important things about blade guards is to reduce the risk of kickback injuries. (Reduce. Not totally diminishing). As we know a table saw can help you with some great woodcuts.
You will have to be extra attentive while getting your desired fine cuts. Also, it is not a beginner’s task to make fine cuts. It gets tougher if you have to worry about getting kickback injuries at the same time. Even pretty experienced operators get kickback injuries. These are quite serious and capable of giving deep cuts.
My observation says that you get used to different cuts with the blade guard. Keep doing that until you master those cuts. Only after that, try to experiment with other safety techniques. Notice which cuts make you not that much comfortable with blade guards. A powerful machine like the table saw should never be used unguarded. Safety comes first.
Is a Riving Knife Necessary?
Before we discuss the answer to this question, let’s get a clear idea about what a riving knife is. It is another safety feature of table saw. It is a curved steel shaft. It is attached to the saw in a fixed position to prevent kickbacks basically.
When you cut a wood board through a table saw, you see the cut or the split is wider at some parts. And it is thinner at some other parts. These thin splits happen because the wood pinch on the back of the saw blade. At the same time the saw turns toward the operator progressively.
This whole situation creates force on the table saw and the board kickbacks toward the operator at that progressive speed. It injures the operator severely. Riving knives block pinch-ins when woods arrive at the back of the saws. This blocking helps to prevent the kickbacks. The better part is it keeps the kerf wide. Now there is something that I should mention at this point.
You will not be able to work with the wood if the kerf is not appropriately wide. Too thin will not let you have smooth cuts. Too wide will let the wood hold for long. So what to do? Do not be afraid. The solution is very simple. Make sure your riving knife is thinner than your table saw blade. This simple trick will give you smooth and consistent cuts.
This safety tool has been coming along with table saw for a long time. But the inclusion of riving knives to all table saw designs was mandated in 2009 by Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL). The riving can either be portable or cabinet. But every table saw has to come with this safety tool.
Now the necessity of Riving knives is unquestionable. But it is not necessary for simple non-through cuts. Some cuts do not need kerfs and have no pinching in issues. For example, using dado blades to get simple and small cuts. In those cases, I would suggest removing the riving knife. If you want, you can keep the knife at that time.
There is another safety tool called ‘Splitter’. As per looks, splitter and riving knives are similar. Splitter also protects workers from kickbacks. But these two tools are not the same. How do they differ? When you move your table saw upper or lower than the table, check if the distance between the saw blade and the knife/splitter remains exactly the same or not. If the distance is constant, then it is a riving knife. If the distance changes then it is a splitter.
The riving knife is placed at a fixed position to the saw. That brings the same distance. Splitter is placed in a stationary position. That brings the distance difference. The constant distance with any placing of the saw gives you a standard width of kerfs. Now, which one to choose for safety issues? I will always suggest the riving knife. Remember, riving knives are made mandatory, not splitters.
What Is a Required Guarding for a Table Saw?
If we properly look at the safety systems that come with a table saw, we will get three names: blade cover (which is basically the guard), anti-kickback pawls and riving knife. Anti-kickbacks are attached to the back of riving knives or splitters to stop kickbacks. Every tool here has a particular purpose to serve. They all have different functions.
They are required for a table saw as per their functions and necessities. However, you cannot pick one over another. For example, no matter what type of cut you are working on, I will always suggest attaching the blade guard if you are not an expert yet.
Also, it is very important to place these tools properly. If you think that you do not need to use the blade guard while using the riving knife, then you are wrong. Learn to place them properly before plugging. Then attach these tools.
What Is the Main Purpose of the Blade Guard on the Miter Saw?
Miter saws are popular among beginners. We know that angled cuts and crossed cuts can be made easily and finely with this saw. Just because it is very easy to handle, does not necessarily mean that it is not dangerous. These saws can cause accidental injuries. These saws can be very dangerous if not guarded. In the case of a miter saw, the saw moves outward from the operator while working.
That means that the saw spins in the opposite direction to the operator. When the saw lowers the blade to contact the wood, at that time the guard protects you from possible kickbacks. Another purpose of this guard is to protect the saw blade also.
We put an effort here to give you a basic understanding of the safety options of working with a table saw. We can clearly see that a blade guard is to protect your fingers and the riving knife is to protect your belly parts and face basically.
My recommendation is to use all the available safety tools attached to the saw. Read the manual thoroughly at first. Learn the precautions. Get familiar with the saw machine by regular use. While getting familiar with the saw, attach every available safety tool for your own sake.