No matter how many years I’ve used a table saw, my blood still runs cold when I think about the potential for a kickback that leads to injury. Thank goodness it hasn’t happened to me. But, others in our community haven’t been so fortunate. You don’t have to search woodworking forums for too long before you’ll find direct proof. The scary photos and war stories are definitely out there. There’s no debating the fact that kickback is one of the leading causes of table saw accidents. We all know it, but what are we doing in our shops to prevent it?
Fortunately, if you buy a new model of table saw, it’s going to come with a true riving knife that rises and falls with the blade. That’s a major step in the right direction. Hopefully, if you have an older model saw, you’re still using the splitter that helps to keep the kerf open behind the blade during a through cut.
But, maybe you are one of those woodworkers who, at some point in the past, abandoned your saw’s safety equipment. It could be that the splitter was hard to adjust accurately, or possibly it was fixed to a guard that limited your cutting capabilities or hampered your view of the cut as it happened.
I fear that there may be many of you who are sawing with nothing to protect you from the blade. You’re taking a gamble every time you make a cut.
So, for the sake of safer sawing, I’d like to let you know about a couple of products that could help prevent a horrifying kickback accident from happening. While neither of these products takes the place of a suitable guard, they should help to minimize those kerf-closing situations that occur when ripping stock or when a workpiece rotates off of the fence and binds the blade.
The first product is called BORK, which stands for Bolt On Riving Knife. Fellow reader Bob Ross has developed it as a retrofit riving knife for certain common table saws. It takes the place of a standard splitter and mounts to the saw’s arbor bracket with an adjustable clamp. The BORK is fully adjustable, and it remains a consistent distance behind the blade, regardless of blade height. Bob says that currently, his BORK will fit the following cabinet saws: Grizzly 1023, Delta Unisaw and the JET JTAS Series. You can also mount the BORK on Craftsman, Steel City and JET hybrid saws, plus some Delta contractor’s saws. It retails for $125.
Micro Jig offers several retrofit MJ Splitter products that fit into a standard zero-clearance throatplate you make yourself. A new version of this product—called the SteelPRO—has a stainless steel core with a polycarbonate shell. It’s actually a dual-style splitter. One splitter works like a featherboard to press the “keeper” workpiece against the rip fence, and a second splitter offset slightly behind the first holds the offcut away from the blade. You can buy SteelPRO versions for either full- or thin-kerf blades for around $30. Several major woodworking retailers offer SteelPRO.
There really is no compromise for safety, folks. Our reaction time isn’t fast enough to beat a table saw, and we can’t out-think every potential calamity. So, whether you blow the dust off of that guard/splitter and put it back on your saw, upgrade to a product like one of these mentioned here or invest in a new saw with improved safety features, let’s make 2010 a safer year at the table saw.
Catch you in the shop,
Chris Marshall, Field Editor