Table Saw Safety Tips

February 21, 2011 | by Ethan (email) |

A good table saw is practically a necessity for lots jobs like installing hardwood floors. There’s been a lot of talk lately about table saw safety and whether or not the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will mandate the use of a new technology called the SawStop. No matter what you think about the SawStop, the onus is still on the user to be safe. This post includes some of the safety guidelines suggested by the The California Polytechnic State University and other best practices.


If you’ve never heard about the SawStop technology, it’s designed to immediately stop the blade when it comes in contact with skin. The saw blade will be shot but it’s a very effective safety mechanism. You can find lots of SawStop demonstrations on YouTube if you look around.

Table Saw Safety Procedures

Safety Equipment
Whether you’re using a table saw, miter saw or any other power tool, it’s important for the operator to wear safety glasses and, at times, a face shield. Skip the work-gloves as any good table saw will cut right through them and you’ll lose your sense of touch. You should also consider hearing protection, not just for a table saw but all power tools.


You want to run through a short list of checks before using a table saw. It’s not a bad idea to print out this list and tape it down to the surface of your saw as a constant reminder. This can also be useful when teaching teenagers to work with the tool.

  • Verify location of off switch and/or emergency power disconnect and ensure that the table saw is off before proceeding.
  • Check blade for tightness and sharpness.
  • Check the hood guard and anti-kickback devices for proper operation
  • If used, check to ensure the fence is set properly and tight
  • Ensure that the table is clear of materials, tools, and debris

Standing Position
Position yourself comfortably and well balanced but not directly in-line with the blade. Standing to the side of the wood minimizes the danger from kickback. Kickback occurs when, rather than cutting a board, the spinning saw blade grabs the board and throws it back at you.

If your stomach is in the way of the oncoming board when this happens, you could very well end up with a serious abdominal injury. The risk of this happening is increased when using a dull blade on the table saw, or when cutting hard lumber, such as jatoba, cumaru, or purple heart. Extra precaution is critical in this situation. We have found that this mistake is extremely common with new table saw users who may be careless in their standing position.

Set the blade height so that the top of the teeth are no more than a 1/4″ above the wood. Check the blade guards, splitters and anti-kickback device before starting. Always use the fence or miter gauge, and never try to cut freehand. Use feather boards to hold the stock securely against the fence and push sticks to move stock through the saw. Always keep your hand 6″ or more away from the blade.

Try to keep the boards moving through the saw at a slow and steady pace. If you try to overcut the board (moving it too fast), the risk of kickback is greatly increased.

Disconnect the power before changing the blade or servicing the saw (and double check).

The Right Saw Blade

Choosing the right saw blade can go a long way in keeping an operator safe, and it can be a huge difference in how well your saw performs. For a quick blade comparison, read Todd’s Saw Blade Comparison over at Home Construction & Improvement. It’s one of the better quick overviews of the different types of saw blades available.

What do you think? What safety suggestions can you add?
Image courtesy of AMagill and Robbie1

8 Responses
  1. Ethan,

    Great safety tips. You hit the head on the nail, it’s the user that needs to work safely. If you really want to spark a debate your readers should check out my recent editorial about the lobbying going on with SawStop. To say I’m annoyed is an understatement!

  2. I’d add one more tip, make sure the saw is completely stopped before you pull the miter gauge back or to clear away the scrap pieces from the table. That one’s from personal experience.

    I agree with the other safety tips except blade height. There is quite a bit of controversy about the safest blade height. On short notice the best article I could find to explain it was here:

    Basically when the blade is to low it pushes the wood back towards you whereas it it is higher it pushes the wood down towards the table. also when the blade is lower there are more teeth in contact with the wood putting more strain on the motor.

    Then there’s cut quality issues too with blade height. But that’s a different article.

    Personally I set the blade height at least high enough so that the gullets are clearing the material.

  3. I needed these tips! I’m actually planning out a design for pretty elaborate bookcase and will be getting reaquainted with my saws very soon.

  4. Jack Hoskinson says:

    Good Day all
    I am working with purpleheart wood using a tablesaw w/ a 10” blade what would be the best blade I should be use with purpleheart wood?

    • Ethan says:

      Hey Jack,

      This post is about table saw safety but Purpleheart wood is relatively hard and dense. I haven’t worked with it before but would suggest a Freud blade designed for ripping.

  5. haus356 says:

    Great tips – its scary the risks people will take when working with power tools.

    • JustME says:

      Yes it is haus. And they all don’t have to have blades to cause injury. My hubby and I were building the framing for our screened in porch when it was dinner time. I went in to start cooking and he stayed outside to get a bit more accomplished. He was holding two pieces of 2x4s to nail them together using the framing nail gun. Though his hand was more than far enough away from where the nail was intended to go the gun double shot bouncing the gun away from where it was intended to go and a nail went straight through one of his fingers just grazing the bone at the joint.

  6. HANDYMAN51 says:

    How does a novice determine a dull blade from a sharp one?

Leave a Reply