|I have been wanting to write something
about shop saftey for a while, but couldn't find a good way to get into it. Fortunately
someone else did it for me.
D'Arcy McLean (who I believe is a subscriber to this mail list and also a contributor
to our woodworking forums this week posted the question, "How many people
use their table saws without the blade guard?
He says, "In the school shops and home shops that I've seen, the blade guard
is never on. I'm wondering why? Is it possible that the blade makes the tool unsafe
because you cannot see where the blade is?"
These questions attracted a lot of response. Here are some of my favorites:
Richard responded, "I tried the thing for a couple of weeks 5 years ago.
I do too much cutting that requires the removal of the blade guard to keep putting
the thing on and off. I have seen one that might work though. It's an overhead
attachment so it doesn't get in the way of cutting slots and the like. The other
thing I do a lot is lower the blade below the table when I am finished using the
Tractor Man wrote, "Every school shop that I have been in has a guard in
place, though they are not actually used at the local tech school. My old Walker-Turner
saw didn't have a guard when I got it. I am careful to avoid the blade by using
push sticks, etc., but every saw should have a guard. Slip-ups can happen no matter
how careful you are! A guard should be used whenever possible. No, I don't practice
what I preach but that's another story. By the way, I bet that Norm Abrams doesn't
remove his guard "for clarity," I bet he took it off and threw it away!"
Pat Scida said, "I never use the blade guard. The blade guard that came with
my Delta Contractors Saw was just not helping so I took it off. I ordered an anti-kick
back accessory and that problem is taken care of when I'm ripping...."
Mark H. sees the other side of the blade guard question: "I have stitched
many people back together after a close encounter with a table saw blade. I always
ask if they were using the blade guard. For the most part they were not. It is
unfortunate that popular woodworking shows like the New Yankee Workshop do not
show blade guards in place. I'm guessing this is done for clarity of the picture,
but a disclaimer should be shown.... I do note that Scott Phillips in the American
Woodshop does use guards all the time and talks safety all the time. Bottom line:
Use the guards. They are there for a reason."
Jim Toews echoes those views. "I work in an emergency room and have seen
a fair number of table saw injuries over the years. In each case, the patient
said he had not been using the guard. I always use the guard on my saw.... Although
I type with only two fingers, I still have all ten."
And Paul Mayer has been there: "I used my saw without the guard, until I
ripped my right index finger (that's right, ripped, not crosscut). The accident
would not have occurred if I would have been using the guard. It's a little extra
work, but just do it. As my woodworking mentor has coached me: 'Be smarter than
And finally, Mark Zod relates that he reluctantly bought an aftermarket guard
that cost around $350. "I bought it despite the cost, based on something
I learned when taking flying lessons. It turns out that most small plane crashes
don't happen to beginners. They are too nervous and their adrenaline is way up.
The long timers also have good records from their extensive experience. It's those
guys right in the middle, not the beginners and not experts, who think they know
what they're doing that get in trouble. Getting only a few hours of woodworking
in a week, I'm going to be right in that middle category for a very long time."
And I think most of us are in that category, too.
Follow-Up originally appeared in Tip #25: Last week,
the topic here was table saw safety, and I presented some interesting posts from
our woodworking forum about the value of using a blade guard. In response, Glen
Smith of Tucson, Arizona wrote that while he agrees with the need to use a blade
guard, the people he knows personally who have been injured on a table saw have
said that the blade was not as sharp as it could have or should have been. "Keeping
tools sharp is the best safety advice I ever received from anyone," he said.
I'll second that.
Go to Tip #25