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I've seen people online claim that table saw fences should not extend very far past the rear-most part of the blade. They say that kickback is largely due to the fence being too long.

This doesn't make sense to me. I get that the piece will be less likely to get trapped between the blade and the fence, but if the front of the piece were to move past the plane of the fence, presumably the back end could be picked up by the blade.

Will a shorter fence reduce the likelihood or severity of kickback?


Here's the relevant part of a comment on this article:

Another obvious flaw: rip fences are too long. There is no good reason to have the rip fence extend beyond the cut. Doing so invites kickback.

Also, I really thought John Heisz mentioned something about a shorter fence on his table saw, but now I can't find it. Maybe it was in a video.

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    Can you link to those online claims? I'm curious on how they always keep the fence and the work piece parallel to the blade. – Maxime Morin Apr 18 '15 at 12:26
  • @MaximeMorin I was hoping no one would ask! But I found the one that prompted the question. It doesn't explain anything, unfortunately. – lars Apr 18 '15 at 17:20
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I believe the European table saw safety rules require the shorter rip fence. The theory of the shorter fence is that wood can have internal stresses (due to grain structure) which are relieved when cut, which can cause the fence side board to curve into the fence, pushing the board into the back of the blade causing kickback. The shorter fence allows the board to curve into space,

The shorter design does not address stress relief causing rear blade contact in other ways, such as closing down on the saw blade. A riving knife will prevent kickback in all of these situations.

Any full length fence can have a shorter piece of wood attached to the side to act as a shorter fence. My opinion is that a riving knife is the best choice for preventing kickback because it will prevent kickback any time the wood is forced into the back off the blade from either or both directions. With a riving knife in place, the shorter fence would prevent binding between the blade/riving knife and fence in the event the board curved into the fence.

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