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I'm new to using a table saw and recently bought an inexpensive Craftsman saw since I'm a DIYer and don't use a saw often. It came with 3 devices to install over the blade for safety - splitter, etc. Yet in YouTube videos most users don't use these safety features. Is there a good reason why they don't?

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Yet in YouTube videos most users don't use these safety features. Is there a good reason why they don't?

Particularly on professionally-made video, the safety devices are sometimes removed for the purposes of photography to show how the saw blade is making the cut, and they can shoot from various positions that would otherwise have had that angle of view blocked.

However, that doesn't describe the situation in most YouTube vids. I'll be blunt here, some of this will be complacency or a refusal to accept the reality that table saws are dangerous on the part of those woodworkers, the "It'll never happen to me." attitude.

Some of it is also just down to laziness — they take guard off for one job and don't routinely put it back in place... and, um, sometimes never put it back :-)

You do have to remove the blade guard for certain operations, using a cross-cut sled is probably the best example. See more on these very useful jigs here if you're interested, How can I cut a 90 degree angle with a table saw?

The splitter, also called a riving knife, is a simple but extremely effective means to help prevent what's called kickback (note: not 100% effective). This can happen for a number of reasons, one is if the kerf you just cut in the piece of wood closes up and pinches onto the saw blade, sometimes just due to flex in the workpiece (can happen with plywood for example) and sometimes due to released internal tension in the wood. Google case hardening and reaction wood for more on why wood can move once cut.

When kickback happens the workpiece is ejected at high speed (more than 100mph) and if you're standing in line with the blade, potentially causing serious injury.

People who have been careful enough to be standing off to one side of their table saw when doing cuts that have a greater potential for kickback and it has occurred tell sobering tales of the almost unbelievable force with which the wood can be flung across the workshop. It doesn't take much imagination to picture what might have happened if the user had been hit, but it literally can lead to internal injuries if the torso is struck.

Read more about kickback here, Tablesaw Kickback - The Nightmare Explained and Tablesaw kickback video ends badly.

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    In Jr. high, I saw the result of a 2x4 kicking back during a rip cut. The board was thrown about 35-40' across the classroom (over the student & teacher desks), and left a deep, nearly perfect, 2x4 indentation in the blackboard at about head height. Fortunately, nobody was in the way, and all the students were at the various machines, and not in their seats. As far as I know, the blackboard was never repaired/replaced as an example of the danger of the table saw. – FreeMan Apr 13 '16 at 13:12
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Probably the most applicable reason in the case of YouTube videos is that these devices get in the way of the video and make it difficult to see what the operator is doing. I think it would be rare to see someone without a riving knife, but skipping the full splitter and blade guard is pretty common.

Similarly, you won’t see a lot of people wear dust masks or respirators in videos either, again only for looks.

If you are new to the space, stick with the provided safety devices until such a time you can make an educated decision on your own as to if you wish to exclude them.

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I think some people do not use splitters because they have points that can mar the wood. I use splitters.

I do not normally use the top guard. The top guard is there I think to prevent a situation where you would slip and fall onto the blade. The problem is that the top guard is very cumbersome and gets in the way. Personally I think the top guard is more likely to cause an accident than prevent one.

Anytime you have some cumbersome device that will cause fumbling and fooling around or weird gyrations to use, you have a situation where the device is likely doing more harm than good.

I always use a push stick on any cut under 2" in width and often a full hold down, not so much for safety, but because it helps me get a clean, accurate cut. The extra safety is just a side benefit.

In general, manufacturer-provided guards are just half-measures that do not really protect you. You have to go way beyond those gimmicks and think: what procedures and tools do I need to use to make my operation safe? And the answer to that question will be different depending on what operations you are doing.

  • Personally I think the top guard is more likely to cause an accident than prevent one. agreed. It's best to know where the blade is, and not get used to feeling something when your hands are near the blade. – JDługosz Apr 13 '16 at 3:13
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I recall a Craftsman table saw where the guard assembly was so awful and difficult to put on the first time that after taking it off I knew it wasn't going back on.

There are safety devices and accessories that are more subtle in appearance. You can get tiny splitters that you might not notice at all if you were not looking, sprouting from the clearance plate.

For anti-kickback, rollers that ratchet to only turn one way, attached to the fence are great for ripping things where the fense is near the blade. You may see that and not realize it's both a hold-down and an anti kick device.

The cover over the blade does nothing to stop your hand from feeding into it. As with the board passing under, so will anything pushing. I think some of these things sold with cheap saws at least are more about corporate CYA than effective usefulness!

The best safety devices are pusher sticks, proper posture and motion for the cut, and a lack of beer.

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    Sobriety and paying attention go a long ways toward being safe. – user285 Apr 13 '16 at 4:07
  • Yeah, save the beer for relaxing after the work is done! – FreeMan Apr 13 '16 at 13:13
  • Thank you all. The answers all made sense to me and fall right in line with what I was thinking is just common sense -- in using the saw and in also taking personal responsibility for safety without trusting much in some device or other. ~ Chuck – Chuck Custer Apr 13 '16 at 22:41

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