The Danger of Inattention at the Table Saw

Last week I set up the miter gauge on my table saw to perform the repetitive operation of cutting the corners off 10 blocks of wood. I had been turning off the saw, letting it stop between each operation, and pushing the miter gauge back to the front of the saw. Then I would unclamp the block and turn it end for end or clamp a new block to the miter gauge. The setup worked well and I was about half done when I noticed I had to pick up my son in about 20 minutes. Of course I wanted to finish the job before I left the shop.

A few operations later, I got a little impatient waiting for the blade to stop, started to pull the miter gauge back, and accidentally lifted it out of the track while the saw was still spinning. Even though the table saw was off and the blade was spinning at maybe 10% of it's normal speed, the blade caught the miter gauge and ripped it out of my hands. The next thing I know the miter gauge was on the floor and I was thinking, "boy, that was really dumb." At that point I decided to cut my losses and turn off the lights for the day.

By design, my hands were nowhere near the jig, but that didn't stop the saw from twisting the miter gauge and hyper-extending my thumb. Looking at the damage the unpowered blade did to the miter gauge, I shudder to think of what would have happened if the blade was powered.

Before I used the blade again, I decided to make sure I hadn't damaged it. I got almost a full revolution around before I noticed the broken tooth. I took a second look at the miter gauge; I missed spotting a piece of tooth embedded in the bar the first time I looked. Of course I had just had this blade sharpened and had only made about 15 cuts with it. Luckily the broken tooth seemed to be the only damage; I called the guys I use to sharpen blades and they said they could fix if for about $5.

I filed down the bar and bent it straight again, but I didn't fill in the gouge, I wanted to have a reminder of what happens when you rush or let you attention wander.

Tools: table saw

Tags: kickback, miter gauge


Todd @ Tool Box Buzz's picture

That is scary! I learned my lesson with a table saw at a very young age. I was cutting some blocks with a miter gauge and only had a very small gap between the fence and the block. The block pinched and shot the block and miter gauge back at me.

From that day forward I've NEVER taken a chance with the saw. Tough lesson to learn but lucky I didn't really hurt myself.

Thanks for sharing...more people need to hear and see these stories so they understand what can happen.