Friday, August 16, 2013

V4.33 - Table Saw: Guards ‘n Sawstop

Last week we mentioned fences, but before we get into that, let’s take a look at one of the Table Saw’s most important safety features - the blade guard. There are several components of a blade guard. When talking about a conventional blade guard, there is the splitter, the housing, the mounting brackets and the anti-kickback fingers. One of the newer guard features that has come on the scene recently is the riving knife. While the riving knife has been featured on European saws for many years, it’s relatively new to the USA.

Pretty much every woodworker will agree that conventional guards get in the way and are generally a pain in the caboose, but the bottom line is – they DO work. If you use them properly and allow them to do their job, they will prevent you from injuring yourself. Sadly, most woodworkers think they are too smart, too experienced, too ‘whatever’ - insert your own descriptive phrase that means ‘Those are for other folks not me’ - to need one. That’s when they get complacent and find themselves missing a finger or worse. Guards are not just for dummys. As we used to say in the Navy, most safety rules are written in someone’s blood. Guards fit this saying very well. One can be sawing along and have a kickback which throws their hand into the blade and poof, all of a sudden, there is a stump where a finger used to be. It’s NOT a pretty sight. Guards WILL prevent that, but one has to be willing to actually USE them.

Nowadays one cannot talk about guarding of saws without mentioning a newfangled invention called “flesh-sensing technology”. The background of this is an invention of one Steve Gass and it is found on saws of his creation that are known as Sawstop. (note: for a video of how this works, just Google “Sawstop hot dog”)

The invention itself, is kinda kool, but the politics surrounding it have left many a woodworker confused and some even a bit hacked at Mr. Gass. Once you see the video, I’m sure you’ll be impressed. You’ll see a hot dog slowly passed across a saw table - directly into a spinning saw blade, then, faster than you can saw ‘wow’, the blade will disappear with a loud BANG! Then you’ll see the side of the wiener and it will have a small cut on it. The hot dog represents a person’s finger, which would normally be cut severely and it will only have a small scratch on it. A truly ingenious device that can, and has, saved many a digit, I am sure.

BUT…the method of how this invention has been presented to the market has soured many a folk. Details next time…

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