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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Here’s Why You Should Buy a Push Block for Your Table Saw

A Microjig Grr-ripper, and orange push block on a table saw.
Josh Hendrickson

Nearly every table saw comes with a single push stick. But that’s not enough. You need at least a push stick and push block to provide proper pressure contacts. Otherwise, your cuts won’t be straight, and you’re risking a severe injury.

Using a table saw always involves some amount of risk. You are moving the material towards and through a sharp spinning blade. Depending on how powerful your table saw is, the blade spins between 30,000 and 50,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). That so fast your eyes can’t keep up.
When it comes down to it, anything capable of cutting through wood can cut through your soft fleshy body. Even without considering the risk of injury, you run the risk of experiencing kickback, and your cut won’t be straight, leaving you with disappointing results.

Kickback is Incredibly Dangerous

Warning: The following section discusses the dangers of table saws and may make some readers squeamish or uneasy; we recommend skipping to the next section if that describes you.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of kickback in woodworking, count yourself lucky. Kickback occurs when the spinning blade of your table saw grabs a piece of the material you are cutting, lifts, and throws it at high speeds. Because the blade spins towards you, the wood, in turn, is thrown in your direction and may hit you hard enough to injure or even kill you.

That isn’t the only danger from kickback. Because the blade is pulling the wood onto it, the process draws your hands towards the blade as well. If you’re lucky, you have minor cuts. But it’s also possible you could lose fingers to the spinning blade.

One form of kickback occurs during a rip cut as some of the wood begins to pass the backside of the blade. If the material drifts away from the rip fence, a corner of the wood can catch the rising teeth of the blade, which pulls the wood onto the blade, leading to a thrown wood piece.

The following is a video demonstrating this type of kickback. Fair warning, the person in the video comes out uninjured (just barely), but it’s still scary to see how close they come to serious injury.

As the video shows, this kickback occurs as your wood piece drifts away from the rip fence and into the blade path. You can prevent this and other forms of kickback by using proper safety equipment and technique. The first piece of equipment is a riving knife.

A tablesaw blade, slightly raised, with a riving knife behind it. A yellow safety switch lays to the side.
The slender piece of metal behind the blade is a riving knife and is crucial for safety. Josh Hendrickson

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