Table saw kickback is, plainly and simply, gnarly; it’s frightening, dangerous, damaging and surprisingly common. A kickback occurs during a cut when, for one of a few reasons, a piece of wood stock is violently flung from a table saw and back towards its operator. The stock is propelled by the force and momentum of the saw’s engaged blade and catapulted back at the user at speeds that can reach (or exceed) one-hundred miles per hour. Accordingly, it is not unheard of for a piece of material to lodge itself into a wall, to damage other shop equipment, or to cause serious injury (and, although less commonly, death) to the user behind the machine. In short, table saw kickback can be pretty terrifying.Of course, this is something you won’t see happening when you purchase the best table saw instead of some cheap second hand portable table saw from a woodcrafter you don’t know personally and who might have misused his table saw in the past.
How is Kickback Caused?
Table Saw Limitations:
The kickback phenomenon is the result of a variety of defects existing with or caused by the saw, the blade, the stock and, of course, by the operator. In fact, the majority of sliding compound table saw kickback accidents are the result of operator error. To begin, however, with machinery limitations, kickback commonly occurs where lower power machines are asked to perform tasks that are too aggressive. When confronted with a catch, a bind or some other anomaly that slows the blade during a cut, where a more powerful saw can cut through the catch, a smaller compound saw can’t maintain momentum, its blade catches the work piece and forces the stock to kickback at the operator. The actual girth of a machine also contributes to the momentum it is capable of producing; if a saw’s arbor and the motor’s rotor are heavy, this will usually generate enough force to push the blade through an abrupt obstruction.
Improper Blade Use:
Like a machinery limitation, defects in a table saw’s blade are also notable agitators in the kickback movement. In certain circumstances, anything from a dull blade to a dirty blade can spit your work piece back at you. In fact, dull, dirty, broken, bent or warped blades can cause a kickback. Each of these cosmetic defects forces too much contact between wood and blade, generates too much friction heat, and grossly increases the chances that your blade will bite into your stock and fire back at you.
Using a blade that is not designed for the application being performed is another precursor to kickback. The most frequent errors in this camp involve operators using blades that are too fine or two small. Where a blade is too small (or doesn’t reach (on average) 1″ to 1-1/2″ above the stock being cut), the only downward pressure applied to the saw blade is manual and usually not sufficient enough. Eventually, the forward movement of the stock forces the piece upward with the forward edge of the blade; this, of course, will fling a work piece in the direction the blade is spinning (which happens to be directly at the user). Additionally, where too-small saw blades are being used, more saw teeth are inside a work piece at any given time and each saw tooth passes through a greater amount of material before exiting the stock. This generates excess heat, friction, and drag on the motor causing the motor to perform much closer to its stall level and encouraging a little (or a lot of) kickback.
Quite like a blade that is too small, a blade that is too fine does not provide enough downward force on a work piece and similarly encourages lift-off. Accordingly, for your personal safety and for the integrity of your results, always use a saw blade that is designed for the task you’re performing. This will enhance the performance of your saw and the outcome of your work. You must also ensure your blades are clean, sharp, straight and intact; otherwise, you’ll end up with less-than-perfect results and possibly a piece of stock in your thigh.
Wood and Work pieces:
A Kickback can also be caused by the wood or stock being cut. In fact, under a few circumstances your work piece itself might be the biggest contributor to kickback. Stock with a twisting, knotted or locked grain, one with internal pressure, or wood that is wet or pitchy (sappy) will commonly result in kickback. These characteristics in a work piece will introduce obstructions and obstacles between the blade and the stock and will produce too much friction during the cut. As aforementioned, this can forced the saw blade to bite and spit. Where pieces of sheet stock are thin, kickback can also occur if the stock is flexible enough to curl with the rotation of the blade (or if the sheet happens to be curled already). Accordingly, it is important to ensure your sheet stock is not allowed to lift off the saw table. Where sheet stock is wider than it is long, it is also crucial to ensure that thiswork piece is not allowed to twist with the saw blade’s rotation (it is recommended that users employ a miter gauge to hold large pieces square). If lift or rotation occurs, a saw tooth (usually nearer the rear) will catch the piece and launch it forward; this causes the blade to dig rather than cut and produces, of course, kickback.
If you don’t want to encounter kickback problems with your new table saw I would encourage you to read up on a lot of table saw reviews on the bigger e-commerce sites such as Target or Home Depot from other users before you decide on which table saw you are going to buy to complete your woodworking jobs or DIY tasks at your home. If you have any questions regarding your portable or sliding table saw you can always reach out and send me your questions from the form on our website. I look forward to hearing from you.