How Do I Prevent Dangerous Kickback On a Table Saw?

Most woodworkers argue that the table saw is probably the most dangerous tool in a workshop-that is not necessarily true. In fact, it is among the most versatile tools in wood projects, and you cannot ignore its value. Even so, you should approach it with caution. Also, it is possible to successfully use the tool once you learn the dangers it presents and how to keep safe. So, let’s delve into a critical question: how do I prevent dangerous kickback on a table saw?

The best way to prevent dangerous kickback is by using an anti-kickback device, and a splitter or riving knife on the table saw. The splitter and riving knife hold the kerf open behind the blade, and the wood does not close on the cut. On top of that, the anti-kickback device holds the lumber down against the table. Thus, it can’t fly across the workstation.

That said, please read through this article for more information about table saws, kickback situations, and how to ensure maximum safety during a woodworking session.

What Causes a Saw to Kick Back?

Image of a table saw bladeKick back is a scenario where the blade picks up the wood and violently throws it back at you. It happens within a split second, way faster than you can respond or react. More specifically, the occurrence happens when the workpiece sticks between the blade.

On top of that, the board kicks back during a rip cut, especially when it goes halfway through the saw. And worse still, the kerf begins pinching the blade. Usually, this situation leads to stalling. But the blade can flip the board up and hit you in the face when the table saw is powerful.

You will experience a kick back when the workpiece sticks between the blade’s back and the rip fence. Also, the danger is more evident if you had not aligned the table saw fence with the blade: the blade throws the wood at you as it spins. 

Additionally, a kick back is inevitable if a piece of lumber makes contact with the blade’s tooth. The wood gets lifted and flies in your direction with great force. Even worse, the blade may draw your hand, causing an amputation.

Other circumstances that encourage table saw kickback include having a cupped, warped, or twisted board, which binds against the blade. Also, you might be an injury victim if you make a crosscut without supporting the board well and it twists into the blade.

How Do You Prevent Table Saw Accidents?

Table saw accidents, especially kickbacks happen so fast even before you think of the most suitable reaction. Therefore, you can transit from a healthy woodworker to an injured person within the twinkling of an eye.

Thankfully, you are not all powerless. It is possible to prevent these accidents and keep safe even when working with table saws. Check out the following measures that will keep you confident yet careful during projects.

  • Invest in Basic Safety Features

Modern table saws usually have safety features that keep you out of harm’s way. One of these features is a riving knife, which stays close to the teeth at the blade’s back. It prevents the workpiece from pinching or touching the blade and its teeth. In addition, the accessory goes up and down with the blade and provides superior support regardless of the blade’s height.

It is best always to install a riving knife at all times, even if you are making singular cuts. The only time you can work without it is when you have a dado set. Alternatively, you can use a splitter as it works like a riving knife.

Although the splitter is not as effective as a riving knife, it does not rise or go down once you adjust the blade’s height. Nonetheless, it keeps the workpiece from squeezing the blade. Thus, it works just fine in keeping you safe.

Besides that, the Underwriters Laboratories UL 987 Standard for Stationary and Fixed Power Tools have a requirement: Manufacturers must fit all table saws with riving knives that rise and fall rhythmically with the blade.

A blade guard is another safety equipment that reduces the chances of getting hurt poon a saw table. Often, woodworkers think that its sole purpose is to keep your fingers from interacting with the blade. But it works to keep you from dropping the wood on the blade.

Interestingly, some woodworkers prefer to remove the blade guard. They complain that it obscures the view and can lead to inaccurate cuts. However, it is prudent always to keep the blade guard on no matter what.

  • Avoid Free-Hand Cuts

Free-hand table saw cut commercials are nothing to go by if you want to work safely. Please ensure that there are no free-hand table saw cuts in your workspace. In addition, there is a reason why manufacturers equip table saws with miter gauges and rip fences.

For instance, a miter gauge provides support as you make crosscuts. On the other hand, rip fences support the stock as you push it through the blade. Therefore, you deliver successful rip cuts.

In addition, it would be best to avoid using the rip fence and the miter gauge simultaneously. Otherwise, the workpiece will jam and result in a kickback. Thus, your safety measures and tools may register fruitless.

  • Do Not Crosscut With the Rip Fence

Although the table saw can present serious safety hazards, it is a favorite tool in the workshop. For example, it allows you to make rip cuts easily. But still, it would be best to avoid the tool when making quick crosscuts to cut a board into multiple identical pieces.

In the above case, the rip fence will not be effective as a supporting barrier for crosscutting. Instead, the workpiece gets stuck between the blade and the fence. Therefore, the board will soon be on your face, thanks to the spinning blade.

Worse still, the fence and the blade may be out of alignment and thus may push the wood on the blade’s back and lift it. This scenario becomes a more exacerbated problem than the first.

It is also wise to examine the dimensions of the workpieces, especially if you use the fence as support for your crosscuts. Ideally, the board’s width, the distance between the fence and the blade, cannot exceed its length. Otherwise, the blade generates a torque that spins the workpiece towards the blade’s back. Even worse, the blade may draw your hands, leading to an amputation.

That said, there are tons of methods to crosscut on a table saw safely. You can consider using a miter gauge to guide the stock through the blade. Or better still, you can clamp a stop block to the fence to facilitate accurate length measurement.

Alternatively, you can build a crosscut sled, a moving platform that you insert into the miter slots. The strategy guides the workpiece through the blade. Therefore, it becomes the fastest, most convenient, and safest crosscutting technique on a saw table.

  • Use a Push Stick

It would be discouraging to say that no single technique will deliver 100% protection from kickback. But that’s the truth. Therefore, please consider using a push block or push stick whenever you cut wood.

The push stick keeps your hands far away from the blade. So, your hands will not move towards the blade during a kickback. In addition, the push stick will serve as a kickback counter-measure as it gives you better stock control.

Even so, there are a few essential things to learn about a push stick. For example, it would be best to place the stick at the board’s middle. Otherwise, the stock on the side can twist it and move towards the blade’s back.

On top of that, please apply more force towards the fence’s side and not towards the blade as you push the stock. It is also prudent to take utmost care when pushing wood hanging off the table saw’s side.

Lastly, avoid applying downward pressure to the stock’s end. This way, you keep it from rising on the other side, lifting courtesy of the blade’s back teeth and smacking you on the face. You can even get two push sticks to secure the board on both sides.

  • Avoid Cutting Crooked Stock

An uneven board surface hinders continuous contact with the miter gauge or the rip fence. Thus, the saw can release pressure on the warped or twisted spot as it goes through the crooked grain. Also, this pressure presses on the blade and causes a kickback.

Besides that, working with boards with knots can be hazardous. They can also result in blade pinching.

  • Assess Your Blade

Generally, a dull saw is often an unsafe saw. It will give you trouble as you cut stock, leading to overheating and warping. Thus, you’ll inevitably experience a blade and fence misalignment.

  • Be Attentive

Please make it a policy to avoid the table saw when you are not at your best. Be it because of a bad nights’ sleep, a common cold, or fatigue. Always assess your mental and physical state before using the tool.

Have a plan on how you’d want to push the workpiece through the blade. It would be better to imagine and visualize the cut before you swing to action. Also, avoid cutting the project if it feels weird or inaccurate.

Always take a step back and determine the best way to cut the wood. In addition, it would be best to avoid awkward positions during the cut. The last thing you’d want is to lose your balance.

Finally, always be attentive and do not let your guard down. Allow yourself to rest if you feel groggy or sleepy. Remember that your safety comes first! You can always return to the workshop tomorrow.

Is a DIY Table Saw Safe?

It is very tempting to DIY a table saw using a circular saw. Mostly because a good table saw is expensive, and even a cheap one ends up being quite pricey. But, customizing a circular saw to function as a table saw is dangerous and thus not a good idea.

A DIY table saw does not have the necessary safety parts of even the most basic saw. More specifically, it does not have kickback pawls, a riving knife, and a blade guard. Therefore, your homemade saw leaves you vulnerable to kickbacks, the most common cause of injury from a table saw.

On top of that, rigging up any sort of blade guard can be challenging. Hence, you expose yourself to binding, which makes matters even worse. There is also a danger in having wood pieces hanging in your makeshift fence.

In addition, the above scenario assumes that you have a fence. And lacking one means that you are doing a free-hand cut. Big mistake! The offcut can bind against the blade and cause severe problems.

Please remember that cutting yourself is not the only injury from a table saw. Kickbacks are quite common. They occur when the blade gets a stuck board and shoots it in your direction. The occurrence happens at high speed, and you won’t have time to jump out of the way or duck.

Besides that, a circular saw motor does not deliver much power as a table saw motor. Hence, you are more likely to have burn marks when cutting harder or thicker wood. Clean and smooth cuts are only possible with a table saw.

Are there alternatives to making a table saw from a circular one? You may ask. Well, it would be best to buy an inexpensive saw instead of making an underpowered and dangerous makeshift table saw.

Which Two Items Should Never be Used Together On The Table Saw?

The miter gauge and the fence are essential features of a table saw. They aid in making precise cuts safely and keep you from attempting dangerous free-cuts. Nonetheless, they are the two primary items that you should not use together on the table saw.

You will end up with pieces of stock binding against the fence and thus create an enabling environment for a kickback.

Should You Use Gloves With a Table Saw?

Please avoid using gloves with a table saw just like you would keep away from loose-fitting clothing. Gloves stick in the blade and create dangerous situations. They also increase the risk of injury rather than minimizing it.

In addition, you need to engage all your senses when working with a table saw. But wearing gloves reduces or minimizes our sense of touch. Therefore, you may not realize it when your hands move towards the blade.

Nonetheless, you can use the accessories only when handling rough wood. But even then, please avoid them. It would be best to let your hands toughen, and the splinters decrease rather than risking them altogether.

Lately, remember that rough fingers are always better than no fingers. So, please take care!

What Is a Riving Knife Used For On a Table Saw?

Image of a vacuum cleanerA riving knife is a safety accessory on a table saw, radial arm saw, or circular saw. The manufacturer usually attaches it to the saw’s arbor and fixes it relative to the blade. Also, the accessory moves with the blade as you adjust its length.

You do not need to remove the knife from the saw during cross cutting projects or when making blind cuts. It does not extend above the saw blade’s top and thus will not hinder your vision.

Besides that, the feature is independent and does not interfere with dust collectors and other blade guards. Hence, it would be best not to uninstall it. Moreover, you may expose yourself to kickbacks and other related scenarios if you forget to put the knife back.

Riving knives sit close to the blade’s back edge and make it more effective; the stock has no space to shift into the blade’s path. Therefore, you get added protection from the blade’s edge.

What Is the Difference Between a Splitter and a Riving Knife?

The main difference between a splitter and a riving knife is that a riving knife moves up and down with the blade. It also keeps the same distance from the blade at all times. On the other hand, a splinter remains at a specified fixed height. The manufacturer mounts it to the table trunnion, and thus it bevels with the blade.

Additionally, the new regulations say that the riving knife should move freely and easily. They also encourage manufacturers to install it in line with the blade. Therefore, the user will not have to make any further adjustments.

Conversely, sometimes you’d need to remove a splitter. Hence, it is easy to uninstall the accessory, especially when making dado cuts. But it would be best to remember to reinstall the splitter to avoid kickbacks.

Besides that, splitters and riving knives come in handy when keeping the lumber open to prevent kickbacks. However, splitters are always a good two inches away from the blade because of their mounting formula.

On the other hand, riving knives adopt a fixed distance from the blade. The usual setting ranges from ¼ to ⅜ inches. Also, the thinner the stock, the larger the gap between the splinter and the blade, and the more the kickback danger.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most asked questions regarding table saw, it uses and dangers include:

  • What Are The Two Biggest Dangers When Using a Table Saw?

The biggest dangers when using a table saw are the rotating saw blade and its sharp teeth. But still, you cannot eliminate these features as they comprise a working table saw. Thus, it would help to reduce your exposure to hazards delivered by the saw blade.

Besides that, please consider wearing hearing protection and safety glasses. Also, avoid loose-fitting clothing, jewelry, and neckties as they increase the risk of injury. Thus, invest in suitable clothing before embarking on the project.

  • What Causes Injury From a Kickback?

The major cause of injury from a kickback is the wood moving so quickly. Hence, you do not have time to take your hand off it, and it pulls across the saw blade. Also, you get injuries because of the trauma from the wood striking your torso, chest, or head.

  • Why Do I Have to Push the Workpiece Harder Through the Table Saw?

The workpiece becomes harder to push through the saw blade if it shows splintering, burnt, ragged, or torn grain. This scenario often appears along the board’s edges where you cut. Therefore, it would help to clean, replace, or adjust the blade.

In addition, you may be experiencing problems getting the workpiece through the table when you have a torn or damaged blade. Here, the only option is to get a brand new accessory.

  • How Can I Tell If a Table Saw Is Accurate?

It is very easy to tell if your table saw is accurate. Start the process by rotating the reference tooth to the saw’s rear. Then, move the dial indicator towards the rear’s position and position its head in the same place on the reference tooth.

Check the reading to see if it is zero, as it shows that the blade and the miter slot are in alignment. An otherwise discovery requires you to make further adjustments. But you can always get professional advice or tutorials if you are stuck.


Kickback qualifies to be among the most dangerous events that occur on a table saw. The scenario can easily have you severely hurt by a spinning blade or hit by a flying wood piece. Therefore, it would be paramount to do everything in your power to keep yourself safe. So, let’s answer the query:

How Do I Prevent Dangerous Kickback On a Table Saw?

You can prevent kickback occurrences by investing in a quality table saw with safety features like a riving knife and a blade guard. In addition, it would help to avoid free-hand cuts and ensure 100 percent attentiveness when using the tool.

Please follow the tips in this guide and make a deliberate decision to prioritize your safety when woodworking. Also, ensure that you get protective gear and avoid dangerous accessories such as neckties, gloves, and jewelry.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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