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Thread: OK, I'm convinced - a blade guard is a good idea

  1. #1
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    OK, I'm convinced - a blade guard is a good idea

    I've always been a believer in using a splitter, and recently upgraded to a saw with a riving knife (Sawstop). However, I've never appreciated the blade guard, aside from the top of the blade dust collection. That changed today when I was cross cutting ~ 1/2" from a piece of scrap hardwood to make a jig. The cut off piece literally exploded and two small pieces wound up tightly jammed in the guard. If it had not been in place, who knows where they would have landed. I did not see any knots or defects in the wood that would have caused this. I feel very lucky, and have new respect that accidents can happen when you least expect it. I had to take apart the guard to remove the wood. If you need to do this just loosen the screws around the plastic. I tried to take the whole thing apart, and found I needed snap ring pliers I don't have. I got it back together minus the kick back pawls, which I never use.

  2. #2
    Ironically, the blade guard can be problematic with smaller offcuts. Often it will push or hold small peices into the blade.

  3. #3
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    The "kick-back pawls" are important too...put 'em back on. I figure Sawstop knew what they were doing when they put them there.
    "When the horse is dead, GET OFF."

  4. #4
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    Put the kickback pawls back in. They help keep pieces from shooting back at you for whatever reason.

  5. #5
    Back before riving knives were standard on US sold table saws and manufacturers put little money into engineering a decent blade guard setup, the majority of us took the blade guard off and tossed it in a drawer or cabinet somewhere in a dark corner. Some threw the thing away, so frustrated with trying to make it work and do so safely.

    I found mine to be more dangerous on than off. It would frequently jam the wood or stop it completely through the cut, leaving me only with the alternatives of turning the saw off, while not letting go of the wood, or trying to back it out safely. Some 20 years later I still don't have a blade guard and since removing it I've only had a couple of incidents that caused my heart to beat faster. My fault. I got too comfortable.

    Having spent decades working in construction and having been the appointed safety person numerous times (foremen are usually automatically appointed) and having taken many safety courses, including the OSHA 10-hour, I am fully aware that just because something is deemed safer doesn't mean that it is. The ultimate safety device is always the individual. Some safety measures and devices give the individual a false sense of security and can cause safety laziness. Whether it is me individually or the personnel under my watch, the order of the day is you are always the last line of defense against injuries.

  6. #6
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    Julie, only a moron would think that a guard will protect them from their own stupidity. I know those people do exist, but they will get hurt one way or the other just walking around. To remove a safety device from a piece of equipment is just asking for an accident. If the guard on your saw doesn't work to your satisfaction then modify or replace it, but don't just remove it. I don't care what you do with your own equipment, but it's really bad form to make a point here could easily be interpreted that others should do the same. You are correct that the ultimate safety device is you. However, no human can foresee every possible safety issue, the OP's posting being a great example. Guards help protect us when unforeseen problems arise - they are the real last line of defense.

    John

  7. #7
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    Definitely put the pawls back on. Trust me, if you haven't experienced a kickback, when you do, you'll be shocked at how quickly it happens. Do everything you can to avoid causing kickback, but in the event that it does happen, you need all the help you can get.

    Although to Johnny's point- my SS blade guard has caused kickback on me. When you have a narrow offcut piece, the "flaps" that pivot down on the side of the guard can cause the off-cut to wedge against the blade. When this kickback happened, I saw (no pun intended) it coming. I could see the offcut slowly working its way back to toward the front of the saw blade as it was wedged between the guard and the blade. I was standing to the side (as you always should!), hit the off switch with my thigh, and grit my teeth. Sure enough, about a second later as the blade was slowing down, BAM! the piece was gone and there was a dent in the wall about 10 feet behind me.

    So, I actually don't recommend using the SS blade guard when your offcut piece is too small to protrude out from underneath the blade guard. If it's small enough to get trapped between the blade and the guard, take the guard off.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    Julie, only a moron would think that a guard will protect them from their own stupidity. I know those people do exist, but they will get hurt one way or the other just walking around. To remove a safety device from a piece of equipment is just asking for an accident. If the guard on your saw doesn't work to your satisfaction then modify or replace it, but don't just remove it. I don't care what you do with your own equipment, but it's really bad form to make a point here could easily be interpreted that others should do the same. You are correct that the ultimate safety device is you. However, no human can foresee every possible safety issue, the OP's posting being a great example. Guards help protect us when unforeseen problems arise - they are the real last line of defense.

    John
    A guard is a physical presense saying "DANGER! WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!" For those times when your concentration slips and you bring your hand too close to the blade. I still wish these many years after, that my Craftsman radial arm saw had had a guard, any guard, to be there saying just that to my idiot self of the time.

    My new Unisaw has a decent guard, riving knife and pawls. They're all on the saw for every cut possible.

  9. #9
    I see two problems in the discussion above.
    A safety officer should make every effort to have all recommended safety devices installed on dangerous equipment. Accidents often happen at incredible speeds and removal of safety devices reminds me of Bill Cosby's plan to survive a plane crash by jumping up at the last second (incidentally a plan discredited on an episode of Mythbusters with respect to a plan to survive a runaway elevator).

    The problem discussed (cutoff being pushed in between the blade and the table insert by the blade guard) can be avoided by using a zero clearance insert and adjusting the blade guard or alternately with a well built sled with a blade guard covering the saw blade's path (and not contacting the cut-off).

  10. #10
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    OK i have to stand with Julie on this one. The final defense against injury is the operators common sense. If the piece to be cut off is small enough to be trapped between the blade and the guard not the insert, then the guard should be removed. A zero clearance insert will not help in this example. If it will protrude enough to be stable after the cut it should remain on the blade. But as she said "The ultimate safety device is always the individual". It is foolish to try to blame the machine for our own lack of forethought.

    Al Bacon

  11. #11
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    Floyd, let me clarify. The situation I'm referring to is when the off-cut gets trapped between the guard and the blade (not the guard and table insert, as you mentioned). When I experienced the kickback I described, I was using the factory zero clearance insert.

    Also keep in mind that the saw I'm advising Dave about is a Sawstop. The consequences of removing the blade guard on a sawstop are much less dire than other saws. We're weighing two potential injuries on the table saw: 1) hand-to-blade contact (amputation, etc) and 2) kickback. If using the guard can cause kickback, then the question is, which is worse: kickback or blade contact? On a sawstop, kickback is probably worse (although a brake firing can cost you $200 and the cost of a band aid). Trust me, I have a big scar on my forehead from a stupid thing I did on my Sawstop table saw. The lesson of the danger of kickback is permanently branded on my face.

    And of course there's another, much simpler (and safer) alternative we haven't discussed: use a different machine for the cut... The bandsaw. In fact, let me change my advice: if you have a cut you want to make on your TS where you can't (or shouldn't) use the blade guard, use the bandsaw instead.
    Last edited by Peter Aeschliman; 05-05-2013 at 12:56 PM. Reason: typo

  12. #12
    The OP is convinced that a blade guard is a good idea. Then I hope that he uses one and that it helps keep him safe.

    That being said I have not used a blade guard for over 20 years. Well I use one about 0.5% of the time for dust collection. I have all of my digits. I am not convinced that a blade guard is that helpful for safety so I don't use one.

    I have to agree with the "You're the last line of defense..." crowd 100 % and I've used this thinking to stay safe for over 20 years of woodworking and will continue to do so.

    I really think that people need to stop focusing on the guard issue and ask themselves why they are causing kick back events on the TS! Honestly, I read more about kick back on this forum than seems reasonable. I did mean "why they are causing kick back events" too. Either folks have not set their equipment up correctly, they have not understood how to use a machine safely, they have not examined the material being cut, or they chose the wrong technique to make a cut and to a person they marvel about how quickly IT happened. Truthfully when a kick back occurs it has been set up by the operator and should really be an expected outcome.

    Guards might reduce your exposure to injury - might. Proper technique and forthought will reduce your exposure to injury far better.

  13. #13
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    I'm in the blade guards are a good idea camp for safety and dust collection. Never installed the guard that came with my general 650. I soon bought a shark guard, and always use one of the different sized splitters, and use the guard unless the cut wont allow it. Over time I've picked up a felder guard and a sawstop guard, and my favorite is the sawstop (best dust collection). I mount both to my shark guard splitters. The guard/splitter works with my jessem mast r slide, so I dont have sled issues. I don't think prawls are that effective and don't use them. My 2 cents.

    ~mark
    Last edited by Mark Carlson; 05-05-2013 at 8:17 PM.

  14. #14
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    I suppose if you are a pro and use a saw everyday, all day, you automatically know by muscle memory where the spinning blade is and feel safe without a guard. For the rest of us, IMHO, you are safer with a guard than without. I have SharkGuard and keep it all at all times except when I am not doing a through cut or the piece is too narrow. I didn't always do that with my previous guard as it wasn't easy to remove and reinstall. There is a lot more to saw accidents than kickback issues. I tell ya, when I am ripping a piece, I feel a lot more comfortable when the piece reaches the splitter as I know I am almost guaranteed that I won't get a kickback.

  15. #15
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    After reading these replies I think using the guard in this case was a bad idea, in fact I think it likely caused kickback which is what caused the piece to shatter. This makes much more sense than my exploding wood theory, as I can see no defects in the wood structure that would have caused this. I never considered kickback could occur when cross cutting using a miter gauge or sliding table. In the future, I'll leave the guard in place except when ripping very thin strips or cross cutting pieces where the off cut does not protrude under the guard. Thanks for the feedback, this has been a learning experience.

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