A woodworker’s worst nightmare – kickback. Kickback is extremely dangerous and leads to thousands of injuries every year. However, many times, kickback is preventable if you follow the proper safety precautions. Maybe you’re here because you’re new to the woodworking and DIY space and you’ve never heard of kickback. Perhaps you already know what kickback is, and you want to learn ways to prevent it. Don’t fret, we’re going to cover exactly what kickback is and the top ways to prevent it!
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What is Kickback?
So, what is kickback and why does it happen? Kickback typically happens when pushing the stock through a blade rotating at a high rate of speed. Many times, when people refer to kickback, they are referring to kickback from a table saw. Whenever kickback happens, the wood you’re pushing through the blade gets launched back towards you at a high rate of speed. From severe bruising to literally being penetrated by a shard of wood, kickback can cause some gut-wrenching injuries. Even worse, you may lose placement of your hand on the stock and end up putting your hand right in the saw-zone. Yea, not a pretty sight!
Therefore, kickback is the last thing you want to experience as a woodworker! Luckily, there are several ways to prevent kickback from ever happening. But, before we find out how to prevent kickback, we must first understand why the table saw kickback happens in the first place.
Why Does Kickback Happen?
Kickback may occur for several different reasons. One of the most common reasons kickback may occur is due to the stock getting caught between the fence and blade. Essentially, the wood is getting pinched and squeezed with such force that it has nowhere to go, except right back at you. Typically, this is the result of a misaligned blade or fence.
Another reason kickback may occur is due to the stock becoming misaligned during a cut. Rather than sliding straight through the blade, sometimes the wood can start to move away from the fence and rotate towards the blade. The stock may then get caught on the back tooth of the blade and lift on top of the blade. From there, the blade will lose track of the cut and launch the wood towards you at a dangerous rate of speed.
So, now that we’ve discussed what kickback is and why it happens, let’s go over some of the safety rules for woodworking to help you avoid it!
How to Prevent Table Saw Kickback
Use a Riving Knife
The first way to avoid kickback is to use a riving knife on your table saw. Typically, table saw kickback is caused by the back teeth of your blade. Fortunately, a riving knife goes right on the back of your blade. Therefore, your riving knife will get in the way of your stock getting pinched or pulled into the back of the blade. A riving knife is inexpensive and comes with most modern table saws. While it may look and seem relatively useless, it’s actually the best way to prevent table saw kickback from ever happening.
Keep your Table Saw Aligned
Keeping your saw aligned is another extremely important step to prevent kickback. The most common reason for kickback is due to a misaligned fence. Ensure the blade and fence are parallel to the miter slot. As long as your table saw is properly aligned and everything is parallel, your stock should never get pinched. This is something you should check every so often to reduce the chance of experiencing any kickback.
Ensure your Stock is Uniform
Table saws are designed to cut uniform pieces of wood. If your stock is twisted, bowed, or warped in any way – it could lead to kickback. Whenever you go to make a cut, if there is a bow in your stock, it is eventually going to pinch at the portion of the wood that is warped outwards. Therefore, it is important to take your wood to the joinery before making cuts on your table saw. Even if you don’t, be sure to examine your stock and ensure it is uniform to avoid any kickback.
Know-How to use a Push Stick
It’s always good to use a push stick because in case kickback does occur, you won’t end up sawing your hand off in the process. Plus, properly using a push stick will greatly reduce the chance of kickback ever happening.
One of the most common mistakes when using a push stick is pushing the stock when the stock is hanging off the side of the table. Despite most woodworkers being guilty of this, it’s risky since you could end up applying downward pressure on your stock – slightly lifting it enough to move the stock on top of the blade. This will result in kickback, launching the stock right back at you. Therefore, it’s extremely important to keep your stock flat against the table when making a cut.
Another thing to keep in mind is your placement of the stick when pushing the stock. Be sure to place your push stick in the center of the stock. Pushing it on one side or the other may cause the stock to rotate towards the blade, causing kickback.
Position your Body
The final way to avoid table saw kickback is by properly positioning your body when making a cut. As a beginner, standing directly behind your stock may feel the most natural. However, you’re going to be right in the line of fire. It’s best to stand next to the stock rather than directly behind it. This is also where a push stick will come into play. Having a push stick will allow you to stand at a greater distance than pushing the stock through with your hands.
Kickback is not something to take lightly. It has resulted in numerous injuries among the woodworking community every year. Most of which could have been prevented had the operator followed the proper precautions to avoid it.
Before anything else, invest in a riving knife. It’s the number one way to prevent kickback and doesn’t require anything more than a simple installation. However, we hope you’re able to implement ALL these strategies to prevent kickback – so you can cut with a little more confidence! As always, Happy Woodworking!