Why I love my table saw

The only two table saws I have ever owned since I started working were Sears Craftsman contractor-style saws. They got the job done but not without a fair amount of frustration. The rip fences constantly needed tweaking to remain parallel to the blade. And the blade-raising and tilting mechanisms were pretty weak. They sometimes required a lot of effort to adjust the blade, in spite of frequent cleaning and lubrication.

That all changed when I bought a new Jet Supersaw a couple of years ago. It’s just like the one you see in the photo. It was a floor model and had a few dings and scratches and had been around for a few years. I got a great deal on it.

I couldn’t believe the difference in the quality. It was a definite step up in every measure from my old Craftsman saws. Jet doesn’t make that particular model anymore, but they have newer models that still incorporate the sliding table.

But what I like most about this saw is the sliding table. It replaces the miter gauge. There is no slot for the miter gauge on the left side of this saw.

I thought I’d miss having a miter gauge, but that’s not the case. The first time I calibrated the fence on the sliding table, it hasn’t budged since. I get repeatable miters and square cuts all the time, every time.

A friend of mine has the same model of saw, so we’re always trading ideas on adding jigs and fixtures to it. He came up with a miter sled that replaces the miter head on the sliding table. He gets perfect miters every time with no setup time.

Where the sliding table really shines is in crosscutting wide stock. I built a cabinet that was about 22″ deep. I had no problem cutting the plywood cabinet sides square. Perfect.

Then there’s the rip fence. I’m going to stir up the pot here when I say that I never was a big fan of Biesmeyer-style (or T-square type) rip fences. Oh, they’re a huge improvement over stock fences that come on some saws (particularly Craftsman contractor-style saws). But what I don’t like about them is how hard they are to tweak in small increments. Lifting the cam-action locking lever always moves the fence more than I want. After tweaking the setting by tapping it with my knuckles, it still may move when you lock it down. I supposed you get used to it.

My fence is the older style Jet Xacta fence. It has a micro-adjust wheel and only requires a feather touch to move it or lock it down. Both sides and the top of the fence have T-tracks that I can use for attaching all sorts of jigs and accessories.

I outfitted the saw with a Freud Premier/Fusion blade and the cuts couldn’t be cleaner.

So here’s the bottom line…if you’re frustrated with your old table saw, save up your pennies and invest in a good-quality hybrid or cabinet saw (and blade). It’s a lifetime investment you won’t regret. And you won’t believe how much enjoyment it’ll bring back into your woodworking.

Table Saws

Cabinet saws, hybrid table saws, contractor saws and portable table saws. You’ll find the perfect saw for your woodworking style and budget at Rockler.

Contractor Saws
Contractor Saws
Cabinet Saws
Cabinet Saws
Portable Saws
Portable Saws
Hybrid Saws
Hybrid Saws
Contractor Saws
Contractor Saws
Contractor Saws
Contractor Saws

Table saw injuries

There’s a study that was recently released in The Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection and Critical Care.

Here’s a summary of the findings:

  • An estimated 565,670 table saw-related injuries were treated in US Emergency Departments from 1990 to 2007.
  • Children (younger than 18 years) were more likely to be injured at school, whereas adults were more likely to be injured at home.
  • Fingers/thumbs were injured most often  and lacerations were the most common type of injury.
  • Amputations were associated with 10% of the injuries, and most of the amputations involved the finger/thumb.
  • Eight percent (47,916 of 565,458) of patients were hospitalized.

Conclusions: Most table saw-related injuries result from contact with the saw blade. Passive injury prevention strategies focusing on preventing finger/thumb/hand contact with the blade need to be implemented.

As a victim of a table saw injury that partially amputated my right thumb, I have to state my observations and address those critics that say, “You shoulda’ had a SawStop!”

First of all, I consider myself an experienced woodworker. I’ve been around saws ever since I was five years old. And I guess that since I get paid to write about woodworking, that must make me a professional. So I ought to know what I’m doing.

Let me just say that first of all, it was an accident. Without going into all the details of what happened, I took all reasonable precautions and proceeded to make the cut. The workpiece grabbed and jammed into the blade, taking my thumb with it. It happened within a split second.

Anyone who has experienced an injury like this will tell you of the weeks of mental anguish that follow such an accident. I blamed myself. I blamed the saw. I blamed the weather. I replayed the incident over and over again in my mind, wondering what went wrong and what I could have done differently. After several months, I resolved that it’s just one of those things that happens and life must go on. I had to learn to live with a shorter thumb without a thumbnail.

Now, about the SawStop proponents. I agree that Steve Gass’ invention is groundbreaking and will prevent many injuries. If I had the money, I’d probably own a SawStop table saw instead of the 10-year old Sears contractor-style saw that claimed my thumb. But I couldn’t afford the $3,000 price tag at the time.

I can hear you now:  “$3,000!  How much did your thumb cost you?!”  Well, if we use that logic, we’d all be driving armored tanks on the roads because they’re safer, right?  But you can’t afford them, so you go with what you have.

As great as the SawStop technology is, I disagree with the way Mr. Gass has tried to force the technology onto us by lobbying that this technology be required on all table saws. Let’s face it…Mr. Gass has a financial incentive to make this happen.

I believe in a free-market enterprise and consumer choice. I can’t believe that other saw manufacturers aren’t watching closely what happens in the marketplace. If consumers demand safer technology, they’ll have to provide it to stay alive. And I believe that the SawStop technology isn’t the only route to a safer saw.

For more background on Steve Gass and his invention, there’s a great article here.  And here are a couple of articles about a landmark award brought against Ryobi because a table saw caused an injury. And Glass’ reaction.

Oh…by the way….it’s alleged in court documents that the user of the table saw that brought the original suit against Ryobi wasn’t using the guards designed to prevent the injury in the first place.

I’ll be watching this one.

In the meantime, you can look for one of these blades I talked about in a previous post.

Toothless saw blade prevents injury

A small startup company in Togul, Kyrgyzstan has caught the attention of several major tool manufacturers with a new product guaranteed to reduce or eliminate table saw and miter saw injuries. Vogelis Enterprises representative Nahgjhal Swarovjoskit has stated that they are in negotiations with several saw blade manufacturers to license the technology for their toothless saw blades.

The blades are to be manufactured from a lightweight, proprietary granular alloy and coated with a frictionless material similar to polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE), known by the trade name Teflon®. An early engineering and marketing drawing is shown here. Note that no arbor hole is shown. This is so the customer can drill an arbor hole to fit their saw. A normal spade bit is said to be the recommended tool for this task.

Testing has shown that upon accidental contact with human flesh, the blade will self-destruct into a powdery substance easily removed by a dust collection system or swept up with a broom. The blade remains intact when in contact with cellulose material such as wood. It’s ultra-thin kerf (0.04″) is said to require much less power and remove less material than conventional blades.

Samples are en route to distributors but there have been some issues with packaging and handling since gloves must be worn while handling the blade.

I for one am anxious to see how well the blade cuts and how it compares to my Freud Premier Fusion blade.

Freud® 10'' x 40T Hi ATB Premier Fusion General Purpose Blade Freud® 10” x 40T Hi ATB Premier Fusion General Purpose Blade
Delivers a quieter, smoother cut with a superior finish and extended cutting life. Unique design and special polymer filler reduces vibration above and beyond any other blade for superior performance…
Freud® 10” x 40T Hi ATB Premier Fusion General Purpose Blade

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Time to resharpen or buy a new blade?

The last few months, my Freud Premier/Fusion saw blade has been causing some minor frustrations. It’s the blade that’s in my saw 95% of the time. It’s an exceptional blade. As a matter of fact, I’m a fan of all Freud blades and bits. (Their thin-kerf glue-line rip blade is a winner, too.)

Freud® 10” x 40T Hi ATB Premier Fusion General Purpose Blade
Delivers a quieter, smoother cut with a superior finish and extended cutting life. Unique design and special polymer filler reduces vibration above and beyond any other blade for superior performance. Ideal for hard and soft wood, veneered plywood and melamine.
Freud® 10” x 40T Hi ATB Premier Fusion General Purpose Blade
Freud® 10

The problem I had with it had nothing to do with the quality of cut. By that, I mean the smoothness of the cut edge. It has always cut like a dream. But the problem was I was getting some burning. At first I thought my rip fence was out of alignment. But after checking, it seemed to be aligned just fine. Then I started noticing some burning when crosscutting, too. Today, I decided to take the blade off and give it a good cleaning. It had been a while since I gave it a thorough scrubbing.

But looking through all the chemicals I had on hand, I didn’t have any blade cleaner. I scrounged through our household chemicals and found a gallon jug of ZEP General Purpose Cleaner I had picked up at the Home Depot at some point in the last few years. You’re supposed to dilute this cleaner, but I used it full-strength. I placed my blade in the bottom of a 5-gallon plastic pail with a few ounces of the cleaner. I let it soak for 5-10 minutes then thoroughly rinsed it with water. It removed all the pitch and dirt without me touching it with a scrub brush.

After drying off the blade, I set about inspecting the teeth. I was shocked to discover that one tooth was half-gone. And three or four others had sizable chips out of them.

I was faced with a decision. Should I find a sharpening service that knew how to replace the teeth and grind the blade per Freud’s specifications? Wait…I had used this blade for almost three years. Forget it. I won’t bother with sharpening. I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it.

I needed a blade right away, so I decided to head off to the Woodsmith Store. My old Fusion was a standard 1/8″-kerf blade. But I have a 1-3/4HP saw, so I thought I’d try a thin-kerf blade. Wouldn’t you know, the thin-kerf Fusions were out of stock, so I put my name on the list to be notified when they come in.

But I needed a blade today. Right now. So I chose a Freud thin-kerf combination blade. It was considerably less expensive than the Fusion blade anyway. I have to say, I was very impressed. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t really tell the difference between that and the Freud Fusion. I’ll probably get the thin-kerf Fusion anyway. It’s always good to have at least two good combination blades. Eventually, one of them will need sharpened and you need a backup.

You can’t have too many blades, can you?