What Causes Table Saw Kickback?

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Table saw kickback is a phenomenon that involves wood that is being worked on by a table saw suddenly being pushed back towards the machine’s operator at high speed. Kickback is when the wood that is being pushed across the blade of the table saw losses pressure against the machine’s fence and is therefore suddenly ejected.

What Causes Table Saw Kickback?

Table saw kickback occurs on rip cuts when the wood is picked up by the blade and is violently pushed towards you. This usually happens in two situations: when the workpiece rubs itself against the blade or becomes stuck between the rip fence and the blade.

Generally, when a piece of wood comes into contact with a tooth of the blade, the piece of wood you are working on is likely to be thrown out at high speed. The kickback happens so fast that you are likely to have no time to react. As a result, you may end up being injured by the wood or the blade.

What Circumstances Lead to Table Saw Kickback?

Kickback can happen under any of the following circumstances: 

  • First, a piece of wood can kick back during a ripping session when a section of the wood passes through a saw and the kerf starts to rub itself against the blade. The least detrimental effect of this occurrence is the saw stalling. However, if the table saw has a lot of power, its blade can propel the wood towards you or throw it up into your face, causing serious injury.
  • The second scenario is where a workpiece gets stuck between the back of the blade and the saw’s rip fence. As the blade rotates, it can throw the wood that you are ripping back at you. This can also lead to severe injury.
  • The third scenario involves a piece of wood making contact with any of the teeth at the posterior section of the blade. The wood is then lifted to the top part of the blade and propelled back to you at a very high speed. The worst-case scenario is when your hand gets drawn onto the blade, causing an injury that may result in an amputation.
Man checking the table saw blade

Injuries From Table Saw Kickback

The main injuries that result from table saw kickback accidents are trauma due to the impact of the workpiece that is suddenly propelled from the machine and the potential injury to the hands. These injuries are explained below.

Trauma Due to the Quickly Ejected Work Piece

As the piece of wood that you are working on is suddenly propelled from the table saw, it can hit any part of your upper body. This could be your chest, arms, head or neck.

Possible Injury to the Operator’s Hands

The wood that is being ripped can be pushed so quickly by the blade that you don’t have time to react by taking your hand off the blade. Your hand can be pulled across the blade, causing a severe injury that may require an amputation.

Man checking for possible table saw kickbacks

How to Prevent a Table Saw From Kicking Back

An important aspect of knowing how to avoid table saw kickback is having knowledge about why it occurs. The key idea is to prevent the wood that you are working on from losing pressure against the fence so that it is not jerked towards you.

There are some steps that you can take to minimize the risk of kickback:

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Using a Riving Knife

A riving knife is a metal strip that comes with your table saw and is used to fix the saw into place with the curvature pointing the saw. The riving knife prevents the wood from being stuck at the back of the saw in case it moves away from the fence.

Close up of a table saw

Using a Push Stick

To protect your hands from possible injury, you can use a push stick to push the work piece through the blade.

How Dangerous Is a Table Saw?

Table saws are regarded to be the most dangerous power tool equipment in comparison to other tools used at home such as circular saws, chain saws, and nail guns. A table saw can lead to catastrophic injuries.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that in the United States, a table saw misfortune happens every 9 minutes. Consequently, about 67,000 injuries due to table saw kickbacks are recorded in the US every year.


Table saw kickback happens when wood gets stuck between the blade and rip fence of the table saw. You can prevent this by adopting appropriate safety measures.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.