7 Different Cuts Unsafe for a Table Saw

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A table saw is a workhorse tool. You can use it to rip through a truckload of wood in no time. However, with all that power comes great risk. Table saws can cause serious bodily injuries if you use them for the wrong purpose or in the wrong way.

Table saw kickback happens when your material catches on the blade and is launched into the air. If you want to stay safe and avoid injury, ​here are seven different cuts you should never do with a table saw.

7 Cuts Not To Use a Table Saw For

If you want a list of table saw dangers, here are seven cuts to avoid:

1. Don’t cut PVC pipe

We hear it all the time: can you cut PVC with a table saw? A table saw is not the right to​ol to cut through plastic piping. PVC pipe will melt or rip on the saw blade. You won’t be able to make clean cuts through PVC pipe with a table saw, plus the material will want to catch and spin on the blade causing dangerous kickbacks

2. Don’t make curved cuts

high quality table saw is meant to make straight cuts at high-speed. It is not intended for curved cuts. If you try to feed the material at an angle, the spinning blade will grab the piece and send it flying. This is known as kickback. The best way to avoid kickback is to make straight cuts.

If you have to make curved cuts, a great heavy-duty option is a bandsaw. Or, if you’re looking for something handheld, grab a cordless jigsaw.

3. Don’t make backwards cuts

Sometimes, you’ll want to make a climbing cut with your table saw. This is also known as feeding the piece in backward. Woodworkers will sometimes make climbing cuts to mark a new piece or because it is the easiest way to position the piece.

While you can make climbing cuts using other kinds of saws, you should never try it on a table saw. The blade will bite and pull the wood and then push it away causing it to kickback.

A man prepping wood pieces with a table saw in his garage

4. Don’t cut ferrous metals, like cast iron or steel

If you need to cut metal, there are a lot of better tools than a table saw. Ferrous metals will cast sparks when they hit the blade. The cast sparks can cause burns and ignite any sawdust or wood in your work area. 

The other danger is flying pieces of metal. If a piece of metal kicks back, it could cause serious injuries. If you use a metal cutting blade and go very slow, you can cut non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, copper, nickel, silver, and brass.

5. Don’t make angled cuts without bevel capability

An ​beveled cut is not a good idea to try on a table saw UNLESS your table saw is equipped to do so. The chances that the material will kickback are increased when you try to make angled cuts. If you must make an angled cut, use a miter saw or miter gauge to guide the material safely.

Cheaper table saws don’t offer this capability, although you can find it in more expensive cabinet table saws.

6. Don’t make freehand tapered cuts

Sometimes, you’ll need to make a long angled cut. Maybe you need to make a shim to fit in an angled space. Even a slightly angled cut is not recommended on a table saw. The blade will catch on the material and cause a kickback. If you want to make a tapered cut, you will need a taper jig. You can use it to safely guide the wood at the angle you need.

7. Don’t cut plastic

The blade on a table saw moves fast and generates heat, which is not ideal for cutting plastic. Slap cutting, putting the blade in backwards, is a technique some people try with a table saw. It’s not a safe method and it will melt the plastic instead of cutting it.

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.