Why Is Table Saw Kick Back Dangerous?

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A table saw is a must-have piece of equipment for any woodworker as it makes cutting through wood and shaping it very easy. However, it comes with its share of safety hazards.

Considering it is one of the most used tools in a woodwork shop, it’s essential to learn how to use it properly to reduce the risk of kickback, which can be very dangerous.

Why Is a Table Saw Kickback Dangerous?

Kickback happens when the blade picks up the wood and violently throws it at the table saw operator. The workpiece gets stuck between the blade and the rip fence, thus causing kickback. This usually happens faster than one can react, making it quite dangerous.

A common type of kickback is when the entire workpiece is thrown up and backward at high speed toward you. The propelled wood ends up striking the chest, torso, or head of the operator. This makes kickbacks quite dangerous.

Man carefully cutting wood using a table saw

Before we discuss the remedies for table saw kickback, let’s look at some of the causes of kickback in a table saw:

  • No riving knife
  • Poor mounting of the riving knife
  • No plan for your cuts
  • Use of wrong dimensions

No Riving Knife

A riving knife is usually mounted behind the table saw to prevent the work piece from pinching into the blade. It keeps the woodwork firm against the saw, preventing it from rising against the back of the saw. Without a riving knife, kickback will definitely occur in the course of a woodwork project.

Poor Mounting of the Riving Knife

A riving knife should work as a rearguard to the woodworker. To prevent cut-offs, it must be properly aligned to the blade kerf. Failure to correctly mount and align the blade with the kerf results in the woodwork knots getting pinched into the blade’s back, then getting fiercely thrown at you.

No Plan for Your Cuts

Before committing wood to the table saw, plan where your body and hands will be positioned throughout the cut. Stopping midway through the cut will always result in a table saw kickback.

Man using a push stick to cut wood in a table saw

Use of Wrong Dimensions

If the length of the saw blade to the fence exceeds the wood’s length against the table saw fence, the blade will create a big forward torque compared to the small work piece held against the fence, creating a turn.

The board spins and climbs up against the back of the blade. It gets caught by the blade and spins to you. This might badly injure you.

How to Avoid Kickbacks

Table saw kickbacks are an unacceptable woodwork risk because of the dangers they pose. Use the below approaches to stop them.

Do Not Use Freehand Cuts

Rip fences are used when doing rip cuts. They hold stock in place when pushing it through the saw blade. Mitre gauges offer support when doing crosscuts.

Do crosscut with the rip fence and the mitre gauge simultaneously since this can jam the work piece and cause a kickback.

Check the Blade

A dull blade will have trouble cutting, leading to warping and overheating. This will cause a misalignment between the table saw blade and the fence.

Use a Push Stick

A push stick will help keep your hands away from the saw blade. Use it to push the wood through the cut. It’s a table saw kickback countermeasure and will ensure your hands are not drawn into the blade while cutting.

Other tools that stop table saw kickbacks are:

Man demonstrating how to avoid dangerous table saw kick back
  • Riving knife and splitters
  • ZCI-mounted splitters
  • Fence-mounted feather boards
  • Crosscut sleds
  • Anti-kickback pawls

Related Questions

Before we finish this article, let’s answer two more questions about kickbacks.

How Fast Is a Table Saw Kickback?

The typical approximate speed at which a work piece is launched depends on the mass of the stock, the blade’s circumferential speed, and the saw blade’s angular momentum of attached moving parts.

The bigger the saw blade, the more the momentum imparted on the stock. A 10-inch blade has a 31.4-inch circumference. If the blade’s speed is 4800 rpm, then the teeth travel speed is 150,720 inches per minute.

This translates to 142.72 miles per hour. A stock piece thrown at such a speed will go very far, making it a very dangerous projectile.

What Is the Safest Table Saw?

SawStop JSS-120A60 is the safest table saw available. It is a safe flesh detecting table saw that instantly stops if it senses flesh on the saw blade. You can easily adjust the blade using an elevation feature that allows for raising and lowering the blade with a single turn. It also has an accurate fence.


Table saw kickback is a dangerous occurrence that should be prevented at all costs. Without proper safety measures in place, you could get hit by a flying wood piece or have your hands severely hurt by the spinning table saw blade.

Make every possible effort to maximize your table saw safety to reduce risks of kickback in your workshop.

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.