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Over 30,000 table saw injuries are reported each year, with fingers and hands as the most commonly injured body parts. A push block is meant to reduce some of the accidents associated with a table saw. It helps make clean and smoother cuts but most importantly, it protects the table saw operator’s fingers and hands from danger.
Why Use a Push Block for a Table Saw?
A push block helps the woodworker push the wood across the table saw while keeping their fingers away from the blade and prevents kickback. While cutting wood, ensure you slide it past the blade tip to prevent the woodblock from being kicked back at you.
The push block is usually combined with a technique that uses 3 points of pressure. This technique will protect you and give you stunning cut results.
Use 3 Points of Pressure for Better Cuts
A rip cut involves sliding the woodblock along the grain direction while touching the rip fence to guide the blade. Without guidance, the board may move off the blade, causing a crooked cut or, worse, a kickback.
Apply these 3 points of pressure when running woodblock through even an entry-level table saw.
- Forward pressure: The first pressure is forward moving as the material moves towards the blade.
- Downward pressure: This is pressure coming from above the board heading to the table saw top. Pushing the wood against the board ensures the blade won’t lift the board and throw it at you.
- Inward pressure: Applying inward pressure to the board towards the rip fence will prevent kickback and ensure straight cuts. Do this before the blade. Pushing inward toward the rip fence after the blade will cause the cut wood to bend in and pinch, resulting in a kickback.
Using these 3 points of pressure ensures wood moves smoothly through the cut with no drift to the blade, thus minimizing the risk of kickback.
3 Points of Pressure Using a Push Block
A table saw usually comes with a push stick. Use it to apply inward pressure towards the fence.
Next, place the push block on the board you want to cut and apply even pressure downwards and forwards to slide the board through the blade. Be keen so that the board won’t drift away from the rip fence.
A GRR-RIPPER push block is an alternative to both the push stick and the push block. It can provide all three points of pressure in one tool.
Whatever tool you use, the primary objective is that your fingers are kept away as the blade spins.
How to Choose a Push Block
Consider the following when choosing a push block:
- Construction quality
There are instances when you will accidentally run the push block into the saw blade instead of the workpiece. This is why you need a push block that can weather all the wear and tear and cuts through the years.
Choose a push block that stands out from other woodwork tools, not brown like wood or grey like metal. The best of them come in very bright and unnatural colors like orange.
You want a push block that will stay in place while you push the workpiece through the blade.
Thick wood blocks make ordinary push blocks; others are made of different materials but still work as well. Ensure the quality of the push block’s construction material is good and that it guarantees safety.
Before we wrap up this article, let’s answer a couple of related questions.
What Is the Purpose of a Guard on a Table Saw?
A blade helps keep the fingers safe. However, its primary goal is to protect the cut off from falling on a spinning saw blade. This can happen when you reach over the spinning blade to grab a cut off and drop it on a spinning blade.
The cut chip spins back at you. A table guard prevents the occurrence of such kickbacks. It also stops loose chips from getting into the eyes.
What Can You Not Do on a Table Saw?
You cannot wear gloves when using a table saw. This is to prevent loss of gripping power. Some gloves are loose and may be grabbed by the spinning blade as the table saw runs. Never make freehand cuts.
Make use of a miter gauge or rip fence to guide wood through the blade. Do not cut wood without checking. Check for stones, screws, or nails. They may become projectiles causing bodily harm or causing blade damage.
A woodworker should do everything possible to enhance safety at the job site. A push block is one of those devices that will prevent accidents from happening. It will limit exposure of the hands and fingers to danger and ensure quality saw output. It’s one safety tool that a table saw operator should always have.