Table Saw Kickback Video Ends Badly

sawkickback

Our comments section has been pretty busy lately with talk of table saws and safety, so we decided to feature this sobering video about table saw kickback. [Tom] is a popular YouTube woodworker. He decided to do a safety video by demonstrating table saw kickback. If you haven’t guessed, [Tom] is an idiot – and he’ll tell you that himself before the video is over. There are two hacks here. One is [Tom’s] careful analysis and preparation for demonstrating kickback (which should be fail of the week fodder). The other “hack” here is the one that came breathtakingly close to happening – [Tom’s] fingers.

Kickback is one of the most common table saw accidents. The type of kickback [Tom] was attempting to demonstrate is when a board turns and catches the blade past the axle. On a table saw kickback is extremely dangerous for two reasons. First, the piece of wood being cut becomes a missile launched right back at the saw operator. We’ve seen internal injuries caused by people being hit by pieces of wood like this. Second, the saw operator’s hand, which had just been pushing the wood, is now free to slid right into the blade. This is where a SawStop style system, while expensive, can save the day.

The average 10 inch table saw blade has an edge traveling at around 103 mph, or 166 kmh. As [Tom] demonstrates in his video, it’s just not possible for a person to react fast enough to avoid injury. Please, both personal users and hackerspaces, understand general safety with all the tools you’re using, and use proper safety equipment. As for [Tom], he’s learned his lesson, and is now using a SawStop Table.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Remember Norm’s advice, kids: Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury.

    (Or was it “YOU CAN’T CUT BACK ON FUNDING YOU WILL REGRET THIS!”, I forget.)

  2. Tiberius says:

    This is the table saw for you :P

  3. nah! says:
  4. Murray says:

    Table saw safety can be counteractive. When the blade is just exposed above the table is when it is most dangerous wrt kickback. I learned this at an early age with help of a 4 inch scar.
    A partially exposed blade, that pinches, pushes against you, and you will loose.
    A fully exposed blade that pinches, pushes against the table and without any drama the table wins. Understand the forces and keep your fingers.

  5. Georg says:

    I wonder how many videos like this haven’t been posted because of the unlucky end.
    Count your fingers…

  6. SigEpBlue says:

    I’ll give him credit: that WAS a foolish thing to do. But it definitely demonstrated the dangers in ways words cannot convey, so I applaud the effort! I think the blade was a bit high, but that’s just my dumb opinion.

    Am I just lucky that I’ve never had a kick-back? I’m fairly methodical when I use power tools such as these; I have never used push blocks, either, even at the behest of my shop teachers & professors. I dunno, something about being closer to the work makes it feel more safe to me (yes, I’m insane, I know it). Perhaps it’s the ‘layer of control’ I feel I have over it, even if it is only an illusion.

  7. smilr says:

    The slow motion close up where his finger lands right next to the spinning blade sent shivers up my spine. I applaud this brave idiot for risking his digits to save some of the rest of us from ourselves. Glad to hear he’s decided to take additional precautions in his day to day use of these tools.

  8. fartface says:

    Low IQ guy with a you-tube channel, what a surprise. You can easily build a rig to demo this danger that is 900% safer and does not risk fingers, why did this moron not take just a few moments and think?

    Proof that some people should not be allowed to own cameras as they do stupid things in front of them in attempt to get higher view numbers.

    • Zee says:

      He was making a point

      • John says:

        Zee, Mr. F.., um, the previous poster, has a point (sort of), Here is a guy with a nice web site (not just a you tube channel) with a good deal of effort reiterating safety procedures. To male his point he obviously must violate half a dozen of the safety procedures he advocates to show what can happen, but if you are intentionally going to cause a kick back, one would think someone with his experience would keep his fingers WAY out of the way (and stand out of the way and wear safety glasses).

    • Aprone says:

      Sorry, I can’t resist…
      We gave a huge group of computer/tech savvy “hackers” on a forum. What if we have to kick (and keep) one out? I’m sure an IP ban will work! If the Matrix had thought to use IP bans, Zion would have been screwed… just say’in.

      • vonskippy says:

        They’re called O P I N I O N S, and it’s what makes discussion boards interesting (you might actually think about something from a different POV, or gasp!, learn something new).

        If you disagree with a comment – good for you, you’ve rubbed your two brain cells together and came up with your own thought – what a concept.

        Banning comments just means you either have an incredibly weak argument that can’t stand up to peer review, no sense of humour, or you’re just a monolithic moron that can’t stand that people don’t agree with you.

        Worse case, learn how to use that little wheelie thing in the middle of your mouse (your blood pressure will appreciate you for it).

        If you want a circle jerk of unanimous thoughts – visit a Unooobtu forum (or worse, an Apple forum).

      • kittenmiser says:

        This site is not about hacking as in security. It is hacking as in hardware. It is a very clear policy.

        So the odds of any one person here having even moderate infosec skills is pretty slim.

        • MrFluffy says:

          Whaaaa? the very best people I know in the infosec world are hackers at heart, in this sense of the word. We naturally like to take things to bits and play with them and thats how we find things coupled with a childlike desire to see how everything works.
          Likelyhood of people having infosec skills around here? pretty damn high I’d say.

    • Rob says:

      fartface is a treasure… be nice.

    • pcf11 says:

      Judge not, lest ye be judged…

    • Whatnot says:

      So that’s a new thing on HaD then? The ” can’t believe the HaD editors haven’t banned your .. ” trolls? Who organizes you people to do this?

  9. Chris Muncy says:

    This is a prime example as to why push sticks are preffered over push blocks like this *gentleman* had. I have had a few kickbacks over the years due to various issues but not once were my hands in danger of being lightened like this guys were.

    • signal7 says:

      I tend to think push sticks offer less control of the work piece. When I use a push block, I don’t use commercially made versions. I make them from a 2×8 and take off 1/4 inch of wood on one edge almost the entire length of the push block. The last inch is left as a step in the block that catches the trailing edge of the work piece. Grippy shelf liner can be hot-glued to the surface, also. This allows me to bear down on the work piece as it moves past the blade and I purposefully make sure there is pressure against the fence simultaneously. This puts my hands further away from the blade than commercial push blocks. Of course, feather boards help a great deal as well (which wasn’t part of the demo).

      Anyway – with a push stick, it’s much harder to control the direction of the work and ensure there’s pressure against the fence which could make kickback more likely. I wouldn’t use a push stick without a guard and anti-kickback pawls.

  10. TomK says:

    Running a table saw without a riving knife (or worse: removing it) is just plain idiotic.
    I used to build high end furniture for a living and will not be in the same room as a running table saw without a properly adjusted riving knife.

    • signal7 says:

      What do you do when no one makes a riving knife for your saw? Even worse, the mount for the guard does _not_ move with the height adjustment of the blade. That’s one problem I’m having with my particular setup…

  11. reggie says:

    People jumping on this guy for posting the video are missing the point, he knew it was dangerous before he started, which is why he did the demo, he even says that he’s an idiot for doing it in his opening credits, it’s a very good example of what naive people do with kit. You’d be surprised at how many people will attempt something just because no one else can do it.

    He is making sure that everyone understands that it’s a bad thing to do, no matter how clued up you are or how brave and fearless you are too, kickback doesn’t care for gender, race, intelligence, it just wants timber and fingers.

  12. pcf11 says:

    I understand why it happens, I can honestly say though that it has never happened to me, yet. I never use a riving knife, or a blade guard either. None of my table saws have them. All I do is push the stock down, to the table, and into the fence.

  13. Mike says:

    Booyaaaaahhhhhhrrghh!!!

    Many thanks for this video!
    I´m working a lot with wood machines, but I never thought it could be that bad!!!
    Thank you again, I learned a lot from it !!

    • pcf11 says:

      A piece of wood launching off a table saw is going about 100 miles per hour. I just figured out the blade periphery speed here. Maybe the wood looses a lot of speed on the launch but even if it lost half the blade speed it’d still be going at highway speeds. So the danger is huge.

      • High school shop. Kid is cutting dovetail joints, and allowing the pieces to kickback. He is standing out of the way. Pieces (about 0.5″ trapezoid) fly back about 30..40 feet, denting the locker doors. Instructor (retired bird colonel) was *not* amused…

        BTW – only injury in the shop for 20 years was the instructor trimming off tips of three fingers, after teaching for about 8. Blind cut at the end of the day. Great object lesson.

        • genki says:

          My high school suffered worse than your dented locker room. Windows 50 feet away got broken from flying wood. I wasn’t in the class when the accident happened but I saw the hole and my teacher told me about that. It’s been 20 years I imagine they got safer table saw or banned it by now.

  14. That was the scariest thing I’ve seen in ages.

  15. Ben Franklin says:

    Say what you will, this guy has done a lot to advance table saw safety. Excellent investigation and video.

  16. There is an alternative technology that uses a gas-fired piston to drop the blade. It is easy to reset and does not trash the blade. Not sure of the name, but I have seen it in action at a large embedded show – another booth had the SawStop.

    As someone with one hand, I am *very* paranoid around power tools. They *deserve* healthy respect.

  17. tjbaudio says:

    I have always found the plastic over the blade gards to be very dangerous because you can’t see. The knife is the way to go along with proper setup and push board. I use a variation of this http://www.startwoodworking.com/sites/startwoodworking.com/files/uploads/1/776/0-tablesaw-push-stick-w186fuimg_0337.jpg With this your hand is kept higher up and your direction of push is not directly into the blade as it is with a push stick. I also make copious use of feather boards and other guids clamped to the saw.

  18. Hack a Day Reader from Europe says:

    Why no one mentioned that his sweater sleeve was a critical when working with tablesaw or other rotational tools. Shuold be shorter or even pull on tight sweater sleeves. Not only his fingers at high risk was, but risk goes up at this point even more when blade could grab your arm to shredding.

    I don’t have a table saw, but i’m appreciate for his high risk show. And i keep that in mind all time. Is said, that better see one time, nor hear it 100 times.

    I use a lot Bosch miter saw, when cutting wood, aluminium(with special blade). And i had several kickbacks when cutting angle aluminium profile and 4 mm thickness plate. Yeah, i was dumb, that i thought could keep that profile gripped to a fence by my left hand. Hell no and this was no joke. Especially kicback occured, when blade was mostly trough aluminium profile and than cutted folded piece flew in the blink of an eye away. Miter saw DC motor is 1,4 kW by 5000 rpm. Afterwards i have decided not play with destiny more and made a special holder, thus minimised the risk.

  19. Tommy says:

    It didn’t end badly – not even “poorly”. He was lucky, how is that bad?
    Scary? yes. Bad? No.

  20. Bitflusher says:

    Angle grinders scare the hell out of me. First the hot fragments of metal or stone that are flying everywhere. There is no way I operate one without eye protection. Secondly the possibility of kickback launching the device into bodyparts.
    I experienced a kickback twice because I held the anglegrinder wrong or the object was positioned wrong. It has been years but I still use my angle grinder as little as possible.

    Oh and IMHO if (or perhaps when) something something goes wrong you and not the device did something wrong.

    • Whatnot says:

      Dremels are in a way more tricky for the eye, since you tend to use them closer to your face and since they are small you feel less vulnerable. I mention them since they are ‘mini grinders’ with the cut-off disks.

      • pcf11 says:

        Those brittle cut off discs for Moto-tools just blow apart if you’re the least bit aggressive with them. I wish they’d make them a bit tougher, they’d be a lot more useful if they were.

    • MrFluffy says:

      With a angle grinder and a abrasive or diamond blade you tend to get burnt, at worst slot in a bit or cut a tendon. A circular saw with its big kerf’s tends to remove bits before you can slow it down when things go wrong, in much the same manner as a chainsaw.
      Unless of course you are unlucky enough to have a stone burst, that can be pretty bad, but I’ve never seen it happen to one that wasn’t obviously damaged before starting or worn way past its working life.

      As for whatnot’s dremmel comment, the problem is that your not afraid of the dremmel so get lazy, its this little hand held whizzy thing, then *poof* the little fragile disc shatters and you have bits of stone flying everywhere into your eyes etc.

  21. wardy says:

    Genuine question: wouldn’t a vertical bandsaw be just as fast at cutting timber in this manner and also be safer?

    • Rdent says:

      The bandsaw is a much more civilized tool from a more elegant age. Not as clumsy nor random as a tablesaw. Get into a fight with a table saw, and it will rip your fingers off and slap you in the face with them. A bandsaw will calmly and neatly slice your offending fingers off, depositing them on the table almost apologetically, as if to say, “I beg your pardon, sir, perhaps you should be more careful in the future.”

      For many things, the two are interchangeable. For cutting slots and dados or working with sheet goods, the bandsaw is quite limited. Throat size and tilt capabilities are also a problem on the bandsaw. But, the bandsaw has a much thinner kerf, can cut veneers and many other things. and will slice your fingers off very cleanly, leaving them on the table as yIf you could only make your own to whatever specs you needed, then you could have the perfect machine!

      • pcf11 says:

        Band saws are more of a mainstay for European woodworkers. In the USA the table saw takes center stage. Not to say that Americans don’t have band saws too, but we view, and use them differently.

  22. DavidMP says:

    There used to be another version of the SawStop called the Whirlwind tool but the address now says it is suspended (I imagine SawStop has bigger lawyers) so here is the wayback address
    http://web.archive.org/web/20120928073914/http://www.whirlwindtool.com/

    Maybe we could convince this guy to release his design as open source hardware? or roll your own with capacitance sensing, relay to cut power and a big current dump fort the back EMF to brake the motor?

    • John says:

      “SawStop has bigger lawyers”. In fact, the inventor IS a patent lawyer. The product is great, the inventor a slime ball looking to rake other vendors over the coals by legally forcing them to buy his product instead of just licensing it at a reasonable price.

  23. Frank says:

    My table saw isn’t plugged in, and I have to make the whirring noises myself. Are my fingers still in danger?

  24. MrFluffy says:

    I have two circular “table” saws as we are 3/4 through a diy conversion of a stone farm building to a house, one a table saw like above, smallish motor think about 800w, riving knife, floppy blade guard that gets in the way all the time but its pretty portable so I can move it round to the job in hand. And it HAS threw workpieces back out at me, I took a log to the chest from it using it one season to cut smaller logs and thought I’d ruptured my hernia. Horrible thing to use for anything but small flat regular sections.
    Then I have satan’s log saw as my friends have named it, which was once powered by a 5hp 3 phase motor but after the rubber insulation died is now powered by a 7hp diesel engine I had stashed in the barn, it has a 80cm blade, but what it does have that makes it way safer than the little saw is a swinging table. You load the log into a V holder that pivots on the bottom of the saw frame, and a lever on it clamps the log into the V and you swing it in via this lever, keeping everything out of harms way. Also Ive noticed it doesnt kick back nearly as often as the underpowered little saw even when used with a flat table in place of the swinging table which I have too, Although the previous owner did manage to loose 3 fingers using the flat table after a slip, which he lost as when the saw cut them off, his dog ran over and ate them, and by the time they came back out, well, there wasn’t any surgical reattachment going to be going on then…

    My point is, a big saw with lots of power seems to have less tendancy to kickback as its got the power to hog through the jam. Or is it just that the big saw terrifies me so much I take extra care around it. I don’t know, but I think I’ll get a big old bandsaw this winter and keep satan for just log duties after this vid :)

    If you want really scaring, go seek out those chainsaw blades that fit a regular angle grinder. I am not even remotely tempted, and I am a tool fiend by nature.

    • Johan G says:

      Speaking of saw chains on rotating things, from some loggers I have worked with when doing survey work I heard that someone demonstrated a trimmer head equipped with three loose pieces of chain saw on an annual logging and forestry convention here in Sweden. Needless to say it was banned from market for safety reasons even before they had set up production. Just imagine what it could do if it hits stone one time to much.

  25. Rob says:

    I do a bit of woodwork as a hobby. I made a table saw like this when I was about 12 yo and perhaps just by luck I never had any problems. It was the last table saw like this I have ever used.

    I now have a saw table where the work is fixed by a clamped guide and I use a normal power saw in the normal way but pressed against the guide. The cut quality is the same so to is the repeatability. I have never had any sort of kick back.

    If I have something small to cut then I use a hand saw.

    My power tools include saw, grinder, drill press, drills, plane and perhaps some others that I don’t use often.

    The only injury I have ever had happened only a couple of months ago from drilling with an electric hand drill. I am now 50 yo BTW.

    I was drilling the head off of a screw that was rusted into wood and couldn’t be unscrewed. It was tempered and got very hot without me realising. As I didn’t want to keep drilling the hard steel any longer than needed I decided to use a hammer and punch to knock the head off once I had drilled most of the way.

    I wasn’t wearing any eye protection. The screw head bounced back of a surface and right into my eye. It melted the flesh of my eye lids and glued itself there.

    Lucky for me, my eye lids caught it when they were closing and there was only a very slight burn on the white of my eye probably just from being close to it rather than being in contact with it.

    The white of the eye healed that day and it was about a week for the eye lids to heal completely. No treatment was needed.

    Since then I bought about 8 sets of eye protection so I can always fine one set.

    It kind of reminds me of the (in)famous warning about LASER diodes, and that is …

    “Never look directly into laser with remaining eye”

    • pcf11 says:

      You’re lucky. My near vision failed on me a couple of years ago now and I’m still not quite 50 years old yet. On the plus side I never have to worry about not wearing some kind of eye protection when I’m working on something. Because if I don’t have glasses on now I can’t see much within about 3 feet of me anyways.

  26. Dodo says:

    I have seen the damaged caused by (not the actual event) this in university machine shop. The work-piece was shot through a glass window 25m away from the saw machine!

  27. Chuck says:

    Geez, the stupid things people will do to get a comp on a new tool… Is this series of product placement shills on HaD sold out?

  28. Osgeld says:

    I hate tabesaws, they dont scare me, being scared at a power tool is a good way to get messed up, but I go out of my way to avoid having to use the things

  29. George Johnson says:

    I had a scout master using the wood working room (on a military base), having problems with his wife, I guess he wanted out of the house. Down there working, and reading the safety signs posted on all the walls, cut the tips of four fingers off before he even knew it. They were able to sew three of ‘em back on.

    He was so engrossed in his work, reading the signs, thinking about his wife, he didn’t even KNOW it, until after four fingers had gone through the blade.

  30. echodelta says:

    I am scared of them too, move the saw not the work!
    The cable moved “wall saw” is the way to go. Don’t take a lot of floor space for panel work. This is something to HACK up, maybe stepper motor drive or positioning. Start with a worm drive saw. Doing a balancing act with a sheet of wood over a death delivering blade mounted in a tiny platform is… The table for a regular saw should be 16 by 6 feet or twice the size of a sheet, so no overhang and binding no suprises. Of course this is impractical, ditto the whole tool. These wall saws are common in the big box lumber stores as they are way safer for the help and public. We Americans use to be big risk takers but things are changing.

    • pcf11 says:

      You don’t need a table twice the size of the work you are ripping, only a little more than half the size is fine. Because with more than half of a piece still supported by the table the whole piece stays put. It is called balance. I knew this before I built my out feed table, so I made my out feed table 49 inches past the blade. When I rip a full sheet on it after I get the sheet past the blade I stop pushing. A sheet will sit there like it is sitting on the ground. It doesn’t really matter that 47 inches is hanging off the table, as long as 49 inches are still on the table. The piece isn’t going anywhere. Duh!

  31. Erik says:

    Luckely he made a video so he could see how lucky he was.
    Then again. I guess at least one person needs to do something stupid just to teach others.

  32. michael says:

    This video is a great demonstration of the dangers of using a table saw, especially when ignoring basic safety steps.

    I’m curious about your choice of push blocks. In my mind the push block or stick serves two purposes: giving you control over the workpiece while keeping your hands away from the blade.

    Most guidelines I’ve read talk about keeping your hands at least 6″ away from the blade. It looks to me like you’re sitting within 2″-3″ when you push the workpiece against the blade.

    Any thoughts on where your hand would have ended up if you were using a traditional 14″ push stick (i.e. hand 6+” above the workpiece at a 35-45 degree angle)?

  33. CassiT says:

    He should have been using push sticks instead of blocks. Standing to the side was at least smart of him. My husband and II use our table saw very often without any safety guards… we use push sticks though. I am not as talented as my husband with the saw table… I learned that the hard way… I stood in front of it… pushing the board through with 2 push sticks… and kickback… my fingers were fine, they were much higher than the blade and the board. What I got though was a cut on my chest where the board hit me… I learned though… and I will not be an idiot and try to demonstrate that for anyone… my scar is enough evidence… slightly to the side with pushsticks is how I will handle that from now on.

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