A screwdriver is no substitute for the saw's splitter. Loose objects near the blade can become dangerous projectiles. And protect your eyes!

Use a premium blade guard...

Invest in a guard that's easy to live with by Ernie Conover

Acablcsaw blade guard protects fingers from the spinning blade—but only when the guard is on the saw. The trouble is, the typical stock guard that comes with many saws is so frustrating to mount, align, adjust, remove, and work with, you're tempted to leave it off permanently.

If that's the sort of guard you have, I urge you to replace it with a high-qualiry after-market guard. There arc at least four of them on the market that arc very convenient to use and relatively hassle free. The security they offer makes tablcsawing fun again, instead of a nervcwracking exercise. They mount on just about any 10-in. contractor's saw or cabinet saw. Here arc the four that I can recommend:

• Delta Deluxe Uniguard, $250. Delta International Machinery Corp.,

(800) 223-7278. Circle #611

• Biescmcycr T-Square BladcGuard, $400. Sold by Delta International Machinery Corp., (800) 223-7278. Circle »611

• Excalibur Blade Cover, $269. Excalibur by Sommerville Design, (800) 357-4118. Circle #612

• Brett-Guard» $435. HTC Products, (800) 624-2027. Circle #613

All four of these arc overarm guards. You mount them on the right side of the saw instead of directly behind the blade. A support arm extends out over the table and suspends the blade cover above the blade. You can adjust the position of the cover up and down and side to side, or swing it out of the way to change blades or to use a tenoning jig. You can also remove and replace your splitter independent of the guard, for dadoing.

My favorite, and the one I have in my shop, is the Uniguard (see photos). It has a split blade cover that allows you to swing either half up and out of the way independently. For example, I can swing the right half out of the way to rip a narrow work-piece (using a push stick, of course), and still have the blade adequately guarded. The saw's on-off switch mounts on the arm.

Ernie Conover teaches woodworking in Parkman, OH, and still has ten fingers.

Convenience and security. The blade cover on Conover's Uniguard is suspended from a C-shaped support arm. Two halves of the guard can swing up independently—an advantage when ripping narrow boards.

A clear line of sight. Clear, high-strength plastic provides both protection and a good view of the blade. The splitter is attached to the table, independent of the blade guard.

...or improvise if you can't

Shield the blade when you can't use the standard guard by Bernie Maas

As a consultant in several lawsuits involving tablesaw accidents, I've heard horror stories that wouldn't have happened if a blade guard had been in place. Blade guards keep fingers and other stray objects away from the blade. They also protect you from splinters that occasionally spew out of the blade.

If you can't use the guard that comes with the saw (or any other guard, for that matter), it's usually easy to make your own. In fact, for almost any tablesaw operation there's a way to cobble together a guard on the spot, using common shop scrap, clamps, and a little ingenuity- I'll show you three important examples.

One note about the clamps first: When you erect these guards on the saw, use bar clamps rather than C-clamps. The saw's vibration may tend to loosen C-clamps if they're slightly bent.

Dadoing with the Rip Fence

When plowing grooves or rabbets in long stock, you can't use a blade guard that's attached to a splitter. Instead, you can pile shop scrap on the left side of the table, and clamp a guard on top of the pile so it extends out over the blade (see top photo). If you have some clear Plexiglas or polycarbonate handy, use that for the guard, so you can see what's going on under it. (Don't use acrylic for the guard, because it shatters easily.)

I also use featherboards to keep the workpiece Hat on the table and firmly against the fence. Tension the featherboards against the board before clamping. This setup allows me to shove stock in at one end, feed the stock until my hand gets close to the guard, then walk around the saw and pull it out at the other end.

Grooving. A scrap of Plexiglas clamped to a pile of scrap boards covers the dado blade. Pressure from feath erlxiards lets you feed without getting near the blade.

Dadoing with the Miter Gauge

When you push stock over the dado blade with the miter gauge, you can cover the blade from the opposite direction. I clamp a 2x2 to the right side of the rip fence, flush with the top of the fence. Then clamp or nail the guard to the 2x2 as shown in the center photo. It's so simple it's astonishing!

Dadoing. When he uses the miter gauge to dado, the author clamps the see-through Plexiglas guard to a 2x2 scrap, which is clamped to the rip fence.

Safe and stable. Maas uses an outrigger for one-man cutting of sheet goods. The fixture not only guards the blade, it holds plywood sheets down on the table.

Cutting Large Panels

I use an "outrigger" guard when cutting large panels. (See bottom photo.) Outrigger featherboards guard the blade and hold the plywood sheet down as it's ripped. This way, it won't buck up over the blade as it occasionally wants to do.

You can set up the outrigger with clamps, or make it more permanent with a handful of nails or screws.

To rig it up, clamp a 2x2 to the far side of the rip fence, again flush with the top of the fence. Set your fence for the cut you're going to make. Perpendicular to the 2x2, fasten appropriate lengths of 2x4s reaching just beyond the blade, and attach another 2x2 across their ends. Clamp featherboards just to the left of the blade, before and aft.

Bernte Maas teaches woodworking at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania.


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