Woodworking Lessons 2: Table saw safety is in the details

I have a rather large, hulking, bulky, heavy table saw. It’s one that real men generally like to have, because it’s big, and it’s heavy, and it cuts stuff. However, cutting safely on a table saw apparently is a more detailed operation than I thought.

I had a problem where every time I’d rip a piece of wood, I couldn’t seem to really push it all the way across the blade. I’d hit a point where it just became impossible. Forcing it through seemed like a lost limb waiting to happen, so I just got some scrap wood and started trying to figure out where the problem was. I also had some help from a few books that told me what to look for, and (of course) I had the table saw manual. The problem was the splitter (or, spreader, as I’ve also seen it called).

The spreader is a piece of metal that is aligned with the blade on the outfeed side of the blade. The spreader is there just to keep wood on the outfeed side from turning back in on the blade and causing problems. Trouble is, if your spreader is misaligned, like mine was, it can really cause more problems than it solves. It needs to be perfectly perpendicular to the table *top*, perfectly perpendicular to the table *edge* (looking down on it), and perfectly aligned with the blade (ie, not to the left or right of the kerf – it should sit wholly inside the kerf).

Mine was none of these things. I was faced with being macho and just removing the whole thing, or spending some time to get it aligned. Since all the macho woodworkers I know are missing digits, I figured I’d spend the time. Your table saw manual will have some information on how your spreader is attached, and mine had information on getting it aligned as well. General woodworking books also have tips on maintaining your equipment, so check those out – they have some shortcuts that’ll really save you some time and frustration.

My table saw is (now) a pleasure to use.