All power tools come with built-in safety features to minimize the risks involved for the user when using these tools. For a table saw, one of those key safety features is the blade guard. What is the purpose of the blade guard, and can you remove it if it gets in the way?
A blade guard is a clear plastic safety feature that physically blocks the blade during use. It should be used when making cuts with the table saw where it will not interfere. For certain cuts, the removal of the blade guard is necessary, but extra care should be taken if the guard is not installed.
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What Is The Purpose Of A Table Saw Blade Guard?
Many people think that the main reason for a saw guard is to prevent the operator from getting cut, and while this is one purpose of the guard, there are many others as well!
Some of these include:
- Limiting the risk for an accidental cut. Blade guards may reduce the risk of injury, but does not eliminate it.
- Preventing wood from being dropped on a spinning blade. Wood dropped on a spinning blade will be hurtled around the workshop at an incredible speed, often towards the operator.
- Preventing wood chips from being thrown towards the operator. The blade guard can direct wood chips from the cut away from the operator.
- Collecting dust. Many table saws include dust collection, and one of the prime locations for dust collection is at the blade guard.
A blade guard installed on the table saw should not be an excuse to become blasé about using the tool. An accidental cut can still occur, epecially when cutting small pieces of wood where your fingers are closer to the blade.
Additionally, kickback is unrelated to the blade guard, and can cause serious injury as well.
Is it Safe to Remove A Table Saw Blade Guard?
Most of the time, your blade guard should remain on the table saw. The most common cuts, like cross cuts and rip cuts on bigger stock, are easily performed with the blade guard in-place.
However, there are some cuts and ways of using the table saw that require the blade guard to be removed to operate the table saw safely.
The following methods of using the table saw require the removal of the blade guard.
- Using a push block for safety when performing a rip cut. A push block is a device that gives you better control of the workpiece as you push it through the saw. However, the push block moves over the blade as the cut is made. The blade guard prevents a push block from being used in this type of cut.
- Cutting thin rip cuts with the rip fence. The blade guard prevents the rip fence from being positioned close to the blade to make thin cuts. The blade guard would need to be removed to perform these thin rip cuts.
- Using a dado stack. A dado stack is a stack of blades mounted in place of your standard single blade and used to make non-through cuts, such as cutting slots into a board. The blade guard must to be removed to use a dado stack since the stack is wider than a single blade, and the blade guard will get in the way of the blade stack.
- Performing angled cuts. Table saws are designed to have the ability to make angle cuts. When the blade is positioned at an angle for this type of cut, the blade guard comes into contact with the table’s surface, preventing the blade from being angled. This type of cut frequently requires the removal of the blade guard.
- Using jigs. Use of jigs such as cross-cut sleds and similar jigs cannot be used with a Blade guard fitted over the table saw blade. Many of these jigs are made to only have the width of the blade and cannot function correctly with the blade guard installed.
The instances where a blade guard cannot be used on a table saw do not negate its function as a safety feature. You should re-install your blade guard when using your table saw in a manner where the blade guard will not be a hindrance.
But Those Youtubers Don’t Use Blade Guards…
So when you go to watch woodworking on Youtube, you’ll see all those famous people have removed their blade guards. I get it.
In fact, I was one of them. And then I cut off my thumb.
I had so many reasons not use the blade guard. It was hard to get video. It was attached to the riving knife, and that caused issues. My table saw was old and janky, and lining everything up after taking it off for a cut was a giant pain.
Trust me. All those reasons suddenly seem really dumb when your thumb is in two pieces.
It’s easy to say that you’re smart, and that you pay attention when using the saw, and that you would never let that happen to you.
I thought all that too.
Put your blade guard on, people.
(For the record, they sewed my thumb back together, and while I can’t bend it in the middle anymore, it’s still there. You can get the whole story here.)
What Is The Difference Between The Splitter And Blade Guard?
Many people new to table saws confuse the blade guard with the riving knife or splitter situated slightly behind the blade.
The riving knife sits behind the blade, and keeps the two cut pieces of wood separate from each other during the cut.
This is important, because if the two pieces pinch the blade, kickback occurs. This “kicks back” the wood toward the operator, and is really dangerous.
In older saws, the riving knife and the blade guard were often one piece. This was the case with my old saw.
My newer saw (post-thumb incident, I splurged on a SawStop) allows the blade guard to disconnected from the riving knife. I like this configuration better, and I think that’s the model for most modern saws.
Regardless, the splitter/riving knife is an equally important safety feature as the blade guard. You shouldn’t take it off either, unless you’re making a dado cut.
In that case, you’ll probably need to remove it. Because the riving knife sits slightly higher than the blade, you unfortunately can’t make a dado cut with the riving knife in place.