SawStop | Accident | Rip Cut | Blade Brake

Last week Rob admitted to a table saw accident that happened recently but thankfully without involving an injury. A number of you offer thoughts in that regard. – Editor

“Good reminder! I came close to cutting my finger off because I got complacent and forgot basic safety. Your comment is best: Just don’t ever take shortcuts. If you do it once, it will lead to more.” – Tim Dean

“Just read your column on doing stupid things at the table saw. Wish I had read it a couple of hours sooner. I just came back from the urgent care facility after my encounter with a table saw blade. Much like you, I reached for my push stick and took my eyes off of what I was doing for just a second and bam! My thumb hit the blade. Unfortunately, I don’t have a blade stop and my thumb got bit. Fortunately, it looked worse than it was. The doctor said it will heal but it was torn up enough that he couldn’t even stitch it closed. Yes, it will leave a mark! Sometimes with experience comes overconfidence with the routine. Also with age, sometimes there is a lack of focus. At 63 I have become more aware of this, and I try to clear my mind of other distractions like the next cut I need to make in order to focus on the one I’m making. This accident was more frustrating to me for doing something stupid than anything else. The finger will heal faster than my ego!” Anthony Cavallo

“I have had a few close calls, but nothing life-changing. I wanted to remind other readers that safety begins between the ears. Once, I was doing some work installing baseboards. I was tired and decided to end my day. For some inexplicable reason, I then decided to just make an one more cut. As it turned out, I ended up in emergency with only three stitches needed. The outcome should have been much worse. I should have lost my hand from the wrist down. I was using the miter saw cross-handed. It was totally preventable. I used that moment to start listening and trusting my inner voice that tells me I am tired and that I should quit for the day.” – Rino

“I read with great interest your story about using poor judgment and having the SawStop save your thumb. It reminded me of a safety lesson I learned years ago as a freshman in high school wood shop. I grew up building cabinets with my grandfather using a table saw with no guards whatsoever. Only a rip fence. The blade was always high, and he trusted his own common sense for safety. The first time I used the table saw in wood shop, my teacher, Mr. Wilson, nearly had a coronary. The blade was all the way up, just like I was used to and I was feeding a piece of red oak through by hand only. He promptly hit the emergency stop and lectured me about the dangers of what I was doing wrong. He then showed me the proper way to set the blade to where it was just above the piece, fully explaining his reasons as he went. It made a lot of sense, and I have heeded his advice ever since. Fast forward four decades to about two years ago. I was building a crib and changing table for my son and daughter-in-law in anticipation of my first grandchild. I was ripping a piece of sapele with my old Shopsmith when, for whatever reason, the wood started climbing up the fence. Much like you, I forced the last few inches through, only the tip of my left index finger just barely got into the blade. I jerked back, swore profusely and went to the first-aid cabinet at my workbench. After cleaning it, I saw it was just beside my nail and not into it, thankfully. By heeding Mr. Wilson’s advice from 40+ years ago, I walked away with a small chunk of the inside tip of my finger torn out instead of my finger being cut off or ripped down the middle. Your injury was prevented, thanks to the blessing of modern technology. Mine was minor thanks to some sage advice from an old school teacher. Lessons learned indeed.” – Mark Smith

“You missed an opportunity to detail what you SHOULD have done. I assume there were several options, such as stop the saw, lift the wood to clear the blade, etc. Many of us don’t own the SawStop but still have to be safe.” – Tracy Novak

“Was a fleshy part of your hand, fingers, thumb, in close proximity to the blade and the detection system engaged? Tell us the rest of the story!” – Jim McDonough

“It would be helpful to hear what you will do differently next time you’re ripping and after more thought about what you believe the root cause of the triggering was. Here’s an example of how unusual the cause can be. I was ripping some boards to be used as trim around a breaker box that was slightly smaller than the fuse box it replaced. The cut was an easy width of 2-1/2”, but I removed the blade guard and installed the riving knife to allow the push stick to pass through the space between the blade and the fence. I had a featherboard in place, completed the cut and switched off the saw. Then BANG! The brake triggered. After a few minutes to gather my senses and determine if I needed a clothing change, I began to dig into the why. This happened during blade rundown — a great feature in that the safety system remains active. I finally found the cause: A wire staple had been stuck to the magnetic tip of my tape measure and must have brushed off when I double-checked the fence setting. It was at the rear of the blade and must have contacted the blade and riving knife during blade rundown. My fingers weren’t involved but could easily have been. Cost: A cartridge and the relatively inexpensive original SawStop blade that I kept just to cut pine. My main learning point was to always make sure there is no debris on the saw table before starting the saw, even if I have just finished multiple cuts.” – Jay Simmons 

“Thank you for sharing your experience. Even when having a “Goal 0” attitude towards safety/injuries, complacency always seems to have a way of sneaking its way in. Especially when doing repetitive work such as what you were doing. I hope to never active my SawStop blade brake, but if I do, I’ll be glad I bought it.” – Chuck

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