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How to use push sticks to cut wood safely on a table saw.

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Cabinetman

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It’s more of a correlation, the Americans very rarely use push sticks – they use push blocks and similar, reports (depending where you look) say there are between 60,000 and 90,000 Tablesaw injuries a year in the US and on average 10 amputations per day as akirk just very succinctly put it, If your hands aren’t close you’re probably not going to get hurt. Ian
 

Spectric

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Thanks doctor Bob, he had his hands either side of that bit of wood pushing it through, what a total numpty! And how on earth anybody can have the television on in a workshop, never get anything done at all, 3/4 of the time I have the radio turned off as it’s too distracting. Hell he was lucky.
Distractions are a real cause of accidents, look back to the days of mining and the winchman in charge of the pit cage. He was shut away in the winch house all on his own so as not to be distracted. I ended up with hinge thumb due to being distracted whilst using a small axe so having a Tv is just asking for trouble.
 

powertools

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I don't expect any replies to this post but out of interest I am wondering what you guys who advocate using 2 flimsy pushsticks to control the wood over your table saw what do you use to control the wood over your planer?
 

Jacob

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I don't expect any replies to this post
Why not, out of interest?
but out of interest I am wondering what you guys who advocate using 2 flimsy pushsticks to control the wood over your table saw what do you use to control the wood over your planer?
I don't use flimsy push sticks myself - they are quite tough.
One of the big boons of push stick over planer is the long reach - can be one movement through without changing hand position.
You also have more choice of where you can position the sticks as compared to your hands - better control and losing a bit of stick is better than cutting a finger
One essential point where you really need them is the end of a pass when the cutters are suddenly exposed; if its a big piece it's the point where you are most likely to lose control.
You can pass little pieces over the top quite safely ... and so on.
Planer not quite as risky as a TS but still gives a very nasty cut and push sticks are essential if any contact has to be made nearer the cutters than say 10".
Same goes for spindle moulder etc.
 

Cabinetman

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If you think push sticks are flimsy I would suggest you’re using the wrong type, with the sort I showed in the first photo there is no movement of the wood except for where I want it to go. No I don’t use anything except my hands on my planer, it is well guarded so that my hands can’t go anywhere near the blades.
The guard is adjusted so that only the wood can pass underneath it, start to push the wood along the top of the planer until the wood starts to go under the guard then the hand that is nearest to it goes over the top of the guard and lands on the wood at the far side whilst the other hand keeps pushing from the back when that hand approaches the guard too it to then goes over the top and lands on the wood to continue the cut, at no time are either of my hands within six inches of the cutters (which are covered by the guard at all times)
 
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doctor Bob

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thats pretty impressive -especially the noise.

I guess its real -its almost too dramatic to be real

and how did he manage to get out of the way?
From the noise I'm guessing there was no riving knife as the sound indicates that the board was nipping up the blade and slowing it down, I suspect he's had a few kick backs hence he knew what may be coming, however I bet he's never had one like that.

I'll come clean and say I have all the gear, riving knife, crown guard, £20000 saw and my record kick back was on a nice day when we had the roller shutter open, the oak board shot out of the workshop across the parking bays, over the road and first ground contact was 30m away.
 

doctor Bob

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I don't expect any replies to this post but out of interest I am wondering what you guys who advocate using 2 flimsy pushsticks to control the wood over your table saw what do you use to control the wood over your planer?
Again as a business it's a different approach, we are lucky enough that 95% of our stuff goes through the 4 sider rather than an over and under process.
 

TRITON

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but out of interest I am wondering what you guys who advocate using 2 flimsy pushsticks to control the wood over your table saw what do you use to control the wood over your planer?
Its a case of how you feed it. the saw you feed it from the front intot he blade, the surfacer you feed it in, but your hands are at the outfeed table. Most have a block with a lip that is used to push the last of the board through, but even that isnt the full story as the saw blade is visible, the surfacer its covered, and the only time the blades are visible is at the start and at the end of the cut.

" Flimsy" now now, thats enough of that :LOL:
 

scooby

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You make some very good points there Doug, makes me wonder if that’s why I have never had a kickback.
Have you ever suffered one Doug?
Sorry to hijack your question to Doug, never had a 'traditional' kickback but I've got an 'interesting' story.

When I was apprenticing about 25 years ago, the firm had a big dimensioning panel saw. The type where you could cut 10'x4' sheets on your own, the only help you needed was to lift them. When I started there, the guard and riving knife had been removed (for grooving) and never replaced. I cut a piece of 3/4" blockboard with an offcut roughly 14"x14". As I went to get the piece I needed, I accidentally nudged the offcut into the rising teeth and it was launched at an alarming pace. It had a decent amount of weight and didn't stop travelling until it hit a set of office drawers about 12 foot away and 4 foot off the floor:rolleyes:

The thought of getting that in the face is still frightening. The foreman (the genius who removed all the safety features) usually spent large amounts of time standing next to the drawers (his desk was right next to them). Fortunately, he was brewing up at the time so I got a cup of tea and a lot of verbal abuse(y)
 

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A while ago I did a YouTube search for "table saw accident", or similar, and the majority seemed to be from using the pistol grip style push stick, which through a moment's inattention came into contact with the saw blade after the workpiece was through the saw. This imparts a rotational force to stick and hand, and brings the top of your hand into contact with the teeth. All at 90mph, or thereabouts. I'm not keen to reenact that, so will stick with 2 push sticks.
 

LJM

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I don't expect any replies to this post but out of interest I am wondering what you guys who advocate using 2 flimsy pushsticks to control the wood over your table saw what do you use to control the wood over your planer?
Who’s using “flimsy” push sticks? As others have said, if a push stick is flimsy, you’re using the wrong one. However, the push sticks needn’t be something to fight the material with; with a properly set up machine, with and appropriate and sharp blade, used with sufficient support for the workpiece and correct technique, the push sticks are not used to fight the material, but simply to guide it through the machine.
 

Jacob

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Sorry to hijack your question to Doug, never had a 'traditional' kickback but I've got an 'interesting' story.

When I was apprenticing about 25 years ago, the firm had a big dimensioning panel saw. The type where you could cut 10'x4' sheets on your own, the only help you needed was to lift them. When I started there, the guard and riving knife had been removed (for grooving) and never replaced. I cut a piece of 3/4" blockboard with an offcut roughly 14"x14". As I went to get the piece I needed, I accidentally nudged the offcut into the rising teeth and it was launched at an alarming pace. It had a decent amount of weight and didn't stop travelling until it hit a set of office drawers about 12 foot away and 4 foot off the floor:rolleyes:

The thought of getting that in the face is still frightening. The foreman (the genius who removed all the safety features) usually spent large amounts of time standing next to the drawers (his desk was right next to them). Fortunately, he was brewing up at the time so I got a cup of tea and a lot of verbal abuse(y)
That is a "traditional" kick back. They are all different, depending on what and how stuff is being cut.
 

Sgian Dubh

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... what do you use to control the wood over your planer?
Hands, derived from the usual full name of the machine, I suppose, i.e., overhand surface plane. The name implies (maybe incorrectly, I'm not sure) the methodology is to feed the wood using a hand over hand technique. That's essentially how I've done flatting or surfacing and edging for close to fifty years now, and I'd say my method is pretty much identical to what I was taught when I trained.

I think my only modification to the basic technique is to occasionally wear snug fitting work gloves, the ones with sticky nitrile bits on the palm side because they can help enormously with grip, which can be really helpful for some flatting and edging jobs. I've never been a fan of gloves and woodworking in general, and in particular whilst feeding wood into machinery, or vice-versa because they can desensitize the feedback from the fingertips, which I think is important for most woodworking tasks. But, still, I do make an exception or two, and I will use gloves for some flatting or surfacing tasks. Slainte.
 

Daniel2

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Same for me with the planer; hand over hand, and employing grippy gloves when dealing with slippy timber.
I can still count to ten without taking my socks off :D
Again, awareness and focus are key.
 

Jacob

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Same for me with the planer; hand over hand, and employing grippy gloves when dealing with slippy timber.
I can still count to ten without taking my socks off :D
Again, awareness and focus are key.
Yes to grippy gloves, cheap rigger gloves with leather palms. But I also use the sticks over the planer, just habit but does have advantages see earlier post.
 

Cabinetman

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Thanks gentlemen, never thought to use grippy gloves in that situation and I’m sure it will help so I will and future. Cheers
 

Doug71

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I avoid gloves when using spinning things, I know someone who had a bad accident from the glove getting caught.

I did see an advert the other day for some gloves where the fingers tore off easily if they got caught in something, these aren't the actual ones but look to work the same, worth considering if using gloves with machinery.

 

Daniel2

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I avoid gloves when using spinning things, I know someone who had a bad accident from the glove getting caught.

I did see an advert the other day for some gloves where the fingers tore off easily if they got caught in something, these aren't the actual ones but look to work the same, worth considering if using gloves with machinery.

I'm of the same opinion. Generally speaking I won't wear gloves with any revolving machinery.
I also prefer the sensitive feedback.
But, as with all rules, there are occasional exceptions.
It's all to do with my risk assessment of the task. In the case of a slippy piece of timber, I feel it safer that the workpiece is securely gripped thus reducing the risk of it kicking backwards, and probably giving me a nice splinter in the palm while it's at it.
Naturally, the grippy gloves I refer to are of the tight fitting variety.
 

doctor Bob

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surely everyone does a quick risk assessment, it's just some people have different acceptable levels.
 

Tugalis

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Don't wear gloves when working with machinery in the shop. That is a sure fire way to lose a finger or hand in my opinion.

" It’s more of a correlation, the Americans very rarely use push sticks – they use push blocks and similar " you can draw correlations from anything. The difficulty from drawing this conclusion is the sheer number of accidents where we don't know anything about the incident. I would argue it has more to do with inexperience and distractions than anything else. Couple that with the litigation society like the US has, I doubt very much if OSHA would recommend a specific type if there is more evidence that it causes injuries over others.


If someone can find some studies or other info on specific pushstick types and how the create an unsafe working environment Im all ears...

I just looked through the front page of Youtube for table saw accidents and I am struggling to find videos which show that the pistol type grip is the issue. More so not paying attention at the job in hand. Like I said before, I cut 1000s of sheets of timber a year and the pistol type grip is by far the safest option in my opinion when cutting sheet goods. You should always follow good practices like the blade not protruding more than 1/4" above the material which will minimise any risk. Another important thing to learn is to let go and to understand when you need to let go and when you need to hold on. This is something that again is learnt over time.

Im not a huge fan of the gripper blocks by the way, I think they are a bad idea on the table saw. A great idea on the planer though as you have more room to retreat and move away should anything go wrong plus you want to keep that timber moving in a certain direction. We use a homemade version with sandpaper on the reverse side.
 
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