Table saw kickback prevention

Working with power tools requires more attention than you can imagine – a moment of not being concentrated to the job could result in a consequence for a lifetime. But is there a way to prevent table saw kickback?

Table saw kickback is very dangerous but can be prevented. There are some table saw features/accessories that can be used such as a riving knife, a splitter or rip fence that can be used to help you stay safe. However, there is no substitute for good practices, focus and concentration when using a table saw.

But before we get to the prevention, let’s define the kickback first.

What is a kickback?

Basically, it is a situation when a part or the whole piece that you are cutting whips back at you. There are two types of kickback:

  • Small cut-off – the first type is when a small piece of the wood you are cutting goes back at you at enormous speed. This is why you should always wear safety glasses as even it is a small piece, it can badly hurt your face. Plus, you can stop working from time to time and carefully remove those tiny pieces.
  • Whole board – the second type of kickback is when the blade pushes the whole board at you, which is also extremely dangerous and can lead to serious injuries.

Kickback danger – how often does it occur?

Kickback happens very fast, which means you won’t have time to react. You won’t have time to pull your hand back and not even talk about stepping away.

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Your hand near the blade in case of a kickback is the main reason for losing fingers. One of my neighbors recently learned that, unfortunately, in the worst possible way. Because of this, some situations require using a stick for pushing rather than your hand.

There is not a rule on how often can this happen, but, numbers say that it does happen often.

NEISS Statistics

The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System shows some serious results. Injuries due to a table saw kickback cost the United States millions of dollars each year for medical care.

Obviously, table saw kickback is a serious issue. But what is the reason for it? You will find the answer in the next section.

What is the reason for a kickback?

Imagine a situation when you push the board against the table saw. Once the board passes the center of the blade and comes off the fence – Wham! The boards get back at your face.

Sounds familiar?

I really hope that you haven’t experienced a kickback and that you never will. In this situation, if you are lucky, the board will pass near your shoulder. If not, it could result in a serious injury.

But what is the reason for this?

The teeth of the blade are moving towards you, so as you start the cut, the blade will hold the board firmly down at the table. There is no problem until you reach the half of the blade and the teeth catch the board.

The board gets pinched between the blade and the rip fence, and it is thrown back at the operator with enormous speed leaving you helpless with no time to react.

That is the physics behind this phenomenon. But how can you prevent it from happening? You will find the answer in the section below.

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Table saw kickback prevention

Following several safety rules, you can prevent kickback. What should you do?

Riving knife/Splitter

The only difference between these tools is that a riving knife moves and tilts with the blade, while the splitter stays fixed. With a riving knife, the wood will pinch the riving knife and not the blade.

However, some older models of table saws come without a riving knife. What are your options in that situation?

First of all, you will need to align the fence.

Rip fence

The first thing is right fence alignment. The rip fence must be placed parallel to the blade, not towards it. If you decide to place it towards, since the distance between the rear of the blade and the front may be different that will make a funnel effect, as the wood will be pressed against the teeth of the blade.

How to align the rip fence?

Use a single tooth from the blade, move it to the fore and check the distance to the fence. The next step is rotating the tooth aft and again measuring the distance to the fence. To reduce the risk of a kickback, make sure that both distances are equal.

Avoiding kickback

Hold the board firmly at the edge and against the fence, and push the board until completely passes the blade. After it passes, you can release the board, without a kickback.

Is it that easy?

Well, you should keep an eye on several things. Firstly, keep the board straight against the fence. Next, use the right amount of pressure on the boards and finally, make sure that you don’t release the board until you have made the cut.

For additional safety, you should use a stick to push the board, rather than your thumb, ONLY when the board is less than 6” wide. Otherwise, you won’t have enough touching point which can be dangerous.

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What about crosscuts?

Making a crosscut with a board that is longer than it is wider, will result in a kickback in most cases. The issue here is that the board can’t be held on the fence to get enough support for the cut. Because of this, you will need a crosscut sled.

You should not even attempt to make a crosscut without a sled as that could be very dangerous.

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For additional info on how to avoid a kickback, take a look at the video below.


To sum up, a table saw is a great power tool, of course, if it is used properly. Otherwise, it could result in fatal injuries that we wouldn’t like to happen.

To prevent a kickback on a table saw, follow this simple guide and always stay focused on the job. Check your table saw before you start cutting and make sure everything is right. If not, don’t even start the cut.

What are your experiences on this topic? What do you do to prevent a kickback? Post your opinions in the comment section below and don’t forget to share this article.

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