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How to Use Kickback for Laying Out Joints

August 28th, 2010



This is just an upfront reminder that I’ve recorded audio versions of new posts that contain “bonus features”. Just click the player above to hear the audio version of this post!

I had never experienced table saw kickback before. For those uninitiated, this occurs when the workpiece rides up on the back of the blade while being trapped against the fence. The workpiece is then literally shot back towards the operator. Consider the physics, my table saw turns at a rate of 3450 revolutions per minute. I did the calculations and that translates to a workpiece moving exactly ludicrously fast.

Until today, I have to say that I hadn’t given the notion of kickback much respect. I’ve had pieces get tossed back at the speed of slow-pitch softball and thought “hmmm… that’s not too bad… I could take that”. But the real deal is a whole different story.

I literally lost my breath when my workpiece kicked back and hit me on my right side with a thundering WHACK that must have been heard around the world. Stunned for a second, and in that instant I wondered, perhaps oddly so, if the severe impact would stop my heart. I then figured out that my heart is kind of located on the other side of my body and that it would probably be fine. Next, I feared that I had just become meat on a stick. Not until I saw my entire side in a mirror was I sure that I was not stuck like a pig.

Now, some may think this was an accident. But, I must say this is not the case… I kept losing my pin board when I went to transfer pin locations. So logically I thought “What if i had the pin locations marked on my body???” I know… your kicking yourself for not coming up with this genius idea first. My plan was brought to fruition in a mere fraction of a second. And now, transferring pin locations has never been so easy.

The other end of the board is also clearly defined on my flesh, but it includes nipple and I’m not ready to share that just yet or for free (that’s definitely premium site material).

You see that white arc on the piece of padauk that… ummm, that would be my skin cells. You can actually see the grain pattern of the piece of wood on my skin. Now I have to be mindful to not kill anyone with this sucker as clearly it would not pass the “if it does not fit, you must acquit” test.

At this point, I’m hoping it leaves a permanent mark. How hardcore would I be then? I totally would go to woodworking shows just to lift up my shirt, nod like a bad-ass, and say “yeah… that’s an offset box joint”.

What’s a little more troubling is to think of what could have been. I could easily be blind now if that board hit me in an eye. Although I’m not completely sure that I am even vulnerable to blindness given I have not yet suffered effects from countless years of unrelenting masturbation.

What was my specific technique? First, I was in a hurry to just make a quick cut so I would have a test piece for a groove I was about to make.  This was not going to be any sort of significant shop session and thus I was, of course, exempt from having to follow any safety rules. So no safety glasses, no shirt (there’s no woodworking like naked woodworking), no dust mask or even dust collection on (yes to a push stick and splitter). Another mistake was cutting too small a piece to be safely cut on a table saw without use of a sled.

Thinking of the table saw lawsuit that the woodworking community has been following the past year, I decided to look at the crime scene with the proper perspective… what TOOL caused this injury. Then it jumped out at me… the bench dog push stick is offset to the right, pulling the body of the user to the right and inline with dangerous kickback situations. Clearly my pain and suffering is due to this poorly designed tool.

Sadly, I would not be surprised to see someone make that frivolous argument. It’s an awesome push stick and this injury is just a stupid accident wherein I not-so-proudly have to own my stupidity for it occurring.

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  1. August 28th, 2010 at 05:07 | #1

    Suffering for ones art is the true sign of an artist!
    I fear that bit of body art will heal all too soon so may I recommend getting it tattooed whilst still raw.
    Incidents like this wouldn’t happen if you had a Jointmaker Pro.
    You have one?
    Nuff said…

    • September 1st, 2010 at 05:54 | #2

      Black, using the JMP is sooo slow going that it’s reserved for cuts it can only perform. Plus it’s really a crosscut saw for the most part. I did purchase a rip blade for it but the table saw serves me fine (where “serves me fine” means “occasionally rips flesh from my body”)…

  2. August 28th, 2010 at 09:06 | #3

    Oh man, that looks painful! I think that is the #1 thing that woodworkers say when they have an injury in the shop: I was in a hurry. You should, however, take advantage while you still have the mark. Play the sympathy card–it’s a total chick magnet.

    • September 1st, 2010 at 06:13 | #4

      So true about rushing being a common part of the equation. For a quick cut it seems like such a pain to put on a dust mask, goggles, ear protection, etc… I just received one of those full head masks which at least means I have one less thing to complain about putting on for a quick cut (as it covers dust mask and eye protection)… but until I can snap my fingers and have all protective gear instantly on I will complain (hopefully I have fingers left to snap when they come out with this SafteySnapper gizmo.. I may trademark that… then again, I may not)

  3. August 28th, 2010 at 13:42 | #5

    WOW! I don’t know if I should cry from the pain or from laughing. Way to take a shitty experience and let the rest of us learn from it AND laugh at the same time. I’m with the above mentioned idea. Chick Magnet for sure.

    • September 1st, 2010 at 06:15 | #6

      Jason, as long as you are crying, I’ve achieved my goals… heh… I’m learning… I’m now putting grooves in a piece of stock that will make it look like I have abs when it gets imprinted into my flesh. You don’t need to avoid kickback… just learn to use it to your advantage.

  4. August 30th, 2010 at 10:04 | #7

    Oh THAT’S what that WHACK sound was! We’ve been wondering for a couple days now…. Seriously, glad you’re all right, man. Good wake-up call (to at least put some clothes on!)

    • August 31st, 2010 at 01:33 | #8

      @Rockler Woodworking and Hardware
      Thanks! Yeah, I’m starting to really question naked woodworking…. I’m thinking a man-thong at a minimum… Especially after a couple close calls at the (almost appropriately named for the incidents) disc sander… ;-]

  5. JC
    August 30th, 2010 at 17:58 | #9

    That is seriously disturbing and cool at the same time. I think you said you injured your arm playing hockey a while back so this story may not be foreign to you. Gerry Cheevers used to draw stitches on his goalie mask whenever he’d get hit:

    I’m with Adrian. Get the tattoo.

    • August 31st, 2010 at 01:39 | #10

      Lol, JC… I’m pretty sure my mask would be full of stitches… yeah, shattered the wrist (needed plate and screws to reassemble) earlier this year. This kickback is not even my latest injury… I gashed my big toe last night (stupid table saw got me again!).
      Nasty Toe

  6. weiserb
    August 31st, 2010 at 08:38 | #11

    It seems like one of the more dangerous operations making joints on the table saw.
    I am not a professional woodworker, but I did purchase a delta tenoning jig for about $ 45.00 on ebay. I am sorry you were injured, I am not sure if the equiptment is at fault, rather the methods that were used. They also make jigs like the porter cable etc for using a router.

    • September 1st, 2010 at 03:29 | #12

      Yes Weiserb, it was completely me at fault. I also, probably didn’t state it clearly, but the joinery was done on a router jig I made. The workpiece was actually a waste piece that I was ripping in two to test a tongue and groove setting on a couple of routers. Appreciate the comment. I poorly described the situation and should revise the post… ehhh, I’ll do that after my next kickback.

  7. JC
    August 31st, 2010 at 12:55 | #13

    I played hockey for about 15 yrs now after starting in HS. Never hurt myself more than a few stitches, but I did break my foot in 3 places when I tripped over a laptop cord. Its always the things you don’t think are worth worrying about that seem to get you. lol

    • September 1st, 2010 at 03:21 | #14

      So true JC. There are so many good reasons to smash a laptop, but breaking your foot over it’s cord has to be one of the best. Were you high-jumping it or something? Track and field should really be done outside ya know?? Hopefully you healed up well. I’d take a kickback like this every year (well, maybe every other year) to have my wrist injury un-done. My wrist and elbow will never be the same. Oh well, got to take the bad with the good in life, right? I mean do we???? Because if I don’t have to take the bad I’d really like to know that…

  8. September 1st, 2010 at 04:26 | #15

    Wow, greatstuff, know just what ya mean….I can measure exactly 1/2″ anytime I want to with my prerequisite thumb-line….stuck it where it shouldn`t have been (behind the sawblade while runnin`) . So anyhow, since I was smart enough to actually do it twice in the same week (yep, sure did!), can I sue for twice the damages?

    Another one gets bitten by the dust.. 😉

    • September 1st, 2010 at 05:45 | #16

      Wow B-man, First let me speak for everyone and say we’ve all stuck our thumbs somewhere they shouldn’t have been at one time or another.

      They say to learn something use repetition but I don’t think that’s supposed to be applied in woodworking accidents. How gun shy were you after the second time? Well it shows character (or insanity) to have gotten back up on the horse again (Disclaimer: I don’t recommend actually putting a saddle on your table saw and mounting it… at least not while the blade is running). Hopefully we both can avoid getting bit by the dust again (although we both know that’s rather unlikely… you first if you wouldn’t mind). Thanks for sharing your story… and in all seriousness (a first for me), safe woodworking!

  9. September 2nd, 2010 at 09:25 | #17

    No kickstop yet, even if kickback is the lethal part of a tablesaw. Who knows, 10 years from now we wear a body armour to protect us from a smashed liver or a punctured lung, etc and contrary to fingers you can’t live without them.

    • September 29th, 2010 at 04:29 | #18

      I hear ya Damien. I’m working on a prototype woodworking bubble. Just step into your bubble, roll into your shop and get to work. Development has been hindered by the fact I seem to pass out every time at about 20 minutes. I probably need to add some way of exchanging air in the sealed bubble.

  10. Julie
    September 28th, 2010 at 09:30 | #19

    Nice tattoo!

    Isn’t that workpiece too short to put through a table saw?
    Or should I say… that workpiece is too short to put through a table saw.

    • September 29th, 2010 at 05:27 | #20

      Thanks Julie. After a month the outline of this most awesome tattoo remains. Yes, my workpiece was rather short (I take no pride in that). I’m not sure if it was too short. The only hard and fast rule that I follow (sometimes) when ripping is that the workpiece is longer in length than width. In retrospect, and after great forensic investigation, I believe the cause of the kickback was me not pushing the workpiece fully past the blade.

  11. September 28th, 2010 at 18:36 | #21

    I was going to mention my kickback horror story how I managed to deflect a piece of 1/4″ plywood into my groan. Got one of those nasty deep purple and black bruises the size of a softball–didn’t take any pics. But than I saw your big toe! Can’t top that! A few days ago I posted pic of an image off the back of some 3M sandpaper (http://alexsjoint.blogspot.com/2010/09/is-that-what-being-woodworker-looks.html). Maybe that’s how we should really be suiting up.

    • September 29th, 2010 at 07:13 | #22

      Yeah the toe was just a freaky accident. About a week later is was neat to see a nice thick chunk of skin fall off. Ok, that was actually pretty gross, but it was neat to see a large area of my toe with no toe-print to be found. But I digress… Let’s focus on your groin. That’s a rather impressive redirection of a kickback. Have you created any sort of groin guard for your table saw yet? Maybe market it to table saw manufacturers and become rich and famous with your own wikipedia page declaring you as the grandfather of the groin guard. Nothing is impossible!

  12. September 28th, 2010 at 20:37 | #23

    Groin. It got me in the groin. God, typos make me look like a dolt!

    • September 29th, 2010 at 07:23 | #24

      Thank you Alex. You have made my life complete. The only reason I started blogging was in hopes of one day somebody leaving the comment “Groin. It got me in the groin.” It should be noted that I have the power to rectify your typo. But, out of pure selfishness I can not. Plus “groan” actually seems just as appropriate with respect to the nature of your kickback.

  13. Julie
    September 29th, 2010 at 09:18 | #25

    Well there are not many who can say this, but honestly, I once got kickback into my PREGNANT belly. Might explain my 21 yr. old son’s love for death metal music? At the time I was using a small flimsy tabletop tablesaw that I really had no right to be using because I did not know the proper safety rules. P.S. Where do I register for the premium site? 😉

    • September 29th, 2010 at 16:42 | #26

      Ohhh my, a kickback into your pregnant belly?? I’m glad you and your son turned out fine. As Alex said, that’s a hard one to top. I will say that I was mildly bloated when my kickback occurred… so maybe we’re even on that??? Ok, maybe not. Oh yeah, the premium site… haha… given I post here on the “free” site way too infrequently as I do, it might take a few days (errr, decades) before I begin construction of the premium site. That just gives time to build up anticipation I think.

  14. September 29th, 2010 at 12:14 | #27

    I can’t top that. The Wood Zealot might. I guess the Surgeon General will be putting warnings on table saws now.

    • September 29th, 2010 at 16:47 | #28

      Yeah Alex, no topping getting a kickback into a baby bump although using your groin to stop your kickback gets high marks. I definitely only come away with the bronze medal with you two in the mix. Oh well… gives me something to shoot for.

  15. September 29th, 2010 at 20:38 | #29

    I wiki-ed groin guard and wouldn’t you know it there’s one already. Apparently in Cricket they use a groin guard. It sounds like the equivalent of a cup. I’m not sure I’d wear a cup while using my table saw. There’s two side effects of wearing one, grabbing oneself and spitting. Neither are conducent of good shop productivity. Fine for the ball field maybe. They suffer from the side effects in public and make millions.

  16. October 9th, 2010 at 00:10 | #30

    Thanks for sharing that! Made me laugh and cringe at the same time. I am thinking some body armor might be a good investment. I too had a piece fly off the table saw and hit me below the belt. While I was examining the shop floor and trying to quell the ensuing nausea, I vowed to never let it happen again. Any experience you can limp away from can be learned from. Gotta respect the saw.

  17. October 13th, 2010 at 21:36 | #31

    I thoroughly and completely enjoyed your blog! You had me on “Donkey Training”.

  18. Jeannie
    October 23rd, 2010 at 22:05 | #32

    I was sent your blog to check out, and really glad I did. Your writing is very funny and I love the pictures! (well, except the ones that are bloody)

  19. October 26th, 2010 at 22:23 | #33

    Best Spoken Wood ever!

    The masturbation crack made me laugh out loud, thanks for commiting to that bit.


  20. bobbollin
    November 10th, 2010 at 13:28 | #34

    “this injury is just a stupid accident wherein I not-so-proudly have to own my stupidity for it occurring.”

    THANK YOU for that. It ain’t often someone admits that maybe…just maybe…it might have been something they did wrong.

    I learned the lessons about kickback the hard way too…and was extremely lucky. My piece of wood struck my glasses and knocked out the right lens. I had nary a mark on my face, but was smarting for a few hours. I didn’t find the lens until I cleaned up the scrap pile about 6 months later. In the meantime, I was lucky enough that it only cost me $250 for a new set of lenses – and not an eye.

    I now own – and use – a set of safety glasses that will fit over the prescription glasses.

    And I’ve learned to stand out of the line of fire.

    And yes, the wood comes out of the saw at Light Speed.


  21. January 19th, 2011 at 21:44 | #35

    Wow! I think you may have invented a new form of woodwork tattoo … soon it will be all the rage and everyone will be doing it.

    Glad to hear your OK

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