For some inexplicable reason, many woodworkers become strangely complacent around this tool, which has the capability and the sheer vindictiveness to easily and happily slice off assorted parts of your anatomy that you may have later found a use for.
Strangely enough, this is also the only tool in my workshop that hasn’t injured me, not that it hasn’t tried. Completely ignoring the bump on my noggin I receive every time I clean out the dust chute, as well as ignoring pinching my fingers in the mitre groove whenever I slide the fence across too fast.
Oh yeah! And the scraped knuckles when the wrench slips while changing the blades, something I seem to do a few dozen times a day. It always seems that I have a plywood blade on when I need to rip a piece of hardwood and a melamine blade when I need to cut some white oak plywood or whatever. The right blade is always hanging on the wall.
I’ve never understood the casualness with which people tend to treat their tablesaw. Me? Heck, just the thought of the great grey beast scares the willies out of me, and that’s not a pretty sight. But when I feel the heavy clunk of the capacitor kick in and that motor slowly climbs to such an ear-splitting wail that send the banshees heading for the hills in terror, I know I am in the presence of a malevolent monster whose sole purpose is to kill me. Or, failing that, at least cut the piece of wood down to size. Either way, it’s good with it.
As you may have guessed by now, I have a favourite story regarding tablesaws.
While working in my shop late one night, I was ripping some 20-foot long, red cedar planks into 1″x1″ for somebody’s canoe gunnels. I had ripped a couple pieces off the plank and was just coming to the end of the fourth piece when the entire thing simply vanished before my eyes. There was no prior warning or discernable quiver or even a simple vibration. Nothing! Poof! It was just gone.
After carefully counting my fingers to be sure they hadn’t accompanied the board to wherever, I shut down the beast and looked around in bafflement. My usual state, actually.
I searched high and low for that board in ever-increasing perplexity. After all, where could a 20-foot long piece of wood go to on its own? Eventually I wandered through the doorway into the storage area of the shop. There, after completely passing through a sheet of ¾” birch plywood and halfway through an additional two sheets, the piece of cedar had finally come to rest, a full 47 feet, 9 7/16 inches from the centre point of the tablesaw blade. (Yes, I measured it. Not only that, but I later mounted the piece on the wall with the measurements carefully recorded in blood red ink. I almost painted its flight path on the shop floor but that would have been a little weird.)
I often recall that incident with fondness for two reasons. One, that thing would have skewered me like a giant shish kebab without even slowing down. But it missed. That time! And two, it gave me this great story.
I’m sure there’s also a profound moral here somewhere but I can’t for the life of me think what it might be. I’ll let you know if I think of something better than getting hit by flying lumber may be detrimental to one’s health.