Safe crosscutting on the table saw

Hello. I’m new here, so this may be just a misunderstanding on my part.

I took the woodshop safety class today and the instructor suggested using the table saw fence as a stop for crosscutting. I seem to remember this being bad practice and potentially unsafe due to material possibly binding between the blade and the fence.

We were using the sled, so is this a safe operation since the sled was in use? If so, it might be beneficial to specify that so someone with little experience doesn’t make the leap that any crosscut can be made utilizing the fence as a stop.

Again, with all of this, it could just be something I misheard or didn’t learn correctly in the past, so I figured I’d ask the experts here.


I’m no expert but that sounds about right.

I think you can clamp something to the fence and use that as your stop, but the material shouldn’t be touching it as it gets cut.

1 Like

If you use the crosscut sled. You don’t use the fence. You don’t want the fence. You have a lever (your material) that it cantilevered off of the fence.

You can use the fence temporarily to help measure your stock prior cutting. Once you finish measuring with the fence. You would move fence away. Hope this helps

1 Like

If you need to crosscut stock that is longer than the sled is wide, you can rig up an extension fence on the sled. Take another long strip of material and attach it to the sled fence. Then you can attach a stop block to that extension. Place your material and make your cut. Having a sled designed to accommodate extension fences makes this much easier.

This version has a stop block built in.

Here is a good video. Youtube

We should also look at a guard for the table saw. The guard also has a anti kickback pawl. Ace Tool

In a way, but what I’m really getting at is that using the fence during a crosscut isn’t safe. However, during the woodshop safety class last night, the instructor recommended using the fence as a stop during crosscut. The only variation from my past learning and experience versus what was recommended last night was the use of a sled.

Even though I really hate being The New Guy Who Thinks He Knows Better, I pointed out that I thought it was bad practice. She mentioned she was still learning the tools and suggested bringing it up here. I thought that was fair given I wasn’t 100% sure either.

It seems, given your reply and others, that the fence shouldn’t be used as a stop during crosscut. I think it might be helpful if the instructors are aligned on that.

No worries. Thank you for bringing it up. We are not all classically trained and need refreshers of what is safe and unsafe.

I was actually wondering why we didn’t have an anti-kickback pawl on the table saw. Prior to joining ASMBLY I had never used a table saw. I figured that maybe it was an intentional choice to leave it off?

I guess it would be kind of annoying to have to take it off everytime you want to use the cross-cut sled though.

Just to throwing all the terms out there- there’s:
riving knife/splitter, which we have. It is used most of the time but has to be removed for certain cuts.
pawls: these would be ON the riving knife/splitter. It’s an anti-kickback feature with teeth that dig and might stop the wood from flying back
blade cover, sometimes with dust collection

Anti-kickback pawls are not popular, I haven’t seen them in a long time. It must be removed for steep bevel angles. It must be removed to operate near the fence. Or use a gripper pushblock.

Sawstop does make a neat “blade cover” in place of the splitter too, but the real value is that it has a dust collector vacuum port on it. However, again, it gets in the way of even more cuts (you can only bevel a little bit, and the fence must be even furtherer away) and makes it harder to see the blade. You do need to take this off the splitter part before you can lift the insert out to do anything. Most woodworkers don’t seem to find these of value either and they get discarded quickly for a standard splitter.

The riving knife/splitter IS pretty universally regarded as a critical safety feature. That is what we have.

The Sawstop blade cover does have the dust collection port, which sounds great at first. You could in theory get that and keep the standard splitter available. But since the standard splitter is so often required, it seems likely the blade cover/dust collection port will never be switched back.

I agree with Danny, along with the additional observation that I’ve seen anti kickback prawls mar soft workpieces.

Kickback occurs when the offcut pinches and turns into the back of the blade, catching a tooth that is rising up, lifting the workpiece and launching it backwards. The riving knife prevents this by keeping the offcut from pinching into the blade. Plus, it rises and lowers with the blade, turns at the same bevel, so it doesn’t have the same limitations of other safety devices.

I have a riving knife/ anti kickback pawl/ don’t touch the blade cover/ dust collection system. The anti kickback pawls can be lifted off the of the work when there is soft wood. I only use the anti kickback pawl on the side between the blade and the fence. Also the dust collection feature is nice. The riving knife also rises and falls with the saw.

In the past we have had careless people touch the blade with a tape measure and set off the cartridge as the blade was spinning down. We have had a small number of people accidently touch the blade. The cover would prevent that. It is not difficult to change from a full guard to just a riving knife.

I have the “dust collection blade guard”

It’s not great. The vacuum path is so restrictive it’s basically useless with a dust collector - it needs a high-pressure extractor like a shop vac.

If we decide we want a blade guard, a “floating” one would be more appropriate I think

1 Like

Dang that is much nicer. I will keep that in mind for an upgrade