Workshops are full of potential accidents, many of them happen because we, as woodworkers may be trying to rush through one particular job or build, but some accidents happen through pure innocence, where the woodworker is doing something but is not aware of the potential problems that could arise. I have had a few of those over the years and it has taught me lessons without the distress of injury.

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Sometimes people come up with ideas and little inventions or even re-inventions, that on the outside look like they are good when in fact they have the potential for accidents and sometimes serious one, that is why when I go through these I like to try and explain what can go wrong because that way it educates for future processes and what to look for ... 

I have long been a NON advocate for those "chicken's foot" push sticks that many, many people use on the table saw, and yes ... some people have accidents by using them on a table saw, on a bandsaw, they are fine to use, but not on table saws and when you watch the video you can see why. 
Recently someone emailed me to ask if using some of the liquid plastic on this push stick would "give it better grip", which I explained the grip was not the problem, it's the design ... and that prompted me to add it to my list of "bad ideas in the workshop".

push stick

And aside from using the standard ear and eye protection at the table saw, the next most important item is adjusting the table saw blade to just slightly over the height of the wood you are cutting, but 1/4 to 1/2 the height of a blade tooth.

Below is a visual example of how wood can be pushed askew near the end of a cut, and with smaller pieces of wood, the back of the saw blade can grab these and throw them back at the woodworker, a form of kickback. A riving knife or splitter will eliminate this problem, but these devices should not be relied upon for that purpose. Nothing replaces proper machine operation no matter what machine it is. 

Chicken leg push stick
Along the same theme, someone sent me a drawing of a push stick design that actually straddles the fence. Although it may look like a good design, in reality, and the tip of the push stick where it meets the wood, it is no different that a chickens foot push stick, and because it pushes the wood close the table saw fence, might, in fact, make this design WORSE than a chickens foot push stick.  

Always, always, always ... the best push stick is one that the woodworker has as much control of the wood being pushed through the saw as possible and this simple push stick does just that, it secures the wood as it pushes through and gives a solid downward pressure on the wood as it goes through the saw.  

Table saw push story

Jointers are used to prepare the edges of the wood, and most often the edges that are prepared are the face edges. In most cases the narrow edges are cut on a table saw, chop or sliding mitre saw - to the proper length. There are ... on rare occasions, a time when you may want to joint the edge of a narrow piece of plywood, or even end grain on natural wood. As a guideline, plywood will often joint OK, but edge grain natural wood can be more problematic, the cut must be very small, almost a skim cut and the end grain will want to flat to start with. If you do have a need to do this, and there are no other options, the best way is to use a decent-sized "backer board" to help support the wood you want to push through the jointer. Not only will he help give you a good square cut, but it will also often help in eliminating that tiny bit of kickback that a jointer can give.   

Woodworking jointer

An email some time ago from someone questioning the validity of adjusting the table saw fence, explained that they had seen someone First check the table saw blade to make sure it was square to the miter slot .. then use the table saw blade to set the table saw fence.
First of all, that doesn't even make sense, if you use a miter slot to check the blade, why would you then use the blade to adjust the fence??

Always, Always, Always ... everything on a table saw is aligned to the miter slots ... the blade, the fence, and any jigs or accessories. 

Table saw feeler gauge

Aligning the fence to the miter slot can be done a few ways, using a measuring gauge such as above, with some saws you can visually align the fence, on some saws, it's possible to feel along the edge of the fence and miter slot, in my case I use a piece of wood, wedged in the miter slot, to more easily see from end to end that my fence is aligned. 

Miter slut
There seems to be no end to ideas people come up within an effort to align the fence on a router table with the mitre slot. Here is another bad idea. First of all, just like on a table saw, you would NEVER use a mitre gauge and a fence at the same time. Second, on a router, there is no need to align the slot with a fence. Even if you claim it is for a feather board, they are all adjustable to the wood anyway, so that claim is invalid too. 
Everything on a router table revolves around the router bit. The bit is set according to the cut you need to make, then the fence, if it is being used, is adjusted to align with a bit. Where the mitre slot is, make no difference at all.

If ... in some rare cut you needed to use  a mitre gauge on a router table, you would REMOVE the fence, then set your mitre gauge to whatever cut you want to make and because the bit is spinning vertical, it makes no difference where the bit and the mitre slot are to one another, the cut is governed by the where the wood is positioned on the mitre gauge and where it meets the bit.  NO NEED to align a fence on the router table.  

Router Table Fence

Remember ... if you see something that looks like a good idea, take a moment to think about what the outcomes might be. What is the process of how it works and what are the potential risks. If something looks like a good idea, but you have never seen it before, it could be that is because other people tried it in the past and found it wasn't the best idea after all ... 

Copyright Colin Knecht


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Bad Ideas in Woodworking Episode 5 / Workshop Fails