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I know I am not alone in my disregard for the splitter/blade guard assemblies that come with most table saws. The splitters are flimsy, the blade guards are always in the way, etc. I am sure I am also not alone in my penchant for working in the shop beyond the threshold of fatigue. And it is at this point in the day when I make mistakes.
Five years ago (March 1997) I lost 5/8" of my left hand middle finger because I was working without a blade guard, not paying adequate attention....The pain is gone, but it's something I will never forget.
With that said, I continue to use both table saws without their original splitters and guards. I have shopped around for after market splitters and blade guards, but I have not found the perfect match of performance, price, and ease of use. Consequently, I decided to make my own.
A recent magazine article stated that the table saw splitter is the most important safety device for a table saw. The reason for the splitter is at least two fold:
The splitter packaged with most table saws also includes a set of spring-loaded pawls that prevent the work piece from being thrown or pushed back towards the operator. Generally they work pretty well for rip operations, but they can interfere with crosscut operations, crosscut sleds, and any operation that includes returning the work towards the operator. For what it is worth, several recent magazine articles have suggested that the splitter, not the pawls, is the most important component for preventing kickback. For the record, I personally like the function of pawls, but don't use them because of the crosscut issues.
The blade guard is designed to mark and secure a safe area around the blade. The blade guard on my miter saw saved me from cutting off three fingers a year ago. Luckily it touched my fingers an instant before the saw blade. The idea is that if your fingers stay on the outside of the guard, they won't touch the blade. The blade guard also keeps saw dust from flying in your face. This is especially important when cutting particle board, MDF, etc.
But for me, the most important reason for the blade guard is to prevent workpieces from being dropped onto the running blade. I have never read this in related magazine articles as being the reason for the blade guard, but this protection would have prevented my kickback accident. And just the other day, after working in the shop for about 12 hours, I again made a stupid mistake that could have been a disaster, all because I was tired and had an unguarded blade.
The following are links to articles and videos regarding table saw saftey, splitters, and so forth:
As you can see, my splitter and blade guard are not going to win any awards for a unique design or inherent beauty, but they function very well. I wanted a very stiff, wide splitter, approximately the width of my saw blades which all produce a 1/8" (.125") kerf. I decided that a chunk of one my $5.00 Johnson aluminum construction 48" rules would work best. So, I simply cut out two spitters from the rule, drilled a hole to fit the splitter bolt on both saws, and shaped the splitter to allow clearance for the blade. I also shaped (using a belt/disk sander) the leading edge of the splitter to be somewhat knife-like.
The PM 66 splitter turned out the best since the blade clearance was not a big issue. You want the leading edge of the splitter to be as close to the blade as possible. The Grizzly 1023S was a different matter. The blade as it rises and lowers moves towards and away from the splitter. Consequently, I had to cut away a significant amount of material to provide adequate clearance. I ended up cutting away too much material and will probably make another. By the way, I made both splitters and guards in less than one hour.
Adjusting the splitter to align with the blade is simple on the PM66 as the splitter bolt is threaded into a larger bolt that can be adjusted in and out. The Grizzly splitter is adjusted using shims. Luckily, one flat washer did the trick. Also, I had to adjust the Grizzly's cast iron block that holds the splitter assembly to 90°.
I added a simple blade guard to prevent objects from dropping onto the running blade. I simply cut a piece of #2 pine to approximately 3/4" x 1-1/4" x 10", cut a tenon slot centered on one end, and bolted it to the splitter using a 1/4-20 bolt and lock nut. The guard will not prevent my fingers from running into the blade but I have not had this experience. It will however prevent an object from dropping onto the running blade, a thrill I have experienced several times.
A few emailers have suggested that I add the anti-kickback/anti-throwback pawls from the original splitter assembly. This is a great suggestion but I decided not to add pawls because they prevent the use of crosscut sleds and crosscutting in general. My splitter can be used with crosscut sleds and virtually all crosscut operations using miter guages and the like.
David LaRue submitted his version of a shop made splitter and blade guard. David purchased the metal splitter component from Powermatic for $10, which is the bracket of an original Powermatic 66 blade guard. The wood piece on the top flips up, and provides enough clearance to allow a crosscut sled like the Dubby to slide under it. The Powermatic Part Number for the splitter is 3750011. The top splitter bar Part Number is 3044307.
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