Hazards Associated with Circular Saws
The hazards associated with circular saws is something that we all need to learn about and take seriously.The circular saw can make any wood worker’s job much easier and more efficient if used properly. However, there are many hazards associated with this particular tool if you don’t know how to use it. There have been times where I’ve seen people hurt themselves due to inexperience or not using it properly. Some have gotten in a hurry and injured themselves.
Some of these injuries were minor while others much worse. In some instances cuts had to be stitched up, if that person was lucky. While others have lost a finger or two. The best advice that I can give to somebody when using any tool that they know nothing about is get educated. Some ways to do this is read all the documentation about that particular power tool. Find out what it was made for and the job that it can and can’t do.
One thing that makes my head explode is when I see people use a crescent wrench for a hammer. Even though this is a silly example and you probably wouldn’t get hurt but you could damage the wrench. Not a safety issue per say but you get the idea. If you don’t understand the directions or don’t feel confident about using it on your own that’s okay.
Chances are you probably have somebody in your family or a close friend that does that would be willing to help you learn how to use it properly. If these options aren’t available, consider taking a basic wood working class to learn how to use some of these tools. Because of its versatility, circular saw safety rules need to be adhered to.
When operating a circular saw eye protection needs to be worn. Many people have including myself have had to go to the eye doctor to have a fragment of wood or steel removed from the eye. Trust me if you haven’t had this happen to you, your lucky, keep it that way. That was for me one of the most painful experiences so far in my life. There are a couple of types of eye protection that can be used. Personally, I prefer the safety glasses because for me they are more comfortable.
Eye Goggles work well too especially for those that wear glass. A full face shield works good too, it just matters what is best for you. A rule of thumb that a lot of people that use power tools is the safety glasses are put on right away before they even think about picking up a saw or anything else that can create flying objects. So my advice is try to make it a habit when walking out to the shop the safety glasses go on firs thing. The last thing I want is for somebody to hurt themselves doing something fun and enjoyable.
Circular Saw Safety
Circular saws’ are a great tool for any woodworker to have in his or her collection. However, it can be one of the more dangerous ones if safety isn’t practiced. There are 2 types of circular saws, the battery operated type and electric. I prefer the electric because it’s more powerful which allows you to get a better cut. Plus changing out the battery can become a pain as well. The circular saw or skill saw as some people call them is capable of making straight cuts and angled ones. Circular saw safety guidelines are pretty straightforward.
Before a cut is made ensure that the depth of the saw blade is 1/4″ deeper than the material that’s being cut. For instance when cutting wood that’s 1/2″ thick the depth of the blade should be 3/4″. The correct depth of the blade will help minimize the kickback if one does happen. Always remember to UNPLUG the saw when setting the depth of the blade or changing the angle of blade. Whatever the cut that is being made needs to be at a comfortable height and well secured. Don’t cut on the ground its unsafe and uncomfortable.
Saw horses work well for this not just because of the height but you can place saw horses anywhere to help get the desired cut. When making long cuts, the cutoff end needs to be supported so that binding won’t occur. This can be achieved by laying a couple of 2X4’s across the saw horses. Always make sure that the power cord isn’t in the path of your cut. As you start the cut, make sure that the saw is at full speed away from the material and that you are letting the saw do the work.
Don’t go to fast because it will create a kickback and to much friction will be put on the blade. Friction warps blades which also creates kickback and wears the blade out quickly. If possible, always try to use both hands, this helps with making a straighter cut and gives more control if a kickback does happen. Try to find a way to clamp wood down or some other means of securing it to avoid injury or a rough cut.
Circular Saw Kickback
I feel that circular saw kickback is something that needs to be talked about because if you understand what it is, you’ll be able to minimize the chances of it happening. Saw kickback can happen in a few ways. The first way is when the blade of the saw gets pinched in the wood that’s being cut. The result is the wood being thrown back at you or the saw itself. This usually occurs because of improper wood support. Make sure that both ends are supported through the use of a bench or other type of flat surface so that sagging won’t happen.
Both ends should be secured down with clamps to keep the wood in place. If a bench is something that you don’t have right now saw horses can be used AS LONG AS you lay some 2X4’s across the saw horses first so that the middle of the plywood or other type of large wood will be supported in the middle. If the middle isn’t supported, the weight of the saw on the wood will cause a kickback.
Sometimes we get in a hurry to make a cut and we push the saw a little too quick resulting in circular saw kickback. Just back out of the material a little bit and go slowly and let the saw do the work. So, what else can create a kickback? Dull blades do so be sure to look at them from time to time.
Brands and Blades
The brand of circular saw does play a part in safety. If you buy cheap you get cheap but that doesn’t mean buy the most expensive saw on the market. I always buy middle of the road where price is concerned and so far that hasn’t let me down. Some of the brands I’ve used are Makita, Dewalt and Milwaukee. I consider these to be good brands that haven’t let me down and have been able to do the job. Plus the prices I think are fair. Buy the right blade for the job. When cutting across the grain you need to use a crosscut blade.
If cutting with the grain a rip blade should be used. Inspection of your saw and blade is an important part of safety. First thing to do before any inspection of the saw is to unplug it first. So many accidents have happened because of not thinking or haste.
Things to check on the saw is the power cord, make sure that no exposed wiring is present. If so I recommend replacing the saw. Never carry a power tool by the cord, this causes exposed wiring which is an electrical hazard. Inspect the lower blade guard to make sure that it is working properly, you want it to move back to the starting position before every cut is made.
When to Replace the Blade
So how do you know when it’s time to replace the blade? Well there are some things that you can look at to make that decision. To get a good inspection, you need to remove the blade from the saw. Check to see if there is any build up of pitch on the blade. This causes friction and makes it harder for the saw to cut through the wood. An unclean blade also results in a cut that’s not very smooth. If you have to force the saw to cut, chances are that the blade needs to changed.
A dull blade puts unnecessary wear on the motor which after time can cause the saw to lose its power or just stop working altogether. When buying blades, I would buy 2 so that you can compare a used blade to a new one. This is a clear indicator of when a blade should be replaced. Also look at the blade to see if there is any kind of damage. Don’t take chances, if one doesn’t look right it needs to be changed.