Common sense

I was participating in a discussion recently in which someone had been attempting to raise a table saw blade through a new zero clearance insert (ZCI). The saw had a riving knife installed and the instructions that were provided with the machine did not address the fact that it is not possible to raise a running saw blade up through a ZCI without first removing the riving knife.

In fact, the instructions that came with the ZCI implied that it was indeed possible to do this. At any rate the guy did try to crank the blade up with the riving knife in place. The ZCI had a locking feature so when the knife came in contact with the underside of the ZCI, it was deflected downward and came in contact with the saw blade. There was some question about how much force the user was applying by continuing to crank the blade up once he felt resistance. Obviously, it was considerable since it was sufficient to actually bend the riving knife down into the blade. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that this particular machine was a SawStop and the instant the riving knife contacted the blade, the braking mechanism was triggered.

(It is interesting to note that the SawStop people became aware of this discussion and subsequently stated that all new ZCIs would have a warning not to attempt to cut through it without first removing the riving knife. Furthermore, they provided the customer with not only a new brake cartridge free of charge but also replaced his damaged carbide tipped saw blade.)

Most of the ensuing discussion leaned heavily toward the apparent lack of common sense the guy displayed. If you look at a saw with a blade and riving knife installed, it is very obvious that the knife is going to hit the ZCI and prevent the blade from cutting through it. There was some consensus that the idea that it should be incumbent on a manufacturer to warn about the danger in attempting something obviously impossible. The fact that this particular manufacturer was not only willing to acknowledge the event as preventable via the addition of a warning sticker placed on all ZCIs sold from that date forward, but go so far as to treat the whole thing as a “warranty” issue and take care of the guy at no cost, is commendable.

This whole thing reinforced my theory that most of the ways in which an accident can happen in a woodworking shop have yet to be discovered.



  • Doug says:

    The U.S.A. is the most litigious society on the face of the Earth in part because Americans seem to have adopted the attitude that it is acceptable to sue others for our own foolishness. While working in the commercial furniture industry I found it amusing that products bound for the US had to be labeled with warnings like ,Do not stand on glass top table! where the same product bound anywhere else in the world bore no such warning.

    As you stated, this fellow should have, with just a miniscule portion of common sense been able to see that what he was about to attempt was not possible. But then I suppose it is this type of attitude that spurred SawStop to produce a table saw that cant cut those silly enough to put their and into the blade. Yes, yes, I know, accidents happen. But many accidents can be avoided through application of a modicum of common sense. Unfortunately, that commodity seems to be in an ever increasing short supply.

  • Gregg says:

    Ths incident that David describes brings to mind a saying a former co-worker told me several years ago. “You can teach anyone anything – EXCEPT common sence.”

  • At what point in our society do we expect people to become respnsible for their own actions. There are already so many warning labels on everything that no one bothers to read them anyway. They are there for the protection againt lawsuites. If our wonderful government really wants to protect us, maybe there should be a common sense test required before being allowed to own power tools, kinda of like a drivers licence.Then people should be fined for doing stupid things and endangering themselves. As long as we continue to reward these people through lawsuites, we will only see the problem grow. I own a production shop. I’m tired of OSHA and insurance companies demanding I idiot proof my shop. I can prevent a lot of things, and do, but stupidity is not one of them.

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