Little secrets

After last Friday’s blog about putting a table saw blade on backward, I heard from a few other folks that I’m not alone. Not that they’d admit it publicly, of course.

You’ll notice that no one posted a public comment on that blog to the effect, “Yepper, A.J., I’ve done that before myself. Boy did I feel like a maroon! Yuk-Yuk!” On the other hand, I received a few private e-mails that pretty much said exactly that, although there were some variations in the usage of the word “Yepper.” The incident of the backward blade was truly something that could happen to anyone… as long as, publicly speaking, that anyone was someone else.

It got me to thinking that we woodworkers do a lot of things in the shop we’d just as soon be kept secret and not made public. For example, I could – but won’t – name a few well-known woodworkers who never use the guard on their table saw. Ever. At least one even admitted that he simply threw his out.

I may as well admit now (since I’ve already discussed this topic several times in these blogs) that on occasion I – gasp! – don’t use the guard on my table saw. Sometimes, because I’m a writer and do all my own photography, it’s necessary for photographic reasons. Other times, depending on the cut I’m making I’ve found that the guard so adversely affects my vision as to make its use for the cut more, rather than less, dangerous. You can bet, though, that anytime that guard is off the machine that I am very, very aware of the fact, and increase my level of vigilance and care in using the saw by a factor of about a hundred or so.

OK, so there’s my dirty little secret and I’m publicly sharing it with you. But as you can see, I have a very good reason why I do. And since you guys are serious woodworkers, I can share it with you and know that you understand (if not agree with) my reasoning.

But would I mention this to anyone else?  Nope, I’d just keep it secret.

I’m betting you have a few secrets just like this.

Till next time,



  • john says:

    I’ve been building furniture for 33 years this past August. I have never used a guard on the table saw – & have often put a blade on backwards – from time to time, on purpose.

    I make mistakes daily & make no secret of it.

    I have all my digits.


  • V. Moore says:

    I so enjoy reading AJ’s and David’s blogs that when David’s blog did not appear a couple of weeks ago I actually worried that he had quit writing, or that something terrible had happened. Was he in a car accident? Was he ill? Or just on vacation?

    Anyway, you both are such great writers and always have an entertaining way of expressing yourselves. I hope you both keep up the great work for many years to come

    Best regards,

    V. Moore

  • Jim Allen says:

    How about a bandsaw blade bacwards? In unfurling it from folded it can be flipped in the opposite direction. I now always check tooth direction before installation.

  • not on tablesaw, but i put a new 80 tooth blade on my chop sawback was not good a lot of smoke and dulled a new blade

  • Yes I have put a saw blade on backwards, Yes I do not use a blade guard, Yes I make mistakes. I was told by a secretary once, “If you don’t make any mistakes, your not doing any work”. On some days I work harder than others.

  • Years ago when you were the editor of Wood Shop News you wrote a very nice editorial on shop safety. I was impresed enough to write you and complement you on your article. I mentioned that though I have been a woodworking hobbiest for years and never had any accident I never use a blade guard. I further wrote that I felt I was in good company because I met Norm Abrams at an Anaheim wood working show and asked him if he ever used a blade guard. He smiled and said no. A month later I saw my letter printed in your magazine. And I thought oh my god! I i’ve got Norm in sure trouble. On further reading I saw that you had excised my comment on Norm. Phew!
    A.J., feel free to edit my comments again and I still enjoy your work. Regards, Ed McLaughlin.

  • Never installed the blade guard on my Unisaw. I rip a lot of thin stock and the guard would not let the fence slid within less than 3/4″ of the blade. The blade guard also interfered with vertical featherboards. I have installed a bandsaw blade with the teeth against the thrust bearings.

  • Ron Edwards says:

    Add me to the list. Yep, I’ve done that on both table saw and band saw. I say I don’t make mistakes, but just gain experience. Yep, I get work done though…

  • Bill Golden says:

    i was at a local woodworking club meeting several years ago. It was at the presenter’s shop. He mentioned that he didn’t use guards on his saws and then asked how many used the guard. There were around 40 folks there and not one hand went up.

    I want to SEE where my fingers are on that saw and the guard interferers with vision. I feel the guard is more dangerous than no guard.

  • John Gresko says:

    I use the same vigilance at all times at the table saw, regardless of guard or not. Personally I think most guards give a false sense of security to some people.Not to say they are not a good thing, Just depends on who is using them and how they are perceived.

  • Who…ME? No, I’ve never done any of that stuff! “scuse me, I need to go trim my nose; it’s thumping against the monitor again.

  • Butch Nelson says:

    I have put a bandsaw blade on backwards, and wondered why it wouldn’t cut. I have not installed the blade guard on my tablesaws. The last time I USED ONE THE MATERIAL KICKED BACK AND HIT ME IN THE BELLY. OUCH. I believe when you get hurt 99% of the time it is operator error. I keep hearing the voice of the man that me to use a shaper “IF YOU DON’T FEEL RIGHT IN THE HEAD DON’T TURN THE MACHINE ON. Butch

  • Don says:

    I use my overhead guard with dust collection on all ripping operations except REALLY thin pieces. I remove it for cross-cutting and dadoing operations because it simply in the way.

    The way I figure – 10 fingers in, 10 fingers out – a good day in the shop 🙂

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