When using a miter saw, there is an ever-present danger of a miter saw kickback. This occurs if the saw blade catches on the cut material and the work-piece is hurled backward at the saw operator. This can happen at high speeds, and there is a risk of serious injury. In this article, we will explore this risk in more detail and provide some advice on how you can prevent this from happening.
What Is Miter Saw Kickback?
Miter saw kickback is the sudden stopping and the reversing of the direction of the material that you’re cutting at high speeds. The blade catches on the material, and the backward force is so sudden that it can cause horrendous injuries, including amputations.
The two main sources of kickback injuries are trauma if the wood strikes the head, chest, and torso, or hand injuries if the operator cannot get their hand out of the way and it gets pulled into the miter saw blade.
What Causes Miter Saw Kickback?
There are three main causes of miter saw kickback:
- The blade binds in the wood, and it comes to a sudden halt.
- The work-piece is forced against the blade.
- The work piece moves out of position during cutting.
Understanding the causes is important if you want to prevent kickback as you’re operating a miter saw. When wood is set against the saw fence and then pushed into the blade, there can be a loss of pressure. When the wood drifts away from the fence and it becomes caught on the back of the saw, it can jerk towards the blade direction.
This means that the work-piece could be launched back at the operator. So, maintaining even pressure is the key consideration when you want to minimize the risk of kickbacks.
What Should You Do If Miter Saw Kickback Occurs?
The potential for serious injuries is high during a kickback with penetrating wounds that can be deep. The most dangerous risk is damage to vulnerable eyes and this is why eye protection is an absolute must when you’re operating a saw.
With experience, you can tell when a cut feels weird or it seems to be going wrong. If you have time, stop the cut and take a step back to assess the situation that resolves the situation safely.
As you work, don’t adopt an awkward working position that can cause a loss of balance.
How To Prevent A Miter Saw From Kick Backing
There are five main ways to prevent a miter saw kickback:
1. Don’t Apply Too Much Pressure
A power tool is designed to do most of the work, and applying too much additional pressure is not necessary for most situations. When you push too hard as you’re cutting, you can cause the blade segments to wear too quickly, which reduces their width.
When the segments are narrower than the steel core of the blade, there is a greater chance of material pinching. This dramatically increases the risk of a miter saw kickback.
2. Don’t Use Worn or Broken Saw Blades
Examine the saw blades regularly for chips, cracks, and gaps where segments are missing. Those blades should be discarded, they are faulty, and they are dangerous to use in your workshop. Always use good quality blades that are in great shape to improve the cutting precision and efficiency and to reduce the risk of kickback.
3. Support the Material Properly
The cut must be open throughout the cutting process to avoid the risk of pinching. Ensure that you have support on both sides of the material to prevent shifting, pinching, and binding. If a wedge is required, use one and make sure that the material is open at all times.
The cutting surface must be level; if you’re cutting pipe, always cut at a 90º angle and roll and repeat the cut until a full pipe cut is made. If you’re cutting in a trench, support the pipe with wood blocks, bricks, or a lanyard to maintain support throughout the cut.
4. Adopt a Safe Cutting Stance
Maintaining good balance, secure footing, and a firm grip as you cut is essential. Keep your body clear of all cutting attachments, don’t stand over the material you’re cutting, and avoid bending over the machine.
Grip with both hands, keep your thumbs wrapped on the handles, and cut with two hands at all times. The left hand should be on the front handle and the right hand should be on the throttle trigger and rear handle.
As you reenter a cut, don’t adjust the wheel at an angle or force the wheel into the cut. These movements cause pinching, and this increases the risk of a kickback.
5. Cut with the Lower Blade Quadrant
The lower quadrant of the blade should be where the cutting occurs because if pinching occurs, the saw will pull away instead of toward you. Don’t cut with the upper quadrant of the blade, and don’t adjust the wheel guard beyond the stop. When you introduce the cutting wheel, exercise caution and take great care to avoid pushing and twisting as you work.
How Do You Cut Wood Without A Kickback?
There are four easy, and inexpensive ways to minimize the risk of a miter saw kickback:
1. Use a Push Stick
Always use a push stick instead of your hands to push the wood through the blade. Many experienced woodworkers ignore this tip because they adopt a lax and lazy technique which can lead to unexpected injuries. A push stick is inexpensive to purchase, or you can simply make one.
2. Use a Riving Knife
This is a thin surfboard fin-shaped metal piece that is usually supplied with a table saw. This component locks into the rear of the saw with a curve that faces the blade. This prevents the wood from becoming caught in the rear of the saw blade if the work piece drifts out of place.
3. Use a Splitter
This is a viable low-profile alternative to a riving knife that would be added to a zero-clearance throat plate. This is a nub that projects up like a riving knife to prevent the wood from drifting into the blade during cutting.
4. Use a Crosscut Sled
A crosscut sled is a jig that keeps the operator’s hands away from the saw blade and moves the fence to the front of the blade to improve safety.
Miter Saw Kickback-In Conclusion
Now that you understand what a miter saw kickback is and the very real dangers, it’s important to follow the safety tips in this article. When you understand these risks and adopt a proactive approach to safety, you can work with a Miter Saw safely. All safety gear should be worn, and every safety component supplied with your saw should be installed before you start cutting.
I’m Thomas Steven with more than 12 years of experience in woodworking. It has always been my passion to become a successful woodworker. I have completed hundreds of successful projects. This blog is a way of sharing my woodworking experiences and what tools get the best results. I write about woodworking while being an associate with Amazon and I earn a little commission from every qualifying purchase.