Chris Schwarz's Blog

When the Machine’s Guard Becomes Dangerous

Machine guards are supposed to protect us from harm, but there are times when they can turn against you. The worst injury I’ve ever received from a machine was cutting my hands on the anti-kickback pawls while installing my table saw’s guard.

Yesterday I ran into trouble on my jointer with disastrous results. The collar that controls the height of the guard vibrated loose. The tip of the guard contacted the spinning cutterhead and exploded. It shattered eight carbide teeth on the cutterhead and sprayed metal everywhere (hooray for eye protection).

I escaped without a scratch. And have now added one more safety check to my jointer: Check the collar that controls the guard’s height.

I know a few people out there are thinking to themselves: Remove the jointer’s guard and you won’t ever have this problem. My reply: I had to clean out a jointer after someone else’s accident. On that day I married my jointer’s guard.

— Christopher Schwarz

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13 thoughts on “When the Machine’s Guard Becomes Dangerous

  1. JimDeL

    I bought a used Delta joiner without a guard about ten years ago. I made a ‘pork chop’ style guard from melamine covered MDF, with a half inch diameter bolt for the shaft. (I did have the return spring.). Just needed to slot the bolt to receive the spring. I painted the edges of the pork chop bright (blood?) red as an additional safety reminder. It’s served me well.

  2. peterlakis

    Oh man, So sorry. That feeling when something goes terribly wrong is the WORST. Then the quick finger and blood check… followed usually by the desire for bourbon. Any horse tranquilizers left in the horse garage?

  3. BLZeebub

    I’m not a big fan of the Rube Goldberg devices that pass for safety guards on table saws BUT I keep mine on the jointer. And yes, you need to maintain them too. I use a splitter and rollers to keep everything in check that passes over the table saw. Before then, the only close call I’ve had was with the chop saw (no injury) and one incident of kickback with the table saw that threw an eighteen inch length of one by four at my gut just below my rib cage. It bruised my liver and left me with a small hernia. You could see the clear outline of the end of the board on my gut. The next day my midsection turned the prettiest shade of purple-black too. Good thing the board wasn’t longer! Now, I stand to the side ALWAYS!!! Even with the finger boards and rollers on.

  4. rmousel

    The first thing I did with my new 8” jointer was to pull that guard off and replace it with a Euro style ordered from Grizzly as a replacement part from another model. Had to fabricate a small block to mount it. It is by far the best safety upgrade I’ve made. Blade is always covered.

  5. Teddy

    Chris, you’ve always got something interesting to say whether it’s advice or instruction. I enjoy reading your pieces. I have an old (years and years old) Delta jointer. I noticed it’s guard sagging and found the pivot collar badly warn. I fixed it, but said nothing to anyone about it. I’m sorry for your near calamity but I’m glad you told your story. The wise will take heed.

  6. lorenzojose

    Pfft. Just a way to brag you have a segmented cutter head.

    I got my best lesson on guard safety when my 8th grade shop teacher cut three fingers off demonstrating the proper way to use a table saw.

    “Don’t do this, kiddies”

  7. Matt_Rob

    I bought a old MM FSB 35 that had been retrofitted with a shop made porkchop that never worked well. I saw that Jet had a Euro style guard on a planer combo that was wide enough and I could order the part online. Installed rather easy and I feel a bit safer. It will surface face up to 350 mm with the guard in place.

    1. TJdaMan

      It really depends on the machine (and the guard). Other than a very few special and temporary uses, I wouldn’t think of taking a guard off of a jointer. I would make sure to have one that is less prone to explosion (plywood for instance).

      On the other hand, the only thing I want on a table saw is a splitter and one without any kind of anti-kickback contraption. I’ve never seen any other add on safety or dust collection device that I didn’t feel made that tool more dangerous.