Reading A.J.'s recent post about experiencing a serious kickback got me thinking about one time when I was visiting a fellow cabinetmaker's shop.
While I was there, this guy walked in with a bunch of plywood pieces he had cut to size and wanted mitered so he could assemble them into a cube. Henry (the cabinetmaker) told him that he should have just brought him the whole sheet because mitering the pieces after they were cut to size was dangerous. He went and got a piece of 3/4" plywood and leaned it up against the wall behind his table saw. Then he cranked the blade over to 45 degrees and moved the fence over until it was just shy of touching the blade. He told everyone to keep clear of the saw and started to cut the miters.
Just as he was finishing the first cut, the customer walked behind the saw. We all heard that "ka-blang" sound A.J. was talking about and then a loud cry of pain. The triangular fall off piece which was trapped between the blade and fence had shot out the back of the saw just as the customer was walking past. It hit him in the thigh and stuck there for a moment before falling to the floor. The guy had a perfect little red triangle imprinted in his thigh. Henry smacked himself in the head and said, "I told you not to get near the saw!" Then he finished making the cuts and as he did, piece after piece ka-blanged out like arrows, making a very loud whacking sound as they slammed into the plywood leaning against the wall. Several actually stuck. The customer paid Henry and limped out of the shop with his plywood.
What many do not understand is the force a kickback can have. While my example is extreme, you are still looking at several horsepower concentrated in a very small area. You let the blade grab a piece of wood and there is no way you are going to be able to resist that force.
There is no better way to close out the year by wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday, free of kickbacks or any other unfortunate events. I, for one, am taking an "actual" vacation which, for me, means that, instead of not going to the shop for one day, I will not go to the shop for at least a week, leaving me free to go somewhere else and do something besides woodworking.