Just tell me why

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Here’s a simple question: Why make a free-hand cut on a table saw? Ever?

This is not a discussion of the recent table saw lawsuit, but it does involve safety. At the heart of the lawsuit, the victim was performing a free-hand rip cut that was at the root of the accident’s cause. But the question remains: Why?

My neighbor (one of the good ones, not the harpy with the lawnmower fetish) is having some work done, and a contractor’s van has been in his driveway the last few days. They’ve set up a work area on the driveway with a portable table saw up on horses, and have been using it a lot. I can’t tell what they’re cutting – might be molding, might be flooring, might be cabinet trim – but it’s mostly narrow stuff, and most of the cuts have been rips.

They’re not using a fence. And for the life of me, I can’t understand why. Can it save time? Hardly, since they’re making the cuts very slowly, presumably for accuracy and what passes for being careful. But again, why? If you take the two seconds to attach the fence and lock it, you can make a rip cut far more quickly, plus the accuracy is then built-in. It would take them LESS time and provide MORE accurate cuts if they used a fence. And it’s safer. So why cut free-hand?

Tapered cuts, maybe, that are hard to do with a fence? OK, maybe. But if you’re doing work where you do a lot of tapered rip cuts, there are inexpensive taper guides available that let you make tapered cuts as quickly as straight ones. Again, it’s faster – and infinitely safer – to do it with a fence. Maybe they don’t have a jig? Again, OK maybe. But if you do a job more than once that requires tapered cuts (as flooring and molding installers do), why wouldn’t you invest in one of these jigs? They just aren’t that expensive and they help get the job done faster. Isn’t that the goal?

Same goes for free-hand cut-off tasks. Using a miter gauge it’s fast and accurate for any angle you set. Without a miter gauge you have to cut slower, you don’t get accuracy, and it’s insanely unsafe. Again, the job is faster, more accurate and safer with a miter gauge, so why free-hand?

I’m not talking a one-time cut – I suppose I could understand that, maybe, sort of – I’m talking repeated, one-after-another free-hand cuts like these guys over at my neighbor’s house are doing. Why?

I’m not joking here, I really don’t understand. Can anyone give me a good answer?

Till next time,

A.J.

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