A saw blade is a semi-circular flat plane, no matter if it's in a hand held circular saw, table saw, a radial arm saw or a Shop Smith. It will cut just fine IF you don't twist the wood or workpiece. Once you twist it in it's kerf it will slow down, stall or bind up and it may kickback at you in resistance. Kickbacks are the most common mishap using circular saws. To prevent them always keep the blade in parallel alignment with the fence!
The Shop Smith has a very short fence, so it's prone to the slightest misalignment of the workpiece with the blade and therefore most dangerous. Blade guards and splitters are safety accessories that should be in place at all times. A standard size table saw has a long fence and is therefore somewhat safer, but it still needs the splitter and blade guard in place. A splitter helps maintain the workpiece in constant contact with the fence so it's much less likely to twist and kickback so it is also a safety device!
There are rules for using a table saw!
1. Only place straight and flat
wood or workpieces on the saw table and against the fence. This is to prevent the twist I mentioned above and therefore minimize kickback. Even if workpieces' edge is straight but the face is warped, a piece of wood can twist downward and bind the blade, and kickback!
2. Never place your hand or any fingers in a direct line with the cutting plane of the blade. Most table saws have a removable plate to access the blade and it's typically painted RED
. This is the "danger zone" which you must avoid at all times! Anytime the workpiece is more narrow than the width of your hand you must use a pusher block
to keep your hands far enough away from the blade if a kickback should occur. There are many shapes and sizes, BUT the best one allows you to apply both forward pressure and downward force at the same time. This does not include the long slender push sticks that are most often included with a new table saw!
This will explain:
3. You should have your ON/OFF switch mounted near the front left side of the table for easy access. If the workpiece should bind while you are cutting and the blade still wants to spin and force it back at you, having the OFF switch so you can easily bump it OFF using your hip or upper leg without removing your hands from the workpiece will keep you safe. After many years of fumbling around reaching under trying to find the switch and leaning over taking my eyes off the blade and cutting operation I finally figured this out.
4. The fence is the heart of the table saw and it the most used and accessed device you have, other than the ON/OFF switch. It must stay in place when locked down and it must also be aligned so it's exactly parallel with the blade! It's always best to align BOTH the blade and it's carriage/trunnion system AND the fence to the miter slot on the right side of the table. This can be done with a simple tri-square and a feeler gauge for the saw blade and the tips of your fingers for the fence. I've done this many times over the years on all sorts of table saws and fences. This will explain:
5. Use the correct blade! Ripping and crosscutting are different operations and require either a combination blade or a specifically designed blade when you have many pieces or many rip cuts to make in thicker stock. Plywood has a thin veneer layer on top and bottom and will splinter easily if the blade has a lot of offset to the teeth, so a blade with many teeth and very little offset is best for that. Hardwood lumber that is 1.5" or greater, requires a blade with fewer teeth and more space between them to allow the cut fibers to get out more easily and it will have more off set to the those teeth to make for faster cutting. Combination blades that have 50 teeth are great for most common sawing operations and I have used one for years. A 40 tooth blade, a general purpose, works well also. Ripping blades typically have either 30 or 24 teeth. Crosscut blades typically have either 60 or 80 teeth. Some plywood only blades may have 100 teeth. The thin kerf blades take away less material from the workpiece, so they require less power to cut. These are best suited for almost any table saw these days. They are accurate and don't flex, a common complaint, unless you are just shaving off a thin slide from the end of a board. Even then, take your time and let the blade do the work. That's all I use these days!
6. Do wear eye protection. If a chip gets in your eye you will lose concentration and that will distract you and you may lose your grip on the workpiece. Need I say more? My opinion on ear protection is that's it's personal. Use it if you feel it's needed for some operations.
Good luck with your new hobby!