Comparing Riving Knives And Splitters: Which Is Right For Your Table Saw?

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Table saws are the beasts of the woodworking shop.  They do a lot of “heavy lifting” in breaking down large pieces of wood and plywood of various dimensions.

They are also a source of danger to the woodworker who is not careful and attentive when working with one, perhaps more so than any other power tool in the shop.  They have powerful motors, for one.

For another, the blade is exposed and spinning fast with lots of sharp teeth that can tear flesh.  Blade guards can protect your flesh from an exposed spinning blade.

Key Points:

  • While riving knives and splitters perform the same job on your table saw, they do so in different ways, with the riving knife being less versatile but more effective at preventing kickback, always maintaining the blade height.
  • Riving knives have been required on table saw designs since 2008.
  • Safety first!  Read on to learn the difference between the two and know why your new table saw comes with a riving knife.

They can also spit back wood if the kerf closes in on the blade and is grabbed.  Because the blade is spinning in your direction as you push the wood against it, that kickback will be coming at you very quickly, oftentimes right at your face and head. 

This is true for both stationary and portable table saws, and are irrespective of the length of extension tables.

That danger needs to be accounted for, and precautions need to be taken.  Perhaps not a helmet or an umpire’s vest, a bit extreme, but at least safety goggles and smarts.  

Fortunately, there are also mechanical measures that can protect you too.  In particular, they include riving knives and splitters.  Today we’ll compare and contrast and see if we can reach an answer as to which we prefer.

What Are The Components of a Table Saw?

A table saw is a versatile woodworking tool that can be used to make a variety of cuts, including rip cuts, cross cuts, and miter cuts. It is made up of several components, including:

  • Table: The table is the flat surface on which the wood is placed. It is usually made of cast iron or steel, and it is important that it is level and smooth.
  • Blade: The blade is the rotating part of the table saw that does the cutting. It is made of steel, and it has teeth that are angled to create a smooth cut.
  • Arbor: The arbor is the shaft that the blade is mounted on. It is usually made of steel, and it is important that it is strong enough to support the weight of the blade.
  • Motor: The motor is what powers the blade. It is usually located under the table, and it is important that it is powerful enough to cut through the wood. 
  • Guard system: The guard system is a safety feature that helps to prevent accidents. It usually consists of a riving knife and a splitter, which help to keep the wood from pinching on the blade and causing kickback.
  • Fence: The fence is a guide that helps to keep the wood straight during cutting. It is usually made of metal, and it is important that it is parallel to the blade.
  • Miter gauge: The miter gauge is a guide that helps to make angled cuts. It is usually made of metal, and it is important that it is aligned with the blade.
  • Push stick: A push stick is a tool that is used to guide the wood through the saw without having to reach over the blade. It is important to use a push stick whenever possible to prevent accidents.

These are just some of the components of a table saw. There are many other features that may be found on different table saws, such as dust collection systems, laser guides, and digital readouts.

Each plays a part in woodworking projects and can cut all types of wood, as well as thin and thicker wood.

What Amp Motors Do Table Saws Have?

Table saws typically have motors with 10 to 15 amps. The amp rating of a table saw motor is a measure of how much current it draws. The higher the amp rating, the more powerful the motor is.

A 10-amp motor is sufficient for most woodworking tasks, but a 15-amp motor is better for cutting through thicker pieces of wood or for making repeated cuts. If you plan on doing a lot of heavy-duty woodworking, then a 15-amp motor is a good choice.

These are powerful table saws.

Here is a table of some popular table saws and their amp ratings:

Table SawAmp Rating
DeWalt DW74515
Bosch 4100-0915
Grizzly G077115
SawStop PCS12
Jet JTS-10SP10

It is important to note that the amp rating of a table saw motor is not the only factor to consider when choosing a saw. Other factors to consider include the size of the table, the type of blade, and the features that are important to you.

It is also important to make sure that the table saw you choose has a motor that is compatible with your local power supply. In the United States, most table saws use 120-volt motors.

However, some table saws use 240-volt motors. If you have a 240-volt outlet in your workshop, then you can choose a table saw with a 240-volt motor. This will give you more power and make it easier to cut through thicker pieces of wood.

Finally, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a table saw. This will help to ensure that you use the saw safely and avoid accidents.

What Are The Dangers Of A Table Saw?

Table saws are powerful tools that can be dangerous if not used properly.

Some of the most common dangers associated with table saws include:

  • Kickback: Kickback is a sudden and forceful movement of the wood that can cause the saw blade to come back toward the operator. This can happen when the wood binds on the blade or when the blade catches a knot in the wood. Kickback can cause serious injuries, including amputations.
  • Saw blade contact: The saw blade is very sharp and can easily cut through flesh. If the operator comes into contact with the saw blade, it can cause serious injuries, including amputations.
  • Flying debris: When the wood is cut, it can create small pieces of wood and sawdust that can fly into the air. These pieces of debris can cause eye injuries and skin irritation.
  • Electrical shock: Table saws are powered by electricity, and there is a risk of electrical shock if the saw is not properly grounded.

To avoid these dangers, it is important to use a table saw safely. Here are some safety tips to follow:

  • Always wear safety glasses when using a table saw.
  • Keep your hands away from the blade.
  • Do not reach over the blade.
  • Use a push stick or featherboard to guide the wood through the saw.
  • Turn off the saw when you are not using it.
  • Be sure to properly adjust the guard system before each use.
  • Inspect the saw blade for any damage before each use.
  • Ground the saw properly.

Two important safety features for your table saw include a riving knife and a splitter.  One or the other can prevent serious injury, although one is perhaps better than the other in doing so.

What Is A Riving Knife?

What Is A Riving Knife On A Table Saw

A riving knife is a safety tool used in table saws to prevent kickback. It is a thin, flat blade that extends past the saw blade and down into the table. When the wood is cut, the riving knife helps to keep the two pieces of wood from pinching the blade and causing it to kickback.

Riving knives are especially important when cutting thin or narrow pieces of wood. They can also be helpful when cutting curves, dados, and other types of cuts.

To use a riving knife, first, make sure that it is properly adjusted so that it is flush with the saw blade as they extend through and above the throat plate on the saw. Then, position the wood so that the cut line is aligned with the riving knife.

Turn on the saw and slowly lower the blade until it is just touching the wood. Apply pressure to the wood and slowly feed it into the saw. The riving knife will help to keep the wood from pinching the blade and causing kickback.

If you do not have a riving knife, you can use a featherboard to help prevent kickback.

A featherboard is a thin, flat board that is attached to the table saw fence. When the wood is cut, the featherboard helps to keep the wood from lifting up and pinching the blade.

In my opinion, the Hedgehog is the best featherboard on the market:

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Riving knives and featherboards are both important safety tools that can help to prevent kickback. If you use a table saw, be sure to use one of these tools to keep yourself safe.

Here are some additional safety tips for using a table saw:

  • Always wear safety glasses when using a table saw.
  • Keep your hands away from the blade.
  • Do not reach over the blade.
  • Use a push stick or featherboard to help guide the wood through the saw.
  • Turn off the saw when you are not using it.
  • Be sure to properly adjust the riving knife or featherboard before each use.

By following these safety tips, you can help to prevent accidents and injuries when using a table saw.

What Is A Splitter on a Table Saw?

MJ Splitter

A splitter on a table saw is a stationary blade of similar thickness to the rotating saw blade mounted behind it to prevent a board from pinching inward into the saw kerf and binding on the saw blade, potentially causing a dangerous kickback.

Splitters are often used in conjunction with riving knives, which are also designed to prevent kickback. Riving knives are thin, flat blades that extend past the saw blade and down into the table.

They are more effective at preventing kickback than splitters, but they can be more difficult to adjust and use.

I love this splitter:

Splitters are a good option for table saws that do not have a riving knife. They are also a good option for table saws that are used for cutting curves or dados, where a riving knife may not be practical.

When using a splitter, it is important to make sure that it is properly adjusted so that it is flush with the saw blade. This will help to ensure that the splitter is effective in preventing kickback.

Here are some additional safety tips for using a splitter on a table saw:

  • Always wear safety glasses when using a table saw.
  • Keep your hands away from the blade.
  • Do not reach over the blade.
  • Use a push stick or featherboard to help guide the wood through the saw.
  • Turn off the saw when you are not using it.
  • Be sure to properly adjust the splitter before each use.

By following these safety tips, you can help to prevent accidents and injuries when using a table saw.

How Do Riving Knives and Splitters Compare and Contrast?

Riving knives and splitters are both safety devices used on table saws to prevent kickback. Kickback is a dangerous phenomenon that can occur when the wood being cut binds on the saw blade and is suddenly thrown back towards the operator.

Riving knives and splitters work by preventing the wood from binding on the saw blade. A riving knife is a thin, flat blade that extends past the saw blade and down into the table. It is more effective at preventing kickback than a splitter, but it can be more difficult to adjust and use.

A splitter is a stationary blade of similar thickness to the rotating saw blade mounted behind it. It is less effective at preventing kickback than a riving knife, but it is easier to adjust and use.

Here is a table comparing riving knives and splitters:

FeatureRiving KnifeSplitter
CostMore expensiveLess expensive
Ease of useMore difficult to useEasier to use
EffectivenessMore effective at preventing kickbackLess effective at preventing kickback
VersatilityLess versatileMore versatile

Ultimately, the best choice for a table saw safety tool depends on the specific needs of the user. If you are looking for the most effective tool at preventing kickback, then a riving knife is the best choice.

However, if you are looking for a cost-effective and easy-to-use tool that is still effective at preventing kickback, then a splitter is a good option.

Here are some additional considerations when choosing between a riving knife and a splitter:

  • The type of cuts you will be making. Riving knives are not as effective at preventing kickback when making angled cuts, so if you plan on making a lot of angled cuts, a splitter may be a better option.
  • The type of table saw you have. Not all table saws come with a riving knife. If your table saw does not have a riving knife, then a splitter is a good option.
  • Your personal preferences. Some people prefer the added safety of a riving knife, while others prefer the ease of use of a splitter. Ultimately, the best choice is the one that you feel most comfortable with.

No matter which safety tool you choose, it is important to always use it properly. Always wear safety glasses when using a table saw, and never reach over the blade.

Be sure to properly adjust the riving knife or splitter before each use, and never use the saw without a safety tool in place.

Which Is Better With Non-Through Cuts?

A riving knife is better than a splitter for non-through cuts. A riving knife is a thin, flat blade that extends past the saw blade and down into the table. It is more effective at preventing kickback than a splitter, which is a stationary blade of similar thickness to the rotating saw blade mounted behind it.

When making a non-through cut, the wood is not completely severed from the waste board. This can create a situation where the wood can bind on the saw blade and cause kickback.

A riving knife helps to prevent this by keeping the two pieces of wood from pinching the blade.

A splitter is not as effective at preventing kickback in this situation because it does not extend past the saw blade. The wood can still bind on the saw blade and cause kickback, even with a splitter in place.

For this reason, it is always best to use a riving knife when making non-through cuts on a table saw. It is the most effective way to prevent kickback and keep you safe.

Which Works Better With The Kerf Blade?

A riving knife works better with a kerf blade than a splitter.

Here’s why:

  • A riving knife is a thin, flat blade that extends past the saw blade and down into the table. It is more effective at preventing kickback than a splitter, which is a stationary blade of similar thickness to the rotating saw blade mounted behind it.
  • A kerf blade is a thin blade that produces a narrow kerf. This can be helpful when making non-through cuts, as it leaves less material to be removed. However, it can also make it more difficult to use a splitter, as the splitter may not be able to extend far enough past the saw blade to be effective.
  • A riving knife, on the other hand, can be adjusted to extend past the saw blade, regardless of how thin the blade is. This makes it a more effective safety tool for use with kerf blades.

In addition, a riving knife is less likely to cause tear-out than a splitter. Tear-out is a condition that occurs when the wood fibers are ripped apart during cutting. This can be a problem when making non-through cuts, as it can weaken the wood and make it more likely to break.

A riving knife helps to prevent tear-out by keeping the wood fibers from being pinched between the blade and the splitter.

For these reasons, a riving knife is the best choice for use with kerf blades. It is more effective at preventing kickback and tear-out than a splitter. It is also easier to adjust and use, making it a safer option for all types of table saw cuts.

Which Is More Versatile?

A riving knife is more versatile than a splitter. A riving knife is a thin, flat blade that extends past the saw blade and down into the table.

It is more effective at preventing kickback than a splitter, which is a stationary blade of similar thickness to the rotating saw blade mounted behind it.

Riving knives are especially useful when making non-through cuts, as they help to prevent the wood from pinching on the saw blade and causing kickback. They can also be used for making angled cuts, as they do not interfere with the blade.

Splitters, on the other hand, are not as versatile as riving knives. They can only be used for making through cuts, as they do not extend past the saw blade. This can make them less effective at preventing kickback, as the wood can still bind on the saw blade and cause kickback, even with a splitter in place.

For this reason, riving knives are the more versatile safety tool for use on table saws. They are more effective at preventing kickback, and they can be used for a wider variety of cuts.

Which Is Easier to Adjust?

A riving knife is easier to adjust than a splitter. A riving knife is a thin, flat blade that extends past the saw blade and down into the table. It is more effective at preventing kickback than a splitter, which is a stationary blade of similar thickness to the rotating saw blade mounted behind it.

Riving knives are usually adjusted by loosening a knob or screw and then moving the knife up or down until it is flush with the saw blade. This can be done quickly and easily with just a few turns of the knob or screw.

Splitters, on the other hand, are usually adjusted by loosening a nut or bolt and then moving the splitter up or down until it is flush with the saw blade. This can be a bit more difficult than adjusting a riving knife, as it may require more turns of the nut or bolt.

In addition, splitters can sometimes be difficult to adjust if they are not properly aligned with the saw blade. This can cause the splitter to interfere with the blade and make it difficult to make accurate cuts.

For these reasons, riving knives are generally considered to be easier to adjust than splitters. They are also more effective at preventing kickback, making them the safer choice for use on table saws.

Overall, Which Is Better For Your Table Saw?

A riving knife is generally considered to be better for a table saw than a splitter. A riving knife is a thin, flat blade that extends past the saw blade and down into the table. It is more effective at preventing kickback than a splitter, which is a stationary blade of similar thickness to the rotating saw blade mounted behind it.

Ultimately, the best choice for a table saw safety tool depends on the specific needs of the user. If you are looking for the most effective tool at preventing kickback, then a riving knife is the best choice.

However, if you are looking for a cost-effective and easy-to-use tool that is still effective at preventing kickback, then a splitter is a good option.

Here are some additional considerations when choosing between a riving knife and a splitter:

  • The type of cuts you will be making. Riving knives are not as effective at preventing kickback when making angled cuts, so if you plan on making a lot of angled cuts, a splitter may be a better option.
  • The type of table saw you have. Not all table saws come with a riving knife. If your table saw does not have a riving knife, then a splitter is a good option.
  • Your personal preferences. Some people prefer the added safety of a riving knife, while others prefer the ease of use of a splitter. Ultimately, the best choice is the one that you feel most comfortable with.

No matter which safety tool you choose, it is important to always use it properly. Always wear safety glasses when using a table saw, and never reach over the blade.

Be sure to properly adjust the riving knife or splitter before each use, and never use the saw without a safety tool in place.

Are Riving Knives Required On Table Saws?

Yes, Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) has required that all table saw designs, including cabinet and portable saws, include a riving knife since 2008.

Video Demo

This short video demonstrates the differences concisely and clearly.

As we have so often said on these pages, safety first.  Be careful with your table saw, and be fully present with it when you are cutting.

Last update on 2024-03-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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