A chop saw is a useful tool that helps you cut through all types of materials, including wood, plastic, masonry and metal.
Although chop saws offer a lot of utlity and convenience, they’re considered to be somewhat dangerous. In fact, they’re among the most hazardous power saws!
Below we’ll guide you on how to use your chop saw safely.
How Dangerous Are Chop Saws?
As we mentioned above, chop saws can be pretty dangerous, especially if you’re not careful while using them. Since they consist of a high-speed spinning blade, a minor slip-up or mishap can be disastrous.
Deep lacerations, losing a finger or getting pulled into a spinning saw blade are all dangers. Power saws cause thousands of serious injuries every year, so it’s best to be careful when you’re operating them.
Chop Saw Safety: How To Safely Operate a Chop Saw
The basic structure of a chop saw consists of a frame with a hinged arm fixed on it. The arm features a motor and a circular blade, which spins at high speed. The key to avoiding chop saw injuries is to avoid this blade at all costs and take precautions to ensure the saw works correctly in the first place.
Empty The Chop Saw Dust Collector
No matter what model or type of chop saw you buy, it should have a dust collector that gathers all of the sawdust. If not, then you’ll have to do a lot of cleaning. Emptying the dust collector is important because if you don’t keep it cleaned out dust will interfere with your vision. This could easily lead to cutting a finger or worse.
Dust can also cause health issues, so empty out your dust collector often.
Replace The Chop Saw Hood or Cover
Most chop saws also come with a cover or hood that’s fixed over the saw’s blade and protect you from any accidents. It completely covers the exposed side of the blade and can be slid back when you’re using the saw. Over time, the cover can get damaged or broken. If this happens you should replace it as soon as possible.
All you need to do is undo the screw or bolt that holds the chop saw cover in place, and remove it. Then, place the new one and put the screw back in place. Now, your chop saw is much safer to use.
Aim the Chop Saw Laser
Many modern chop saws have a laser beam for greater accuracy and precision. However, this laser can get knocked out of alignment which creates cutting alignment errors. Not only does it throw off your measurements, but it can also be unsafe for you.
To fix this problem, you need to adjust the laser. It’s supposed to fall on the left side of the cut line. If it’s pointing in the cut or to the right, loosen and adjust the laser beam so that it points the right direction.
Replace Broken Chop Saw Parts
If your chop saw is making any unusual noises, feeling hotter than usual, or doesn’t cut or move properly, then you should stop using it right away. It can cause harm if you keep using it without fixing the problem. Usually, a part inside your chop saw is broken or malfunctioned, so it has to be replaced.
If you’re confident about doing it on your own, you can examine all the components of the chop saw one by one, and see which one appears to be the culprit. Once you’ve narrowed down the problem, you can easily replace it and check if the problem is solved or not.
Set the Chop Saw Guard
A guard refers to the plastic or metal cover that covers the blade of the chop saw. It’s large enough to cover the entire blade and thick enough to provide protection against the saw. Check the guard to see if it swings back and forth properly and whether it covers the blade entirely or not.
If you feel that it needs some readjustment, you can unscrew the chop saw guard and move it forward until it covers the blade completely. Once you’re confident that it’s covered, you can put the screws back on and check again.
Follow the Manual
Like all power tools and saws, your chop saw will also come with a user manual, which will give you complete instructions on how to use your chops saw and how to maintain it properly. Most guides also have a set of steps to show you how you can diagnose and fix any fault inside your chop saw. Make sure to keep it somewhere accessible so that you don’t have to search for it when needed.
Cutting Metal With a Chop Saw
Chop saws aren’t only used for cutting wood. You can use them for various materials, such as certain metals. Cutting metal requires a different type of blade that’s specially built for this purpose. Moreover, you also need to be extra careful because metal can get hot while being cut, and its debris can be sharp.
First of all, equip yourself with high-quality safety gear, such as safety goggles, face masks, shields, welder or woodworking gloves, etc. Next, use the appropriate type of metal-cutting blade, and make sure to start with a few metal pieces rather than going at it with a full load. Cutting metal will cause sparks and metal chips to fly in all directions, so it’s best to guard yourself.
Use the Right Chop Saw Blades
As we mentioned in the previous section, a chop saw can cut more than just wood. You can use it to cut certain metals, plastic, PVC, concrete, and many other materials. All you need is the right type of blade to cut each material because a blade that cuts wood wouldn’t do well if you use it to cut through a PVC pipe.
When you’re buying a new blade, its product description will tell you what it’s good for, which helps you choose the right one faster.
Use the Chop Saw Double Bevel
With a chop saw double bevel, you can put accurate and clean cuts in any direction, making it different from the single bevel. It helps you get the work done in less time, and it also allows you to cut through wood without having to rotate it yourself. You can simply attach it to your chop saw by using the installation instructions.
Set the Chop Saw Clamps
When you’re using the chop saw to cut through any material, and it doesn’t rest properly against the fence or workbench, then you’ll experience a jerk that will move the material in any direction, throwing you off your work. This can be avoided by using clamps, which hold down the piece in place so that you have more control over the cutting. It also allows you to remove your hands from the chop saw and hold the material in place.
Wear Safety Gloves and Glasses
One of the most crucial and essential steps to using a chop saw safely is to wear the right safety gear, which allows you to operate the chop saw properly without encountering any accidents. No matter which material you’re cutting through, there will always be bits of sawdust flying around, which can injure your hands or eyes. Therefore, wearing safety gloves and glasses is highly essential.
Types of Chop Saw Blades
Now that we’ve gone through the safety tips for using chop saws, let’s look at the different types of blades you can use for various materials.
Chop Saw Blades For Metal
Chop saws are commonly used for non-ferrous metals such as aluminum or copper. These are much softer than other metals, and you can use blades made from strong and hardened materials, such as carbide-tipped blades. You can also use an abrasive disc to cut metal, as it prevents the edges from getting rough or chipping.
Chop Saw Blades For Wood
Chop saws are most popularly used for cutting wood, and this requires blades made out of carbon or high-speed steel, which have 40 to 80 teeth. This helps you cut through different thicknesses of wood and also ensures clean and precise cuts.
Chop Saw Blades for Plastic
Plastic is much softer and less durable as compared to wood or metal. When your chop saw blade spins at high speed, it generates a lot of heat that can warp or damage the plastic pieces. Therefore, you need a coated blade with more than 70 teeth because it gives the plastic a great finish and keeps it from getting spoiled.
When Should I Change the Blade on My Chop Saw?
Using your chop saw day in and day out is bound to take its toll, no matter what it’s made of or how many times it has been used. You’ll know you need to change the blades if:
- You see the teeth of your blade getting chipped or bent, or they’re dull.
- The edges of the materials that you cut are rough or uneven.
- The blade will get hotter than usual, thus causing burn marks on the material.
- The blade will cut slower than it usually does.
How to Change a Chop Saw Blade? – Safety Tips
Changing your chop saw blade isn’t tricky at all, and you can even find the instructions inside the user guide that comes with your chop saw. However, you need to be very careful while you’re doing this, as you can cut your hands with the blade. Therefore, wear your gloves while performing this step.
You can replace the chop saw blade in a few easy steps. Firstly, disconnect the power to the chop saw so that you don’t accidentally switch it on. Secondly, locate the bolt that holds the blade, and press the spindle lock to loosen it. This will free up the blade, and you can remove it.
Insert the new chop saw blade in place of the old one, and press the spindle lock to tighten the bolt around it. Gently spin the blade a few times to check that it doesn’t move or wobble, and you’re good to go.
No matter which chop saw you buy, using it safely should be your prime concern. Since you’ll be using it every day, your safety is in your hands, and by following the tips as mentioned above, you’ll be able to operate it safely.
We hope this article helps you learn how to operate your chop saw while also keeping it clean and well-maintained. Plus, you’ll also be able to choose the right type of blade for your projects by reading this.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.