Not every table saw includes a riving knife but these little accessories are incredibly helpful at times, particularly for beginners. The whole concept behind the riving knife was simply to add another element of safety to a spinning blade and a lot of power.
It can be helpful in preventing kickbacks but it has other uses as well. In this guide, we will talk about just what a riving knife is and cover all of the details that you need to know about a riving knife on a table saw.
The Riving Knife Explained
The riving knife is a small and simple attachment to a table saw. It’s nothing fancy, typically just a small piece of metal that is attached on a table saw immediately after the blade. It’s located on the opposite side of the blade from where you stand to push your materials through on the saw.
This little piece of metal can come in different shapes and sizes but it always serves the same purpose and is always located in the same area. The riving knife is designed to keep the wood apart after making a cut. This little addition helps prevent wood from pinching on the blade or giving you massive kickback when you are just trying to make some rip cuts.
Here’s the thing. When you pass wood through the blade and cut it, that’s just part of the job. Once the wood passes the blade and is split by it, what happens when it is past the blade?
While the wood cannot mend itself, it does naturally pull back together as soon as it leaves the blade. This is where the riving knife comes in.
Since the metal lies immediately after the blade, it simply helps to keep both sides of the wood separated a little bit longer after they leave the blade. In doing so, the wood can’t pinch the blade, which can lead to much bigger problems. Those problems include kickback that can lead to injury or a bad cut. The pinching of the blade can also be harmful for the saw and blade.
How is the Riving Knife Attached to a Table Saw?
If you’re familiar with the parts of a table saw, then you know the blade comes through the throat plate. When you stand at the front of the table saw, you run your wood along the fence, pushing it up to and then past the blade.
There is nothing blocking the blade from your pushing, although you probably have a blade guard to protect from accidentally hitting the blade. The riving knife is right on the other side of the blade.
Every saw blade is attached to a trunnion that lies right beneath the surface of the table. This trunnion is what allows you to raise, lower, and even bevel the saw blade as needed. It’s simply the mechanism that holds onto the blade under the table.
A saw that comes with a riving knife will generally attach the riving knife to the trunnion as well. This is not always the case but it is the most common scenario that you will find. The cool thing about most riving knives is that you can also adjust them.
With most saws, you can raise or lower the riving knife and even adjust the distance of the riving knife from the blade. This way you can adjust the riving knife to best meet your needs based on what it is you are cutting at the time.
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Can a Riving Knife Be Removed?
The riving knife can be removed but very rarely does it actually need to be removed. Having the riving knife in place is doing far more good than it is harm. It’s helpful and safe for you to use. In fact, you can even make a crosscut on the table saw and the riving knife will not get in the way.
You see a lot of big time professional woodworkers that remove riving knives and several other things like the blade guard and even anti-kickback prawls. They don’t do this to show off but more so they can show you exactly what they are doing. Those are professionals who are highly trained to still work safely and efficiently.
You will find that you can do almost anything with the riving knife in place and not have an issue. The primary exception to this is that you may need to remove a riving knife in order to cut a dado of any kind. This is the only time a riving knife might actually get in the way of making the cut you need.
Riving Knife Vs. Splitter
The riving knife and splitter are very similar in design and often confused as being the same things. However, riving knives and splitters are different and you should understand the differences.
These mechanisms serve a very similar purpose. They are both there as a safety piece to help you not have to worry about wood pinching or causing kickback once it makes it past the blade.
A splitter is a structure fixed to the table immediately after the blade. It’s typically just a large but thin piece of metal and it really just acts to keep the boards split after the cut until they make it farther on the table. Again, they split the wood to keep it from pinching.
Then you have the riving knife. It does the same thing and splits the wood so that it doesn’t pinch. However, where the riving knife really is different is that it is more adjustable. Since the riving knife is attached to the trunnion, it can be raised, lowered, and adjusted with your blade.
The splitter does not have as much adjustability so it is also less versatile. You will have to remove a splitter more often for certain types of cuts.
They are similar and yet very different at the same time.
A riving knife is designed to not only keep you safe when you’re cutting but also to help protect the saw and the blade. They are a very suitable addition to a table saw and can be extremely useful, particularly when you are making rip cuts or cutting lengthy boards and materials.
There are times when you might need to remove the riving knife but for the most part, it can be helpful with just about any type of cut that you might be making. Learn how to use it and adjust it and you will find it is a helpful addition to the table saw.