Tablesaw blade guards

Choosing the best blade guard/dust collector. April 9, 2003

I've had to hire an employee, so I think it's about time I put a guard on my Unisaw. The OEM guard is still collecting dust on a shelf somewhere in my shop. So, I'm in the market for one of the aftermarket rigs. Anybody care to share an opinion of any of these blade guard gizmos?

Forum Responses
(From WOODWEB's Cabinetmaking Forum)
The overhead guards are the least cumbersome if you're doing lots of dado or rabbet/tennon work, or even ripping narrow pieces.

From contributor D:
I use and like the dust shoot/blade guard made by Excalibur.

From the original questioner:
Please elaborate on the pros and cons of these rigs. The prices are all over the place. I've used the Excalibur and it seems to do the trick, but there is the Delta, Pennstate, Beismeyer, and that new HTC Brett Guard.

I have been putting off buying a blade guard/dust collection device because I like to use Boardbuddies on my rip fence and it seems that the two would often get in the way of each other. I have thought about making my own blade guard device to solve this.

From contributor D:
The one I use makes it fairly easy for me to take the whole assembly off, if I need to run something extra tall through the saw. Depending on your dust collection unit, I'd expect all to be effective at picking up dust for cuts that allow for material on both sides of the blades. If you make a slight trim cut, the width of the blade or less, the wood chips and dust will not be drawn into the dust shoot. I thought the length (front to rear) of the guard was too long. I modified my guard so that when it is down and the blade is fully raised, there is only the blade and about an inch to the front and about two inches to the rear, past the blade which is covered. I made it shorter in front so that I could see the leading edge of the blade better and so that I could keep control of the stock for a little longer, while feeding, yet still have the protection of the guard to keep me out of the blade zone. I made it shorter in the back so that I wouldn't have to push the stock so far past the back of the blade before clearing the back of the guard. The original guard was so long in the rear that I had to walk around to the back of the saw to retrieve fed material. In this regard, I would look for a blade guard/dust shoot that is more compact.

I further modified the shoot by adding some broom hair (taken from a shop dust broom) to the inside of the shoot. The hair sticks down about an inch or so below the shoot in front and wraps around each side about 3 inches. I used silicon sealant to glue the hair onto the guard. This further helps keep dust and small chips from being thrown toward the operator. The hair just moves aside when a board or panel is pushed toward the blade.

Fine Woodworking did a comparison test not too long ago. Time for a trip to the library.

Contributor D, I saw your modified guard in a previous post. Being a man who likes to get creative with my tools, jigs, fixtures, etc, I was quite impressed with your guard. In fact, I've kept the mental picture so I can copy it when the time comes.

From contributor D:
I've found a copy of that original post, copied below with the picture. The post includes some info about a zero clearance table saw insert.

"I've been using the Excalibur blade and dust collection guard for about three years and really like it. The first thing I did was take the hood apart and made it shorter so I wouldn't have to push the stock so far past the hood before I could lift the stock off the table. I also cut some hair off a shop dust broom and used silicone caulk to glue the hair around the front and sides of the hood to provide additional help in trapping dust inside the hood so that it could be sucked up into the vacuum port as you can see, its about time to change the hair in the front of the guard :-)

I make my own "zero clearance" table inserts for my Powermatic 66 saw from 3/8" Baltic birch, laminated on both sides to produce the proper thickness insert for this saw. I use the factory insert as a template and use a pattern cutting router bit to duplicate the factory insert. To save time and stock up on inserts, I make them a dozen or so at a time, laminating a large sheet of Baltic birch with any solid colored leftover laminate, before ripping and crosscutting several oversized blanks.

I have splitters installed on a couple of these blanks, one for my standard 1/8" kerf blades and another for my thin kerf blades. The splitter is permanently installed in the insert. The insert is machined to be a whisker over the thickness of the saw blade kerf and is beveled along the length (height) of the front edge so that the stock doesn't catch a square leading edge of the splitter as it is pushed past the blade and into the splitter. I make my splitters out of cocobolo but any dense hardwood will do. To make the kerf for the insert to fit into, I first set the saw fence up so that when the new insert blank is pushed along the fence and into the blade, (as in ripping) the saw kerf will be made precisely where it needs to be after the insert is installed into the saw table. Of course, you'll have a different insert in the table before you rip the kerf in the new insert and you will need to make this a "stop" cut, shutting down the saw motor when you reach the place on the new insert where you want to stop cutting. The insert is epoxied into the kerf at the proper location; 1/4" or so behind where the back of the blade will be when it is in it highest position. You need to take care when clamping that the surface of the sawn insert blank remains flat and parallel on either side of the splitter while the epoxy dries."

I have found a real deal on an overguard from Exaktor Tools. It's a heavy unit and made in Canada. They also make sliding tables and fences. I believe they were well-rated in the Fine Woodworking article.

I might one day go for a overhead guard mainly for the dust collection that's built into them, but in my 23 years of shop experience in Canada I've never seen a guard on a tablesaw!

Dust collection is my primary reason for using blade guards. I use both the Exaktor and the Excalibur guards. My opinion is: Excalibur good, Exaktor bad. But the good Excaliburs are the ones manufactured after 1998. Exaktors are clones of pre-98 Excaliburs. What is the basis of my opinion? Two identical table saws with identical dust collectors doing equal material processing jobs daily - dust collector bag hooked up to Excalibur needs to be emptied every 3 days, whereas dust collector bag hooked up to Exactor need to be emptied about every 10 or more days.

I had not noted dust flying around when using my Exaktor blade guard. Perhaps because my dust collector is rather close to the saw and I have strong vacuum. The other day I was cutting oak stair treads on the saw while my partner was varnishing stair treads about twenty feet away. We did not experience dust in the varnish. This is my experience with the Exaktor.