November 4, 2021
Any new table saw you’re considering purchasing will almost certainly come along with a riving knife. Wood is kept away from the blade’s teeth by this dorsal-fin-shaped metal component attached to the saw’s arbor. New riving knives may not be as exciting to those who still use an old-school splitter. After all, the goal of both solutions is to keep kickback to a minimum. Despite this, there are some significant distinctions between these two types of safety equipment.
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In-Depth Comparison: Splitter vs. Riving Knife
A table saw’s riving knife is an essential safety feature. A flat piece of metal is used as a riving knife and is attached immediately behind the saw blade. The riving knife prevents the two cut portions of the board from closing on the saw blade, creating a hazardous backlash when you put a workpiece through the blade. It is essential to use the riving knife while performing rip cuts since they are more prone to kickbacks.
However, even when using a riving knife to reduce the risk of kickback, it cannot be completely eliminated. For this reason, it is always important to adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended safety procedures while using a table saw. Do your best to be safe while using power tools. Dress appropriately, wear certified safety glasses and ear protection when required, keep your hands away from the blade, and stand so you’re less likely to get hurt if the board suddenly kicks back.
On the other hand, a splitter seldom changes height, while the blade of a riving knife does. Because the top of a true-riving knife rests on the blade, most non-through cuts like grooves, rabbets, and dadoes don’t need it to be removed.
A splitter (which supports the blade guard) is standard equipment on every table saw.
The splitter knife now has to be simple to install and remove, not to make things even more complicated.
Why? According to findings, a splitter is often removed while making a dado cut, for example. The splitter was seldom if ever, removed and replaced. According to more recent findings, kickbacks are to blame for most injuries caused by table saws. It’s impossible to stress enough how critical it is to follow sound safety practices.
Kickbacks are usually the result of a misaligned fence; if you notice your blade is burning on one side, your fence may require adjusting. In some instances, kickbacks may happen while ripping a board because of the tensions in the end grain, causing it to press against the rear of the blade.
Because of how they are installed, splitters may be up to 2 inches away from their blades. Riving knives are always 1/4-3/8′′ away, whereas splitters can be up to 2 inches away from their blades. They are intended to keep the wood pushed open to minimize this from occurring—the more significant the gap and the greater the risk of a kickback, the thinner the stock.
For this reason, many modern designs enable you to quickly raise or lower the blade guard while still using the riving knife.
When you lower the blade, the space between the edge and splitter widens since it does not rise and descend with the blade. So, there’s a higher risk of kickback when anything catches on the rear of the blade, or an offcut skews around the back and makes contact with it.
You can build your DIY riving knife on certain table saws, but then there are commercially available aftermarket riving knives.
Instead of using a traditional splitter, you could design several interchangeable throat panels, each with its own incorporated typical or curved splitter measured to a particular blade height. This is better than using a conventional splitter but still not as good as using a proper riving knife.
Conclusion: Which is Superior
Knives With Riving Edges Offer Greater Versatility
The riving knife moves with the blade when lifted, lowered, and tilted since it is connected to the saw’s frame. When using a riving knife, be sure to keep it at least one inch away from the rear of the blade.
High-profile and low-profile riving knives are also available. When making through-cuts, utilize high-profile riving knives, typically part of a more extensive blade-guard system. If you’re using a low-profile riving knife, the handle is a little shorter than the blade. Riving knives are used for cutting like dadoes and rabbets. Riving knives may be used for both straight and curved cuts, depending on the model.
Since it is so versatile, a saw’s riving knife is less likely to need to be removed, making it safer for all of your cuts, not just a few of them.
It’s metallic, flat, and can be cut with a saw blade. The riving knife prevents the cut portions from sealing up when you pass the wood through the saw blade.
If you use your table saw a lot for woodworking, you’ve undoubtedly encountered kickback. The kind of encounter that makes your heart beat faster is what you can expect from this one. The worst-case scenario is that your hand will be drawn into the blade, and your fingers will be flung across the room. It may even hurl a piece of wood at your chest or nose if the situation is less dire.
Such a catastrophe may be avoided with the use of a riving knife. When installing a riving knife on your saw table, there are a few things to consider. Make sure it’s the same thickness as your blade. A blade must rise and descend in sync with it when it wraps around it at close quarters. To make matters worse, the knife’s top must now extend below the handle.
Even though a riving knife can avoid these problems, it is not ideal and cannot prevent all of them. Installing a knife like this does not eliminate all danger. There’s still a chance a kickback may occur. If you must, use safety gear such as gloves, goggles, and hearing protection, but keep clear of the saw blade. Decide on a stance that will protect you if the board decides to push you about.
There’s no reason not to put it to good use. In addition to providing continuous protection, a low-profile riving knife also has the advantage of never getting in the way, so you’ll never be tempted to take it out.
Splitters Only Provide A Little Security
Because a splitter is a fixed piece of equipment, it must be placed much further back on the table saw’s throat plate to avoid interfering with the operation of the blade when it is elevated to its maximum elevation. The splitter must be used in conjunction with an elevated blade to produce deeper slices to avoid backlash. Nevertheless, lowering the blade widens the chasm between the blade and the splitter’s teeth, allowing the wood to come into touch with those teeth.
The splitter must also be removed when the blade is rotated to produce an angled cut. Reinstalling splitters may be a hassle, so it’s easy to forget about them.
Splitters, on the other hand, have an advantage over riving knives in one point. A riving knife cannot be adapted to an existing table saw. It’s better to have little protection than none at all.
It’s an improvement over doing nothing at all. Any saw without a built-in riving knife will benefit from the addition of splitters. However, the backlash may still occur when the blade is positioned to cut through thin materials.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.