I spent my first three or four years as a carpenter using an all-metal Model 77 worm-drive Skil saw that had served at least two owners before me. When it came time to retire the saw, I bought a brand new model 77. I was so awed by the new tool that I read the instruction manual that came with it — all the way through. Somewhere in there I learned about a very valuable safety feature, which I’ve been sharing ever since. But in the past 12 years I’ve yet to come across a carpenter who knew about this feature, and most are pretty suspicious about it.
I’m talking about Skil’s solution to the kickback problem. Here’s how it works. Recall that the blade is held between two plates that rotate on the arbor shaft. To make sure the blade doesn’t slip, you have to crank down on the nut. Well, you’re not supposed to tighten the nut quite that hard. If you back off on the nut just a little, the blade will stall when it binds in the kerf, instead of climbing out of the cut and possibly slicing off your fingers. The motor keeps turning, and the shaft keeps spinning, but those arbor plates act like an automatic clutch.
It takes a bit of fiddling to get it just right, but once you’ve got it, kickback problems are radically diminished. The folks at Skil say that it’s important to adjust the torque settings for working with different kinds of wood. This feature isn’t limited to the model 77. Check with the manufacturer of your saw to see if it has the same design. It might make you eligible to match the boast of an old-timer I know, who reasons that it’s a big deal that a carpenter his age can still count to 10 on his fingers.
David Kane, Davis, CA