A kerf splitter is a small device that goes behind the blade on a table saw and is used to keep the upward moving rear of the saw blade from catching on the piece of wood. To better understand what a kerf splitter is, we will first provide you with the definition of the word “kerf”.
According to the Webster’s dictionary, a kerf is “a slit or notch made by a saw or cutting torch” or “the width of cut made by a saw or cutting torch”. Now that you know what a kerf is, you should be able to understand what a kerf splitter is after we have explained what its function is in the opening sentence of this article.
Understanding the Terms
To safely operate a table saw, one of the most important things is to understand the terms used with a table saw. The word Kerf comes up several times in most table saw manuals and if you are not an everyday user, chances are you may not know what the heck a kerf is.
As explained earlier, a kerf is the slot made in the wood by a saw blade. Terms associated with the word kerf that you need to be aware of are thin kerf blades, 1/8” kerf blades, kerf splitters, wood kerf, blade kerf and simply kerf.
A 1/8 inch kerf blade refers to a saw blade that makes a 1/8 inch slit in a piece of wood while it cuts through the wood. A thin kerf blade is a blade that leaves an even thinner slit in the wood than a 1/8 inch kerf blade when it cuts the wood. The simple term, kerf, when used by itself, refers to the slit in the wood made by the saw blade.
When referring to a piece of lumber’s kerf, we are simply referring to the slot or slit made in the wood by the cutting blade and often times referring to the width of the slot as well. An example would be when someone refers to a 1/8 inch kerf in a piece of wood, they are referring to the 1/8 inch space left in the wood by the saw blade when it cut through it.
Why You Should Use a Kerf Splitter on a Table Saw
The number one reason to use a kerf splitter on a table saw is probably because it makes using the device much safer. A kerf splitter provides safety because it prevents kick backs. A kickback is when the wood is dangerously trusted backwards towards the user so that it could hit them and cause injury.
When cutting wood without a kerf splitter, a table saw can cause a kick back when the rear of the saw blade is returning up through the already cut lumber and it catches on the kerf (slit or slot caused by the cut) causing it to be forced violently away from the fast moving blade.
Another good reason to use a kerf splitter is to prevent the burning of the wood when the blade cuts through it. How many times have you seen smoke coming up from the blade where it meets the wood when you are making a cut? As you may well know, this causes a nasty burn mark on the lumber.
If you are making a natural wood colored piece of furniture, this may be particularly undesirable. Using a kerf splitter will help prevent this burning condition by separating the cut in the wood so that the blade does not cause enough friction to burn the wood while it cuts through it.
And one final reason to use a kerf splitter is that it provides for a nice smooth even cut. Often when the rear of the table saw blade is coming up, after the front of the blade has cut through the wood, it will catch on the wood and cause chips to fly off of it, making for an uneven cut. This is eliminated by the kerf splitter as it separates the wood and keeps the blade from chipping the wood as the rear of the blade comes up through the kerf.
Types of Kerf Splitters
There are two main types of kerf splitters used for table saws. The first of which is simply a one eighth inch kerf splitter to be used with a 1/8 inch kerf cutting blade. Then there is a thin kerf splitter for thing kerf blades. These are the basic types of kerf splitters.
There are ones available that can be added to table saws that may not come with them. Most are easily attached with little more than a drill and are only for cutting 90 degree angles. There are more elaborate splitting systems available that can handle other angles as well, but they are outside the scope of this article.