Penn State Overarm Blade Guard Hot
save money, fingers and lungs with overarm guard and dust hood
Most woodworkers know about the health benefits of good dust collection. But a tablesaw’s collection system often consists of only a dust port beneath the saw, where the debris falls harmlessly anyway. The fine dust that flings off the blade on top of the table, however, enters the air to become a breathing hazard. Penn State answers the problem with an economical overarm blade guard/dust collector that protects both fingers and lungs. The concept isn’t new, but the TSGUARD costs from $90 to $300 less than other similar devices. For the price difference, you get some good features and a few minor annoyances. (As with all overarm guards, you should still use a splitter behind the blade to reduce the chance of kickback).
The floor-standing TSGUARD mounts to the end of the saw’s extension table, so it doesn’t interfere with most rear fence rails, with a height-adjustable leg. You also can ceiling-mount the boom, and Penn State includes the hardware to do so. The molded plastic hood that constitutes the guard provides an unobstructed view of the blade, and replaceable inserts at the rear of the hood can accommodate a splitter or anti-kickback pawls.
As I tested the TSGUARD, I found myself adjusting the hood side-to-side more than I expected. Usually, I centered it over the blade, but sometimes I shifted it to one side to clear my miter-gauge extension. The telescoping dust-collection boom makes these adjustments pretty easy, but instead of a special grommet to seal between the inner and outer tubes of the boom, a rubber O-ring rolls up and down the inner tube to create a somewhat imperfect seal. Still, I found that the accessory captured nearly all of the tabletop dust I generated, whether the O-ring was in place or not. (The boom accepts both 4" dust-collection hose and 2-1/2 vac hose).
The instructions provided should more rightly be called "rough guidelines," as they were incomplete, and required a good dose of intuition to complete the assembly, which took about two hours. In fact, I learned more about how the TSGUARD goes together - and even found an assembly that came wrong from the factory - by looking at the photo in the Penn State catalog.
—Tested by Jan Svec
The Good, The Bad and the Rest....
I've had one of these units for several years now and it has its pluses and minuses. It wasn't hard to install the base, stand and arm on my tablesaw with a 52" Biesemeyer fence. Four holes in the floor, anchors, a couple of bolts to the side of the extension table and we were good to go. Then I mounted the blade guard and that is when the problems began.
The guard mounts with a piece of T-track and a couple of bolts. The T-track is off-center on the guard to allow room for the rear mounted dust pickup port and the guard tilts to the left in its stock location. After fiddling with it, I finally got it mounted to my satisfaction. I had to cut the track and remount it for a better fit. You can't center the track because the pickup hose outlet is in the way.
The raising and lowering mechanism is stiff. It doesn't easily raise and lower as you feed wood into the saw. I had to add weights to it to get everything to balance correctly - the stock weights didn't have enough range of adjustment to get it right. I mostly just set it at the height I want it and tighten the clamping screw.
The front of the guard doesn't come all the way down to the wood being fed into the saw. One of the main reasons I bought this guard was for above the blade dust collection. The gap at the front allows dust to shoot out the front on some cuts. The guard gets in the way when making narrow rip cuts - I can't get my push stick by, but I think any guard will do this. The guard is plenty wide enough for a dado blade and it isn't hard to adjust right and left. It does do a decent job of collecting most of the dust when cutting sheet goods with my 2 HP dust collector. I made a set of bookcases for my church and it required cutting up 9 sheets of plywood. There was almost no dust on the floor when I finished the job. That was a plus.
Because the guard won't go up and down easily, I tend to just spin it up over the arm and not use it unless I am cutting sheet goods. It does do a decent job there and is the main reason it is still on my saw.
If I were going to redesign this guard, I would make a better hood unit with the hose coming off the front of the hood instead of the back like it does now. That would allow easier, centered mounting of the hood on the arm and I have a hunch it would go up and down easier because the arm wouldn't have any side loading like it does now.
Oh, yeah - It is a great place to hang my hearing protectors. Right in front of my eyes to remind me to use them when I use the saw. This counts more than you would think.....