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What Are the Best Tips for Woodworking Safety?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Woodworkers know the tools they use can be extremely dangerous if not used properly, so the first step in woodworking safety is to learn how to use each tool in the shop, even if that means learning from a trained professional. Improper use can not only lead to injury, but also to damage to the tool itself. Ensuring adequate lighting in the shop is also a key woodworking safety tip, and installing lights over specific tools may be necessary as well. Ventilation will also be important for ensuring the air quality is not hazardous to the woodworker's health.

A ventilation system may be as simple as an open window or as complex as an air exchanger system. In either case, it will be important to ensure sawdust does not build up around the tools or on the floors of the shop, as this sawdust can be hazardous to a woodworker's health. Woodworking safety must dictate that sawdust collection systems are used to suck up sawdust at the cut location, and dust collection bins can be placed beneath some machines to collect dust as well. An air exchanger will ensure fresh air is pumped into the shop and dirty air is pumped out.

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Most wood shops use tools that run on electricity, and many feature bits and blades that rotate at high speeds. This means fire is a possibility. Woodworking safety dictates that fire extinguishers be present at all times, and they be conveniently located within the shop for quick access. All machines should be inspected regularly to ensure they are in proper working condition; any exposed wires should be replaced immediately, and the machine should not be used if sparks or flames are possible. Some machines create sparks as part of the cutting process, and while this is normal, precautions should be taken to ensure flammable materials are not in position to catch fire.

The woodworker himself should adhere to woodworking safety techniques as well. He should wear protective equipment such as goggles and ear plugs whenever possible, and ventilation masks should be used if a significant amount of sawdust will be created. Sometimes it will be necessary for a woodworker to wear thick gloves to prevent getting cut, though in some cases the gloves can pose just as much of a risk, as they can get caught in moving parts and cutting bits. Steel-toe boots should be worn whenever possible, and clothing should be flame-retardant.

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cardsfan27
Post 4

Has anyone here ever read the story about the guys who broke into someone's woodshop to steal tools and injured themselves, and sued the owner of the shop?

I guess it happened quite a while ago, maybe in the 80s, but somehow they ended up winning the case. After that, my grandpa put up a sign on his woodshop that said that he wasn't responsible for anyone who got injured using his tools improperly or who didn't have permission to be in the shop. Apparently, that is enough fair warning that you should no longer be liable for injuries.

My dad even took it a step farther and put up a sign of woodshop safety rules, since a lot of times he lets friends come over and use his tools.

Izzy78
Post 3

@JimmyT - I have seen the demos of them, too. In a lot of the videos, the actual inventor of the saw is putting his fingers at risk, so I trust that it works. If you bought one, and it didn't work right, I'm guessing they'd have quite a lawsuit on their hands. I don't think you can really buy one and test it out, though, since stopping the blade snaps off part of the turning mechanism, and you have to get the whole thing replaced. I guess it's worth it to save a finger, but I'd be too tempted to test it out.

I remember when I was in high school and taking shop class, we had to watch

all sorts of woodworking safety videos and take a safety quiz on each of them. Most of the stuff is pretty straightforward, but what I never realized until then is how important a ventilation system is. When my dad and I worked in our shop at home, we had a vacuum system, but that still doesn't always work. Now I usually try to wear a respirator if I'm doing sanding or anything.
JimmyT
Post 2

@TreeMan - Very good point. I have had a couple of scares like that myself. Along that line, though, has anyone ever seen the table saws that stop themselves if you get a finger in the way of the blade?

There are a lot of videos online showing how they work, and it is pretty interesting to watch. Basically, the blade has a small electrical charge going through it, and if your finger or another body part touches it, it disrupts the charge, and kicks the safety mechanism into gear. I don't remember exactly how it works, but somehow it throws a brake into the blade to stop it immediately, and then it pulls the blade under the table.

I don't know how much they cost compared to a regular saw, but I always thought they would be fun (if not scary) to test out.

TreeMan
Post 1

Something else I would add is that if you have kids that are able to wander into your wood shop, make sure you always take out the safety keys to the tools. I made the mistake one time of not taking the key out of my table saw one time, and my nephew was at the house and was fooling around with the switch and turned the saw on. Luckily, it scared him, and he ran away, and I don't think he could have gotten his hands up to the blade anyway, but it just goes to show what could go wrong with shop safety when you don't expect it.

I have another friend with kids who just takes

the safety keys when he gets a new tool, and drills a little hole through it. Then he can tie a string to it and keep the key with the tool, at least until the kids get smart enough to figure out how to plug the key into the switch.

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