Last week, Rob wondered what safety measures you practice when working on projects. Here are your many words to the wise. – Editor
“I have always tried to work safely in the shop, and a couple of years ago I took measures further by purchasing a SawStop cabinet saw. As I get older (64 now) I know that I will at some point start to lose a step here and there, so I wanted to ensure that a missed step didn’t include missing a finger. Any time that I use the miter saw, the last thing I do before pulling the trigger and lowering the blade is to mentally ask myself where my fingers are and then check to see that they are out of the danger zone. I have also informed my family that if they hear the saw running, they are not to enter the shop until it stops so as not to startle me and cause me to shift my attention away from the saw. My wife now makes it a point to knock and wait for me to answer before entering to make sure she doesn’t startle me and cause a mistake of any kind. When I’m in the shop she comes out a couple of times a day just to make sure I’m okay or to bring me a snack or just to say hello and see what I’m working on.” – Tom Atha
“Our efforts at safety in our private shops are pretty woeful, and the examples set by our ‘knowledgeable experts’ are often even worse. If I see the disclaimer ‘guards removed for clarity’ once per YouTube visit, I see it 10 times. What more did I see due to the guard being off the table saw? Show me the set up before turning on the saw and then replace the guard. My entire career was spent as an engineer and manager in the chemical industry. Due to some excellent managers who took time to educate me and being held to very high standards, I am very sensitive to safety practices. Our private woodworking practices in general fall far short of what is necessary.” – Jay Simmons
“I have Hello Kitty BAND-AIDS® for my shop crews when someone has a boneheaded moment. Ladders and step stools are a common safety topic for me. I usually include a talk about 5-gallon pails and how they are not a step stool. Electrical safety is also a big topic for me. Quarterly inspections are required by OSHA and are recommended for every home shop. Properly grounded tools and cords in good condition can be a life saver.” – Joe Mazanec
“I am 72 years old, and I’ve had pneumonia three times. I never realized how much damage you can do to yourself by not using breathing protection. Now I wear a mask in my shop, and I always turn on my ambient air filter. A word to the wise.” – Charles Bickerstaff
“I’ve been unable to return to my workshop since mid-June, and it’s killing me! Being a self-taught woodworker, for the most part, I was learning the intricacies of the use of a jack plane to plane parts of a table I’m building. By intricacies, I mean how to ensure that each edge is first flat and, secondly, square to the adjoining sides. I practiced this task for a few hours one afternoon and got tired, but I was satisfied that I had both learned how to do the task and had done it correctly. I would continue the project the next morning. Wrong! I awoke the next morning with my neck and upper trap muscles stiff as a board, and my neck hurt like heck! I had done everything right, except for using my legs properly to provide the momentum to the plane in my hands! I later saw a YouTube video by Rob Cosman, the Canadian woodworker, who in passing mentioned that one must propel the body forward by using primarily one’s legs. I knew that but didn’t think of it that fateful afternoon. A few months ago, I was working on one of my home’s interior walls and began to put in the 2×4 studs. I soon realized that I didn’t have the strength and stamina to drive the #8 size nails with a normal sized hammer into the yellow pine. A handyman told me the same day that is why he now uses screws, and not nails, to do home repairs. There ought to be a law preventing our getting old, don’t you think? We could all benefit from a comprehensive reminder on the proper use of our torso and limbs in our workshops to avoid injury (occupational therapy). This is especially important for hand tool woodworkers, but even power tool woodworkers must use hand tools to refine the surfaces of milled stock. My doctor prescribed physical therapy, and during my first visit, my physical therapist told me, ‘You’re the second woodworker I’ve seen today!’ Need I say more? Just one thing: Ouch!” – José E. Martínez
“ABSOLUTE rule in my shop: NOTHING moves until the table saw stops spinning. Even my grandchildren have learned this rule.” – E. Louis Fairbank
“It only needs a few near misses, such as kickback on the table saw, to make you realize that the workshop is a dangerous place. Like many woodworkers, the inconvenience of the blade cover on the table saw used to frustrate me. Recently I was at a wood store called Windsor Plywood where I noticed that they had a SawStop table saw. I asked the owner what prompted him to shell out for such an expensive saw. He put up his left hand and showed the fingers that were missing, and he is an experienced woodworker. It just so happened that my wife was with me, and when we got home she told me to buy a SawStop. I explained how expensive they are, and she said that unless I did, she would not go on supporting my woodworking hobby. I guess I am fortunate to have such a caring wife. So I purchased the Professional cabinet saw. Not only is this saw much safer but it is also quite the best saw I have ever had by a long way. I discovered that the quality of the saw itself promotes safer practices because it is so accurate that I don’t need to take any risks. However, I have triggered the brake cartridge once and it was because I was stupidly trying to cut corners. Fortunately, I just got a cut on the end of my finger. Trying to remove the brake cartridge from the saw blade and the expense of purchasing another brake cartridge and new blade was enough to make me change my ways. The other thing that my wife was concerned about was dust — a common workshop problem. I have the over-the-blade cover, and it is rare that I have to remove it for rip cuts due to the excellent design. If I have to remove it, I use the MicroJig GRR-ripper and the riving knife. I also try to incorporate dust collection into the jigs that I make, such as the crosscut sled on the table saw. I have just spent the last week improving dust collection in my shop where I can. I don’t have a central system — something I should have taken care of when I first built my shop nearly 20 years ago. Mind you, space is a challenge like in most shops.” – Graham Jones
“Several years ago I bought a good two-wheel hand truck. Great investment for moving all sorts of things around the shop and yard. I don’t lift and move things that killed my back; instead I shift them to the hand truck and use leverage and gravity.” – Robert
“I will never stop working in my shop. It’s what I look forward to each and every day. We have all made the sheet stock movers and rolling tables. But the one thing that I did do, that for me was a game-changer, was to buy a lifting table. This item lowers enough to put small items on and raises up high enough to rest against the tailgate of my pickup! It is worth its weight in gold. I can’t tell you how many times this device has saved my bacon — and of course, my back. As a tinkerer, I have thought of accessories to attach to it that will make it even more functional. Like everyone else I just need to find the time. When I do, I will share them!” – Dave Troncoso
“The biggest thing I have found is listening to that voice in my head when it asks, ‘Are you sure you want to do it that way? Really?’ With age and a few minor accidents, I now listen to myself.” – Walter Hayes
“I have so many tools in my shop that have really sharp edges/blades as well as a nifty chainsaw for outside maintenance. My operating ‘theory’ applies to all: if there is a task needing to be done, or a project I have planned, the first thing I assess before even heading out to work is how I’m feeling that day. Am I awake/alert/rested? There have been days when I would like to work on a project, but maybe am a bit tired from other tasks. That’s when I decide to wait for a better day. Nothing is more dangerous, in my opinion, than not being totally aware/alert when sharp blades are moving! It’s my simplest operational awareness.” – Paul Bailey
“I always appreciate reminders about being safe and am looking forward to reading the reader submissions. Here is mine. Thanks to 34 years in the Navy, my initial training and many operational experiences led to a good foundation of safety habits I now use in my woodshop. I’ve only been woodworking for a little less than two years, and I love it! I learned that having proper gear on first puts me in the right mindset and gives me good protection:
• Safety shoes so I never have to worry about jumping out of the way of a dropping a chisel or hammer.
• Prescription bifocal safety glasses. Got them from my regular eyeglass shop and worth every dime. This helps me see much more clearly than having safety glasses over my regular glasses. No fogging!
• Hearing protection. I already wear hearing aids from damage over years in the military. I don’t need to lose any more hearing. I use the earmuff type.
• GVS Eclipse P100 dust mask. They come in different sizes, so mine is just right to be comfortable to wear for long periods, and I can clean it. Again, military exposure to hazardous environments taught me to take sawdust warnings seriously.
• Last but not least is a rechargeable headlamp so I can see clearly, particularly when I need to operate certain power tools.
While these aren’t unusual items, I have personally experienced or witnessed the value of these items in a professional environment. Using safety gear and procedures is a sign of expertise and sets the example for others (including young ones). I’ve been to woodworking classes where I’m the only one with my mask on (pre-hunkering down). It’s not long before someone comes and asks me about mine.” – Sandy Adams
“Never, ever leave a chuck key in the chuck of your drill press or lathe. Make it a habit to always remove it, even if you have the next item to be chucked next to you. You’ll only need to forget once and you’ll remember the mistake forever. It happened to me when I was 18ish, and the near miss made me a believer forever. I’m now 75.” – John Frassica
“A few years ago, I mounted a track on the ceiling and bought a small electric hoist. It works well to lift those heavy or awkward pieces onto the bench. I also use it to dump the 55-gallon drum from the dust collector into plastic bags for disposal.” – Thomas Kelly