Shoulda Wooda Coulda Class Shop Safety
or, “How to leave with the same number of fingers, toes, and eyeballs you came in with”
Safety glasses: these are your buddies whenever you’re using anything that throws off particles or sparks that can get in your eyes. That would be most power tools, especially sanders, grinder and buffer wheels, and saws. If you have regular glasses they can serve the same purpose if they give you enough cover, but you may want to consider that the average pair of glasses may be damaged or shatter if something big enough or fast enough hits them.
Breathing masks/respirators: you’re gonna want to have one of these on when you’re doing anything that creates a good amount of fine particle dust, like sanding or grinding. They’re also a good idea if you have extra tricky respiratory concerns or you’re particularly susceptible to strong smells or fumes.
Ears: ear plugs or other covers that help block really loud, shrill sounds are a good idea when you’re running a hefty number of power tools, especially belt sanders or grinder wheels. Note: using loud, shrill sounds from your phone playlist to block out loud, shrill sounds from tools does not count.
Footwear: sandals, flip flops, or other shoes that don’t cover your whole foot are a bad idea in a shop. Stuff gets dropped, sharp pointy things wind up on the floor, and you’re also likely going to be standing on a hard floor for a good bit of the time. Wear something that gives you good cover and decent support.
Clothes: go for clothes that you’re okay with messing up, and are comfortable but not loose and flappy. Clothes that trail or hang too loosely can get caught by things with blades that spin real fast. The distressed look is a perfectly good fashion statement, but that’s not the recommended way to do it.
Hair & Jewelry: long hair and dangling jewelry and accessories can present the same problem as loose clothes. If your hair is past your shoulders, it’s best to tie it back in a ponytail or stuff it up under a hat, kerchief, scarf, etc. Take off jewelry; yeah, I know, “but my wedding ring!!!!”. But you’re more likely to get to keep the ring and the finger you wear it on if it doesn’t get chewed up by a piece of equipment.
Read the safety information on any chemical you use. If the cautions tell you to wear gloves, a respirator, ventilate the area, etc., go with those recommendations. They came about because somebody went to the Emergency Room after working without doing them.
Don’t use tools if you’re incapacitated. That’s French for “don’t work stoned, plastered, or loopy”. It also means
to be aware of when you’re too tired or sick to be really focused on what you’re doing or if chemical fumes are getting to you.
Tool & Equipment Stuff:
SLOWER IS BETTER. You’re less likely to have a piece get out of control or damage yourself or tools if you take a little extra time with what you’re doing, and you haven’t really saved time if you mess the project up and have to fix or redo it.
“Measure twice, cut once” has been a maxim for craftspeople since at least the 16th century for a good reason. That sort of goes hand in hand with that “take a little extra time and get it right on the first go” thing in #5.
Always check the on switch before you plug a power tool in. If you figure this is too fussy, just ask me what a belt sander shaped hole in a window looks like. Also, check any power cords for damage to the insulating cover.
Always make sure any detachable blades, bits, or wheels are attached securely and in decent shape; not missing a bunch of teeth, not warped or bent, not rusty or anything else that might be a problem if the thing starts moving really fast. Not only is it not safe, it’s also bad for the tool.
Make sure any tool with a moving part has stopped moving before you touch it or set it down. DO NOT EVER TRY TO STOP A MOVING BLADE OR BIT WITH YOUR HANDS. I DON’T GIVE A HAIRY RAT’S BUTT IF YOU HAVE REALLY SUPER GREAT GLOVES ON OR YOUR GRAMPA USED TO DO IT ALL THE TIME. DON’T DO IT. If you need to move cut off pieces of material away from a blade, use a stick or tongs that keep your hand away from the blade.
Cut away from your body as much as possible. If you have to handle a large piece of material, get another person to help hold and stabilize it as you cut.
If a blade is dull, sharpen it or change it out to avoid breakage or having the knife go out of control from using too much force. If you’re using a carving tip, gouge, or razor blade, it’s a good idea to wear a Kevlar glove on your non-carving hand.
Table saws, chop saws, and other power tools can throw off material (the stuff you’re working on) as its cut loose from the main piece. Wear protective gear like safety glasses or a face shield, and be aware as you’re cutting.
If a power tool’s blade, bit, or other moving part gets “in a bind” (caught in the material) stop the tool immediately. Remove the tool from the material, try to see what the problem is, and alter the situation to fix it. This may mean repositioning the material, cutting a different way, changing the blade or bit, or using a hand saw or other tool to get past a knot, a hidden nail, or other obstacle.
Just be smart. Simply paying attention and staying focused on what you’re doing is the #1 thing you can do to prevent accidents and screw ups. Don’t try to eat, drink, vape, text, talk on your phone, take pictures, etc. while you’re working on a piece. If you need to do any of that, stop, put the tool down, and take care of it.