Woodworker's Safety Week

This is the second year for Woodworker’s Safety Week. Started last year by Wood Whisperer Marc Spagnulo, Woodworker’s Safety Week is one week dedicated to instruction, tips, and awareness of safety in and around the woodshop. I know I don’t need to tell you that woodworking, hand or power, is inherently dangerous. Anything that can cut wood easily can cut you easier. While the magazines discuss router safety and the wearing of ANSI approved eye wear, I thought I’d add my two cents about the unique safety precautions in the unplugged shop. I’ll add a new blog entry each day for the coming 5 days to let you know how important I think this subject is. Today, I just want to talk about hand tool shop safety awareness.

How we are different:
Hand tool users are often quite a bit different from Norm-al woodworkers. We use very different tools, and work in very different conditions. Many woodworkers received at least some basic instruction or training that included safety precautions, even if it was just the legal disclaimers that came with your table saw. Chisels don’t come with operator’s manuals. So it’s up to you to learn good, safe technique.

There aren’t many of us who are full time professional hand tool woodworkers. Many of us perform our woodworking after working a full day’s work. For years, I and people like me, have been beating the drum, encouraging you to pick up the pace in your stolen hours. The result can be a perfect storm for accidents; The rush to get something done, the lack of basic instruction, the need to figure out where you left off 4 days ago, physical fatigue, and for those 9-5 computer users, eye strain, all conspire to hurt you.

Recognizing and staring down the threat:
Whether you are walking down a dark alley, choosing locks or alarms for your automobile or residence, identifying potential threats is the wise first step. In a hand tool shop, I think the threat level is relatively low. Unlike power tool shops, it’s not easy to remove a portion of yourself working with hand tools. But this can lull us into a false sense of security. As hand tool users, we use our bodies to a greater extent than our brothers in their powered shops. Cuts, scrapes and splinters are fairly common in any woodshop. These sorts of injuries can cut short your woodworking, lead to more mistakes or potential injuries (as you adapt your technique to compensate for a cut finger), or just make your time in the shop less enjoyable. But more serious injuries including slips and falls, strained or sprained muscles can be seriously debilitating and life changing.

So let’s start out the week with the recognition that we hand tool users, while arguably safer than our powered up friends, are not immune to workshop accidents. And while easily preventable cuts are by far the most common injury for us, other, more serious threats loom. The bottom line is, we are woodworkers just like everybody else and we need to take safety seriously. For the next week, I’ll discuss some specific hand tool threats, what I do about them, and hopefully raise your consciousness about Woodworker’s Safety.

Thanks Marc for this great idea. I’m looking forward to checking out all my favorite blogs (see menu at left) to see what they have to say. Thanks also to Kari Hultman, whom I met yesterday and who told me about this (I missed it last year).

Adam

P.S. A&M blog has some of the smartest readers on the internet.Ã? On Saturday, I’ll collect the tips and wisdom from those of you who comment or email me this week. I’ll post my favorites to Saturday’s blog entry to cap off Woodworker’s Safety Week.Ã? 

3 thoughts on “Woodworker's Safety Week

  1. Al Rossi

    WHATEVER tool you’re using, take a look around to see where its going to go WHEN, not IF it slips.

    Put a wooden floor in your shop, and you’ll be less inclined to try to "kick Save" that sharp tool when it rolls off the bench (they always land sharp side down in my shop)
    Wood floors are also easier on your back/knees/feet.

    Where eye protection when sharpening with a wheel, hand cranked or not.

  2. curt seeliger

    NPR was interviewing Michael Pollan today and people called in to offer simple rules of thumb for eating, many of which rhymed, such as:

    "If it spins near your fingers, make sure they linger."

    Rules more appropriate to hand tool use include

    Asking the question "If the chisel slips, where’s it gonna go?"
    "Your palm is NOT a mallet, no matter what Nora Hall thinks."
    "Chisels do NOT fit in pockets, even if they do"
    "Keep good chocolate in your first aid kit. You’ll always know where it is and what’s inside."

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