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Safety First

A MECHANOPEDIA SAFETY GUIDE

Whether you’re new to woodworking or a card-carrying carpenter, knowing how to use the (literal) tools of the trade safely is an invaluable and essential skill to have. No self-respecting woodworker enjoys having to halt work on a project from having sustained injuries due to improper usage of power tools. Thankfully, this can easily be avoided by keeping in mind some rudimental precautions.

Get Familiar with Your Tools

First, familiarize yourself with the operating manual of any new tools you plan to use. Be sure that you understand the instructions. If you have any doubts, consult an expert or seek alternative resources – don’t be afraid to use Google!

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Get the Right Safety Gear

Next, equip yourself with safety gear such as cut-resistant gloves, protective eyewear, dust or fume masks, and hearing protection.

The types of safety equipment you would require depends on the environment you are working in (e.g., loud and noisy surroundings; small/large spaces; high/low volume of ongoing work in the vicinity etc.), but a general rule of thumb is that it is always better to be over- than under-protected. Make sure to invest in equipment that fits you – you don’t want your safety goggles falling off your face.

There is a wide range of safety gear for woodworking, from the basics such as gloves and goggles to utilities such as push sticks, flashlights, and chainsaw chaps for more specific uses. Always plan ahead of time and anticipate the gear and tools you may need for your project.

Safety Glasses

To start off, you’ll need to get yourself a decent pair of safety glasses to protect your eyes from potential debris or light overexposure from sparks when smelting or using angle grinders, for example.

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Safety Helmet

You’ll also need to wear a hard helmet if there is a risk of getting hit with falling objects, or if you’re working with someone in a tight space. That’s especially important if you’re using a cordless pole saw or electric pole saw.

Ear Protection

Power tools – from sliding miter saws and chainsaws to portable air compressors and random orbital sanders – can be pretty loud. That’s why you need to wear proper ear protection so you don’t damage your ears from all of the noise generated by your machines. 

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Dust Mask

We also recommend using dust masks if your job involves a lot of dirt – say cutting wood, for example. Inhaling dirt, dust and other harmful vapors can put your health at risk if you don’t wear a dust mask. If you use a table saw, cordless circular saw, sliding compound miter saws, or any similar machine from any power tool brand, you ought to wear a dust mask all the time.

Work Gloves

On top of that, you should wear leather work gloves in order to avoid splinters and scratches. If you happen to be dealing with corrosive material or caustic chemicals, then we recommend you use rubber gloves.

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First Aid Kit

And last but not least, you need to have a first aid kit by your side if things ever go south, regardless of whether you use power or hand tools.

Avoid Distractions

In addition to equipping the requisite gear, you also want to practice safe working habits by wearing appropriate clothing (not too loose), tying long hair back, and avoiding jewelry and accessories that might get in the way of your machinery or equipment. Needless to say, avoid multitasking and being distracted from the task at hand.

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Take Care of Your Machines and Power Tools

Machinery-wise, check to make sure that guards and other inbuilt safety devices on your tools are in proper working condition, especially for older equipment that may have been used for a long time.

Before turning on the power for machines, ensure that you have removed keys and adjusting wrenches. Make sure that your power cords and equipment are sufficiently grounded as well.

Make it a habit to check for and remove materials from your equipment and workspaces that may cause your machinery to jam or kick back, such as nails and clumps of sawdust or other types of residue. With that said, make sure the power is off before you attempt to remove these materials from machines; it is wise to keep your gloves on even at this preliminary stage.

Take advantage of tools such as brushes or sticks to perform cleaning and removals.

Never leave the power running on unattended machines, and wait till they stop completely when powered off before you leave the area.

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Organize Your Workplace

Securing your stock to the workspace is crucial in preventing slippage and maximizing control over your materials. Here are some safety tips regarding the matter:

Use clamps, vices, and secures where necessary (e.g., supports for rollers, supports for infeed and outfeed, etc.).

Free the area of clutter, accidental spills, and unnecessary paraphernalia.

Ensure that the surface area of the workspace is large enough for your materials and is able to accommodate the pressure of your machinery and usage of the space.

Your immediate surroundings should be spacious enough for you to move around without colliding into objects or other people.

A well-lit workspace is always a good idea.

Try to clear sawdust from the area and equipment after use, and equip your machines, such as contractor table saws, hybrid table saws, and portable table saws, with local exhaust ventilators where possible.

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ToolBox Organization

How to Organize Your Tools

Knowing how to sort your tools is extremely important as it will cut a lot of time since you won’t have to look for each device. Make sure that you have a tool box that is capable of storing all your tools. A good, simple and affordable choice would be to get a steel three drawer chest. You can get one of these for about $75 which is decent, and you can use it to hold a bunch of small tools like screwdrivers, hammers, and wrenches.

If you want something for larger tools, then you might want to get a polypropylene tub-style container. For this, we recommend getting a polyester tool bag as it’s rather light and affordable.

Last but not least, we recommend you get a good ol’ leather tool belt. Use it to keep your most important tools in hand’s reach without having to track them down. A leather tool belt should be able to hold small tools, tape measure, a hammer as well as other smaller miscellaneous things in its pouches.

Dealing with Sharp Tools

Most staple tools of the woodworker are fitted with sharp blades for cutting through thick and sturdy materials.

Always pay attention when using cutting blades, such as miter saw blades, circular saw blades, and chainsaw blades, as well as saws and toolsets, and keep your hands away from sharp edges as much as possible.

Avoid forcing through cuts that seem obstructed; turn the power off on machinery before checking and removing the sources of obstruction.

Blades should also be sharp enough to make clean cuts without much-added force.

Where necessary, employ the use of tools such as push sticks and jigs to aid in cutting.

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Keep it Safe for Others

Lastly, be considerate to others working in the area. Do not distract anyone operating machinery or engaged in a task. Clean up spills or debris you might have caused from your work to prevent falls or damage to the environment. Raise your concerns and seek help early if you are aware of a potentially risky situation you or a fellow woodworker might enter.

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Should You Do it Yourself?

Don’t let your pride lead you on a goose chase. You need to be able to objectively tell whether or not you are capable of something yourself. You need to be sure that you have the tools, patience, and knowledge necessary to tackle the job before you can do it yourself.

Other times, you might end up losing more by doing something yourself instead of calling a professional, which is far from ideal.

In order to avoid putting yourself in a similar situation, you have to gauge the situation in order to approximate how delicate the task is. Then, you can act accordingly. You might end up calling a professional, or just fix it yourself. It all depends on the situation. The important thing is not to let your pride skew your opinion and lead you to a path of frustration, where you risk adding insult to injury.

With that said, if you happen to be a DIYer, then there are a number of essential tools that you must always have on your side to be able to handle things on your own. Keep reading.

Here's A LIST OF ESSENTIAL TOOLS THAT YOU NEED TO KEEP IN YOUR TOOL BOX:

Wrench

An Adjustable Box-End Wrench

Use these wrenches to deal with any nut case.

Plunger

Plumber’s Helper

Use it to deal with drain clogs of all kinds.

Screwdriver

Lighted Cordless Screwdriver

Just like regular screwdrivers, but these ones come with a light which improves visibility in the dark.

Long Nose Pliers​​

Long-Nose Pliers

AKA needle nose, they serve mostly for establishing wire connections as well as other household applications.

Electrical-Tape

Electrical Tape

Binding wires, electrical tape act as a safety barrier for both the wires and the user.

Multimeter

Multi-Meter

These are mainly used to identify any underlying electrical problem. Note that you can use an ohm-meter instead, but a multimeter is more versatile.

Pipe-wrench

Pipe Wrench

As the name implies, pipe wrench deal with stubborn pipes. We recommend using two as that’s what most jobs require.

Wire-Cutter

Wire Cutter/Stripper

This is a vital tool for cutting wires and removing insulation from electrical ones.

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Twist-on Wire Connectors

You can use these to ensure a good hold at the end of wire connections.

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Abrasive Paper

You can wrap these around sanding blocks.

Sandpaper

Sandpaper & Steel Wool

ou’ll need these for making good finishes. You should start off by using low grit, coarse sandpaper then start upping the grit as you work up the finish to perfection.

Abrasive-Blocks​

Foam-Core Abrasive Blocks

You can find these either in coarse or fine texture.

Remember, many of these habits and preventive measures may be tedious and take time to acquire, but they are absolutely essential to any successful and injury-free project. Stay alert and be aware of safety hazards no matter the scale of the project. Your efforts will pay off.

Happy woodworking!

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