Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Woodworking Safety Day: Sometimes safety is in the tool you chose to do the job

   This is going to ruffle a few feathers...

   In honor of Woodworking Safety Day, there's been a number of great posts discussing ways we can be safe and protect ourselves in our shops. One point I would like to contribute is that in some cases, the tool you chose for a particular job can make that difference. Now, we all have our favorite tools to use and confidence in a tool is really important. But, sometimes the simple nature of how a tool is designed and how it performs might make it less safe than another tool for a particular job.

   For example: mortising with a router. I know there are a few gasps and cynical looks with this suggestion, but hear me out. Routers are top heavy, and balancing a spinning bit as you plunge down to make multiple passes on a piece of 3/4 stock can be unnerving. It can also be dangerous, and we do our best to support either side of the piece, take our time, and hope we don't rock it slightly and chew up the sides of the mortise. The bit can be difficult to see as well, and the first time I did it I really screwed up the mortise. What could be a safer way to do it? Well, a hollow chisel mortiser is nice if you have one, as are mortising chisels, but you could simply hog out the mortise with a forstner bit on the drill press. Even if you finish the mortise with the router, you can get a decent start on it with the forstner bit and take those initial couple of shaky router passes out of the picture. It may take a little more time, but it can certainly make the job safer. How about cutting a tenon? If the idea of running a tall, thin piece of wood on its end over a table saw blade makes you a little nervous, why not try it on the band saw? The point is, there is always more than one way to get the job done, so why not consider all options and go with the safest choice?

   Ultimately, you should use the tool you feel the most comfortable with. However, if you find you have to use a handful of jigs to accomplish the job with that tool, maybe there's another tool that is better suited for the job and will make the task safer in the long run.

Ok... I'm going to go duck for cover now :)


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