More Habits for Your Stupid Days

October 14, 2008

Continuing on about the table saw and the habits you should have in place for your stupid days in the shop.

My rule of thumb on the saw is to use a push stick for ripping if my fist cannot fit between the fence and the blade. This minimum width forces me, even on one of my stupid days, to go find a push stick. Now I know you’ve ripped small pieces, as have I. But why risk it? It’s so easy to grab a push stick instead of hugging the fence with your claw of a hand. You know the risk. Just put this habit in place.

Also always make sure you have push sticks, within reach, on the saw. So if in the middle of a cut that you have started and then in a flash of realization say, I am an idiot!, you can stop the cut, DO NOT MOVE THE BOARD, and reach over to grab a push stick and then use it to finish the cut.

When feeding stock through on a rip cut, stand just to the left of the blade so any debris flies by your head and not into it. Push with your hands down and into the fence. This position lets you see what’s going on more easily than hiding on the other side of the fence. You won’t know when your workpiece might come off the fence and into the back half of the blade.

Make sure you always push your lumber completely through the cut as well. The habit you should have is to push the board past the blade and off the table insert. Yes, I know this is much farther than you need. But as a habit that you put in place, it will save you from a moment’s laziness and catching the back half of that saw blade. Touching that part of the blade is always risky. Move all the way off the insert each time and you’re safe.

Have some kind of a run-off table in place. It can be as simple as a garbage can with a piece of plywood on top of it. But as long as it supports your board on the outfeed side of the cut, it works. It prevents you from reaching around in the middle of a cut and trying to hang on with your left hand. Never do this.

Don’t be lazy and crosscut freehand on the table saw. You might push a sawn board into the blade and it could come flying back at you. The same is true with crosscutting with a miter gauge and the fence or trying to crosscut a narrow piece against the fence. Don’t. It’s too easy to catch the back half of the blade. Any time you or your work comes into contact with the back half of the blade, very bad things happen on the table saw.

You are of course always wearing safety glasses at the saw. You cannot blink fast enough to keep a piece of debris out of your eye. Habits, develop habits.

When clamping things to your crosscut sled or miter gauge, make sure the clamp handle is out of the line of the cut. Oh, do not snicker. I have had two students run cold hard steel through a saw blade and then look up, with innocence dripping off their faces, saying “What?”

The jointer is another tool that is relentless in its cutting. If your stock is too thin or too narrow use a push stick. After tickling the jointer knives once long ago, I made about 4 push sticks that always live by my jointer. If your hand touches the blade guard in a cut, back off and grab a push stick. On very thin stock, take light passes and never use your thumb to push the stock through. It could end up much shorter. Use a push stick.

Do not think that only power tools can hurt you either. Your chisels, sharp or dull, can nick you pretty good. One simple habit, okay two habits to keep in mind. Clamp your work down so you can work with both hands on the tool. Then keep both hands behind the business end. This way you cannot get hurt. Get in front of the chisel and all bets on your safety are off.

If you keep these habits in place and develop your own for there are many more you could use, then on those days when you’re the least vigilant, on those days when you’re sleepy or distracted or just not yourself, on those days, you will be protected.

Gary Rogowski is the Director of The Northwest Woodworking Studio. Visit us at www.northwestwoodworking.com.

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Published in: on October 14, 2008 at 9:37 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for the “stupid days” series of advice. Coming from a construction industry background, safety is sometimes looked at as a nuisance and time consuming. A trip to the hospital, nub in hand, is the real nuisance!
    Hope to see you in the next few months for one of your workshops.

    Take care,
    Neil Broere
    The Silent Woods Project


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