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    Protect Yourself in the Shop

    Tips on keeping yourself safe while you work.

    Woodworking is a hobby that involves using sharp tools, from chisels to tablesaws to routers. Minor nicks and cuts are inevitable. Heck, you can get a pretty nasty wound from a splinter that peels off a rough-sawn board. But injuries won’t become serious or life threatening if you follow safe work practices with your hand and power tools. Here are some tips that will help you enjoy woodworking without worries.

    A clean, lighted space is a safe space
    Keep your work area as neat as possible. Tripping is a real danger, so clear any offcuts from the floor, and make sure extension cords are out of walking paths. You also want to work in a well-lit area, so you can clearly see all the hazards.

    Avoid fire hazards, but be ready
    Be sure you have a smoke detector and/or a heat detector in the shop as well as a working fire extinguisher. Dispose of any oil-based finishing rags properly: to avoid spontaneous combustion, keep them in an airproof metal container, or hang them outside to dry and then toss them in the trash.

    Ragcan Cancan Extinguisher

    Stay sober and focused
    Don’t even open the door to your shop if you’ve been drinking or are under the influence of any medications or drugs that could interfere with your concentration. A mind may be a terrible thing to waste, but a wasted mind could lead to tragedy in the shop. It’s also a good idea to stop working when you’re tired. A sleepy woodworker is not only more prone to mistakes but also more likely to have an accident.

    Watch the clothing
    Beware of loose-fitting clothing that could catch on a tool, and keep jewelry to a minimum. Loose necklaces can be a hazard and a nuisance to work. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes to ease back and leg pain.

    Keep hands away from blades and bits
    Some of the most serious shop injuries happen when your hand gets pulled into a spinning sawblade or router bit. To keep your hands clear of these spinning metal menaces, you need to use a variety of push sticks, featherboards, and hold-downs. These devices hold the workpiece securely and keep your fingers a safe distance from the cutting action.


    If you have a tablesaw, it’s a good idea to use a sled for crosscutting. A sled gives a secure, safe ride for the workpiece as it passes through the blade, and it also keeps your fingers away from danger—be sure to keep your pushing hand to one side of the blade exit area of the sled.

    Push Sticks
    Push Sticks
    T-Saw Sticks
    T-Saw Sticks

    Wear eye and ear protection
    Working safely is more than just protecting your hands and fingers from cuts with the use of blade guards, featherboards, push sticks, and the like. You also should wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying debris. I even wear them when I’m doing heavy chopping with a chisel and mallet. I’ve had chips bounce right up into my face.

    Eye Protection


    When you’re using power tools, wear ear plugs or ear muffs to protect your hearing. Hearing loss occurs gradually over time, and you may not notice until your family tires of hearing you say, “What?”

    Ear Protection

    Dust is a danger, too
    A few years ago dust was classified as a harmful carcinogen, so it’s not something you want to breath in in large quantities. Wear a dust mask or respirator whenever you are using a machine that churns up dust, and use one even when you hand-sand material.

    I’d also recommend buying a dust collector and air cleaner for your shop. These tools not only help protect your lungs, but they also help keep your shop cleaner.