It is a myth that the tools used in woodworking are dangerous. While you do need to be safe, and think about safety in the shop, the tools are not the problem. You are. It’s just easier to blame the tools than it is to be responsible for yourself, and I’ll show you why.
It’s sad that people tend to think about woodworking safety after something bad happens. If you lose a finger, that’s a bad time to think about safety. Once the damage is done in most cases, it’s rarely a full recovery.
Lots of woodworkers say that they didn’t know something, or they were unsure about a process and ended up getting hurt. While that can happen, there was a decision made in there to proceed into the dark, without the necessary knowledge.
Woodworking can be dangerous if you make it dangerous. Instead, use these helpful tips to make yourself safer in the shop. You will also help dispel the myth that woodworking tools are dangerous.
See Also: 13 Myths About Getting Into Woodworking
Ignorance is No Excuse for Unsafe Activities
Most of the time, a mistake comes from ignorance. I have a few of these under my belt too, and I have written about them before. Even though I am just as guilty, a mistake made in ignorance is still your fault.
Until you know about your tools, and how to use them, you should not use them. Of course, you will need to practice, and you will learn from practicing, but I’m talking about starting out with a brand new tool and zero experience.
You should never walk into a situation like that, and just start going. A machine that is capable if cutting wood is more than capable of cutting your body. A router for example can chew up a finger before you even have time to realize it’s happening, and saying you didn’t know will not bring your finger back.
See Also: Why I Wear Safety Glasses
Read Your Users Manual
The first thing you should do is read the users manual, which sounds awful I know, but it will help you a lot. The manual is the best place to learn about what the tool does, and what you should be careful of.
A tool manufacturer has your best interest in mind, and it can be for the moral reason of keeping you safe, or the greedy reason of selling you more tools. A one handed woodworker tends to buy less tools, so the manufacturer has a vested interest in keeping you whole.
Take some time, and read the manual. I know that it’s fun to rush home and break open your new toy and start playing. Instead, read the manual first. Then, when you do start working with the tool, you will be in better shape to make good decisions.
Watch Training Videos
The internet is loaded with training for nearly everything now. When you need to know something, odds are that there are hundreds or thousands of videos about it. The craft of woodworking is no different, and these videos can help you be safer.
Intentionally search for woodworking safety videos. Then, search for videos that have to do with your new tool. Make sure to give the host your gut check test, and then spend time watching the teachers that speak to you the best.
Over time, you can learn new techniques, learn about safety, and understand your tool and the operation much better. As you learn more and more through videos, you will be more educated, and be able to operate the tool with more knowledge.
Take a Class for Beginners
Woodworking classes are great, and you can find them in a number of places. They range in scope and detail, and they are a good way to get into a new tool. They can also teach you about safety, which will keep you woodworking for longer.
There is just something nice about getting the information you need live, and from a real human being. You get to ask questions, learn about safety, and really get an understanding of the tool from someone that has been there before.
A classroom environment is perfect, because you will also have other people around you that can ask questions that you might not have thought of yet. The more you learn and retain in a class, the faster you will be able to use your tools more safely.
See Also: Where to Take Woodworking Classes
Wear Personal Protective Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE is the name given to certain items you can use to help keep yourself safe around a tool, process, or machine. For example, safety glasses are a form of PPE, because they protect your eyes from flying debris.
Another example of PPE is a respirator. This device goes over your face, and keeps particles and chemicals from entering your lungs. When you learn about woodworking, and making dust, it should become very obvious that you need at least some method of keeping the dust and fumes out of your body.
Finally, PPE is not a perfect answer, but it is a way to keep you safer. If you use the gear that you are supposed to according to the users manual for the tool, and you use it every time, you will be more prepared should something happen that is unexpected.
See Also: Safety Gear for Woodworkers
Blaming the Tools is Easier Than Taking Blame Yourself
We live in a world where it is easier to blame outside forces than inside forces for things that go wrong in our lives. We do this all the time, but we still figure out how to give ourselves credit for the good things that happen. Aren’t we versatile?
The reality is that you are responsible for nearly everything that happens to you. When you get a new tool, with a blade that is capable of cutting wood to shreds, and you don’t stop to learn about how to use that tool safely, you just made a decision, and you deserve what happens to you for good or for bad.
You have the tools to be safe, you just need to use them. Read your manuals, wear your protective gear, and don’t take shortcuts. Take your time, be careful, and pay attention when you are using a tool. All of these things will greatly reduce your chances of being injured, and help clear up the myth that woodworking tools are dangerous.
Your homework is to really examine how you feel about woodworking tools. Are you afraid of using your tools? Do you believe that your tools are inherently dangerous? Do you also believe that you can minimize the danger through good practices and education?
A tool is not going to get up and hurt you, so in itself, it is not dangerous. The way you operate the tool can be dangerous, and the condition that you operate can be dangerous, but it takes you as the user to make the tool cause harm.
Instead of blaming your tools for something, look into how you can prevent bad things from happening in your shop. The more time and effort that you invest in prevention, the safer your shop will be.
Nobody can promise that even under the best of conditions that you will never get hurt. If someone does, they are lying to you. We are all different, and we all see things through our own filters. However, the fact is the more you know, and the more you protect yourself, the less likely you will become injured while using woodworking tools.
The Myth That Woodworking Tools are Dangerous Wrap-Up
It’s a myth that woodworking tools are dangerous. Tools are inanimate objects, and they only work when you make them work. The majority of the time, the reasons a tool is labeled as dangerous is because it’s easier to blame the tool than the operator.
If you are new to woodworking, and you are concerned about the safety of your shop, you have choices. Instead of worrying about the danger, do something about it. Learn about your tool, read the manual, take some classes, and really get comfortable using the tool.
Over time, you will become better and better, and your safety mindset will seep into other aspects of your woodworking. Allow this to happen, and you will be much more safe in your shop.
You control a lot more than you think you are capable of controlling. Don’t let ignorance, haste, or anything else make you unsafe in your shop. It’s not your tools, it’s you. You are the one with the brain, so you make all the decisions. Make good ones.
- More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
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- Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
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