Fundamental Do's And Don'ts Of Woodworking For Beginners

So, you've decided you are interested in woodworking but you have no experience. Getting started might seem a bit daunting. You have to determine the different types of wood to use, figure out the tools you will need, what it will all cost you, and more.

So much more, we dare say you'll never stop learning. However, despite all that there is to learn, woodworking isn't a particularly difficult skill. Once you master the basics, it only gets easier from there.

Also, don't think that you have to go out and spend thousands of dollars on tools. In many cases, basic woodworking skills will save your bacon, and you'll find you won’t need certain tools at all. This means that dream project you've always wanted to start is likely well within your reach.

However, before you get started, there are a few safety rules all woodworkers should know, especially if you intend to use common woodworking hand tools and power tools.

These machines can be sharp and may cause serious injury if you don't take the proper precautions. By following basic safety guidelines, you can significantly reduce your risk of harm. Remember to make these guidelines a habit for them to be effective (and to keep all your fingers and toes.)

10 Things You Must Do When Working With Woodworking Machines

1. Only Use Woodworking Machines You’ve Been Trained To Use

Seems like we are stating the obvious here, but you'd be surprised how many folks attempt to use tools they've never touched before, and in the process learn a very painful lesson. Only use woodworking tools you have training and experience in using because safety is more important than experimentation.

2. Understand the Instructions for What You Are Doing Before Attempting To Use Tools and Machinery

In other words, take your time and consider what you are doing, and how you plan to do it. Because you are using power tools, it is dangerous to attempt to do something without a proper understanding of the process.

3. Always Wear Safety Equipment

Though it should go without saying, always wear proper safety equipment. This is one of the most important rules of woodworking. You should always, always be wearing your safety glasses. Never be without them while in a woodworking shop.

Put them on when you arrive, and don't take them off until you leave, or you risk endangering your eyesight. Other safety gear like hearing protection may be needed if you're using noisy tools such as surface planers and routers. If you are applying finishes, then latex gloves would be appropriate. No matter what other gear is required for your project, safety glasses are non-negotiable.

4. Always Wear Appropriate Clothing

Never wear loose-fitting clothes while woodworking because you run the risk of dangling fabric getting caught in a blade head or saw blade. You should wear comfortable clothing that will still protect from flying wood chips. You should also remove all jewelry before woodworking, especially dangling jewelry like necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.

5. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

It is vital to stay sober when using power tools and avoid all substances that cause intoxication when you are woodworking. If you are even mildly intoxicated, stay out of the wood shop. If you don't, you're only inviting danger and risking your safety as well as the safety of others.

6. Disconnect Power Before Any Blade Changes

Sometimes, you may need to change a bit or blade. When you do, make sure you disconnect the power tool from its electrical source before you attempt to change the blade. This rule is simple but essential. You could lose your fingers or worse by skipping this. Merely turning the switch off is not adequate because the switch could malfunction or get bumped.

Do something to remind yourself, like attaching a wrench to the power cord. Whatever it takes, just don't forget to disconnect the power.

7. Try Using ONE Extension Cord

This can help train you to remember to disconnect from your power source when making blade changes. Use one heavy-duty extension cord for all of your 110-volt power tools. This makes you switch the cord in between tools with each use, so that you are forced to remember to plug and unplug from your power source.

8. Use Sharp Blades and Tools

This might seem like common sense, but make sure your blades and tools are sharp. When a blade or tool is dull, it's dangerous, and you will have to work harder to achieve your desired results. Plus, when you have to work harder, it makes it more likely you will experience kickback or the tool will bind. Sharp tools kept free of pitch make cleaner cuts and are simply safer.

9. Check Materials for Nails and Other Metal

Rapidly spinning saw blades that connect with nails or other metals such as staples or screws can damage both your machinery and the stock, as well as cause kickback and contribute to injury. So always check your stock for metal, or even better, use a metal detector.

10. Always Work Against the Cutter

When using woodworking power tools, the saw blade or router bit should always cut against the wood, not with the wood.  

10 Things to Avoid When Using Woodworking Machines

1. Avoid Reaching Over the Blade

This is important when using woodworking tools like a miter saw or table saw. Just because a blade isn't moving, if it is still plugged into a power source, the switch can be bumped or malfunction. So never reach over a blade to remove waste, and never go near a moving blade.

2. Avoid Distractions

Distractions are common, but safety dictates you never divert your attention away from a woodworking tool when you're in the middle of using it. Complete the cut you are making, and switch your tool off before addressing any interruptions.

3. Avoid Loose Clothing

Don't wear baggy clothes, loose work gloves, or anything around your neck, such as necklaces or neckties. You should also remove bracelets and rings and anything else that could potentially get caught in a moving machine.

4. Avoid Awkward Hand Positioning or Grip

Sudden slips can send your hand straight into the blade when you use awkward grips and hand positions.

5. Avoid Removing Sawdust or Cuttings by Hand

Always remove cuttings and sawdust after your machine has stopped moving. However, never remove them by hand. Use a stick or a brush. Also, make sure the machine is disconnected from its power source.

6. Avoid Using Compressed Air to Remove Sawdust or Cuttings

Never use compressed air to clean clothing, objects, machinery, bench tops, or anything else in the wood shop. Compressed air can make particles become airborne and cause injury. Though it can seem tempting and easy, it is dangerous.

7. Avoid Leaving a Machine Running Unattended

Never leave a running machine unattended unless it is designed for such use. Stay with your machine until the power is off and the blades have come to a complete stop. Leaving a running machine can be dangerous, especially if something malfunctions while someone is near it.

8. Avoid Trying to Free a Stalled Blade BEFORE Turning the Power Off

We’ll just say “duh” here and leave it at that.

9. Avoid Distracting or Startling a Machine Operator

You can cause injury to yourself or someone who is operating woodworking machines if you distract them and break their focus.

10. Avoid Horseplay

While woodworking is fun, woodworking tools can be dangerous. So save the horseplay for outside of the wood shop, once all machines are unplugged and blades are stored where they belong.

Woodworking is a valuable skill and art form that can bring you a ton of enjoyment when you take the time to learn the basics. However, you must use common sense and pay attention to basic rules for your safety as well as the safety of others.

Staff November 24, 2017
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