Woodworker’s Safety Week – Hand Tool Safety

Hand toolsSure, they don’t have power cords or spinning blades. But, you’d be surprised how many injuries hand tools can cause.

Some of them – well – are pretty gruesome. I remember reading about a woodworker who had purchased a fine set of chisels at a hefty price. He was working on chopping some waste out of handcut dovetails, when a chisel started to roll off his bench. His reaction was to try to snatch the chisel out of the air when it started to fall…

Well, he grabbed the sharp end, and needed several stitches in his hand to close the wound.

The truth is that hand tools such as chisels, slicks, draw knives, spokeshaves all have the potential to bite. The real danger comes when you slip with the tool and a part of your body is in the line of fire. That blade coming at you quickly can do some serious damage.

What are some of the common sense hand tool safety tips? Well:

  • Keep ’em sharp. Dull tools need more force to work, and their dull tips can slide off wood before they dig in to get a bite. Keep the tools sharp and honed, and they’ll perform much better.
  • Use the right tool for the job. Trying to chop mortises with a paring chisel is a bad idea. The shallow bevel that’s perfect for slicing wood is terrible for chopping. The steel could break, sending shards in many direction.
  • Secure the work. Hey, if you want to learn the hard way that pushing a plane against an unsecured piece of work invites slipping, be my guest. You won’t like the results…
  • Watch your body. Think before you cut. Is any part of your body in the line of fire if the blade slips? I once shaved a nice slice of meat from my thumb because it was in the way of a spokeshave blade. That sucker stung for a few days.
  • Think before you work. ‘Nuff said.

Similar safety tips go for hammers and mallets (don’t whack your fingers), pinching tools (pliers, etc.), screwdrivers and other hand tools. Just a few minutes thinking about safety can keep your hand tool woodworking a lot more fun.

Oh, and it’s hard to get blood stains off a piece of maple. Just a little FYI.

4 thoughts on “Woodworker’s Safety Week – Hand Tool Safety”

  1. Good words, Tom. Thanks for the reminders. And hey – that barely duplicated anything I said at all! We’re in perfect sync… lol

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