Yes. Really though, fingers and eyeballs are so, so precious.
I come from a family of high speed long boarders that don’t like to wear helmets. I have been snowboarding for years without one, and I never wore one on a bike. Nor while on a motorcycle. Until I purchased a 2014 Wrangler to replace my 1999 Wrangler, I never wore my seat belt either. God bless the older cars without that damn dinging seat belt reminder alert. I’m less likely to buckle up and more likely to just turn up my music when I have to do it.
So, yeah, I’m one of “those guys.” Somehow in my 33 years the seemingly invincible, tough-guy teenager attitude hasn’t grown out of me just yet…well, until recently. Here are 3 of the essential “helmets and seat belts” of woodworking.
1.DO NOT REMOVE BLADE GUARDS
Many have seen this photo of my finger and in person, but I just need to reiterate one thing about my left middle finger; it hurts. A LOT. All day. Still. It’s been 14 days since I schwacked it through my table saw, and I know now that I will forever have an E.T. Phone Home finger that neighbor kids will be afraid of. Worth not having a guard on my table saw because “I like to watch my cuts?” No. Worth not using a push stick (mostly out of apathy)? No. Use the safety gear that comes with your tools. It really is there for a reason. Always install/never uninstall the safety features.
You can see from this photo (from HarborFreight.com) that there are actually people out there that use their blade guards. Use yours!
2. WEAR EYE PROTECTION AT ALL TIMES
I got this red eye from circular sawing a piece of soffit out of the roof line on my house. I had sunglasses on, which is just not enough to protect the only set I’ll ever get of sweet, functioning, soft little eyeballs, from high-speed sawdust flakes. My eye hurt and ached for about a whole week, as well as making me look like only half of my head was hanging out with Bob Marley and Snoop Dogg at the same time. I should have been wearing eye protection, and I do now. Any time I turn on a power tool, I have on my goggles.
I’m currently on my second pair of these DeWalt goggles, and I love them. You can find them on Amazon (picture credit), or you can click the picture to link to them. What a great investment of $10.71! They are not quite as anti-fog as the description leads one to believe, but they work very well and they don’t make you look like you’re busting out your chemistry set to learn about adhesion and molecular physics (which is very cool stuff too, by the way). They fit well and comfortably, and the nose piece is made in a way that it accepts the nose piece on a 3M mask too…which brings me to my third point:
3. WEAR A DUST MASK AND USE A DUST COLLECTOR
(Photo from livescience.com) Please read about basic lung health concerns involving sawdust from wood-database.com.
Do not risk your precious health on breathing sawdust. Wear the best protection you can get and always try to have air cycling through the work space you’re in.
3M makes a delightful little half facepiece mask that I wear every day. It is pictured and linked above, and can also be purchased at Amazon (photo) for a small sum of $16.17. This is the face piece and cartridge that I use daily, and would fully recommend to others. The cartridge is rated for much lower nanoparticles than I need for any wood dust, but I like to overkill on lung safety.
I am currently using a swamp cooler fan (that I harvested from my good friend’s donation) to move my garage’s air around, like the one pictured above from indoorcomfortsupply.com. I cut a hole in my garage wall and mounted the opening to the hole on studs. This thing can clear the finest dust out of my garage in less than 2 minutes. I have also found that moving my work area near the fan greatly reduces fine particles.
So, those are the first three thoughts I would have if my nephew or friend were asking me about woodworking and safety. Please, please just be safe when you are working with power tools. The consequences are just way too $#ITTY to tempt the Fates with power tools. I do know these things for a surety by personal experience 😦
As a note of full disclosure, I did close the circuit on my seat belt sensor in my Jeep. I know, it’s not safe, blah blah blah. I do wear it all the time though. I just don’t want to be annoyed into wearing my seat belt. Also in the way of disclosure, the E.T. finger doesn’t bother me; I actually kind of dig scars, so now I need to find a way to light it up. Subdermal inductive micro-LEDs? Anybody know a guy?
And just to recap;