Woodworking Safety 101

Much has been written through the years about safety and the hazards of woodworking. There are table saws available that stop instantly when sensing a human hand too close too the blade, and many other costly tools and fixtures designed to help avoid injury in the shop. My comments here address basic safety, which is the best way to enjoy an injury-free shop experience and for which no mechanical means should ever be considered a substitute.

The Hazards of Woodworking Projects

Building smaller projects in the shop is particularly challenging because machining small parts requires not only close attention but extra care in securing wooden parts safely. At www.playfulplans.com I build and create plans for small woodworking projects, and I’ve learned that safe techniques are essential to the process.

Three Rules for Wood Shop Safety

1. Never work when you are tired, distracted or rushed.
This can be challenging because as makers we’re constantly doing many things at once. On a typical long day at Playful Plans I’m working on many tasks; I do my best to schedule research, planning and design work apart from machining parts, assembly and finishing, and those tasks apart from photography and copywriting- but things tend to run together, don’t they! The solution is time and attention. No jig or fixture will ever compensate for your taking a breather, considering your progress and making choices that ensure you don’t nick yourself- or worse- in the process. Attention to the task at hand means forgetting about those nagging questions and considerations and completing your bench work before you pause again to relax and review.

2. Keep it clean and well-lit.
A sloppy, cluttered bench and floor are just plain dangerous. Cords draped here and there, scrap build-up and dim lighting invite serious injury. Your tools are your best friends, but they’re also unforgiving. Think not only of your cutting and drilling tools but also your cords, your shop lighting and your broom and dustpan as assisting you in enjoying a finger-friendly experience in building your woodworking projects for years to come.

3. Work from a plan.
Whether it’s your own design or one of mine from Playful Plans you’ll find that sketches, measurements and a step-by-step approach are your best insurance against winding your way through a project in slapdash fashion- and injury as well. Imagining your finished result is one thing, and a very important and creative part of the process. Ensuring that the result meets and exceeds your expectations requires thoughtful planning and a safe approach to building.

Safety First Applies to Woodworkers of All Ages and Skill Levels

It really doesn’t matter if you are a child or a senior woodworker, following safe practices is paramount for every builder. Time and experience in woodworking are welcome as they enhance creative expression and the ease of working with your tools and materials, but a careless moment can happen to anyone- young or old- at any time, and the only way to avoid it is to stick to basic safety rules, have a plan, and follow the fundamentals of “workshop defense.” Create, enjoy and keep it safe!

Read more articles from Playful Plans:

Beginner and Advanced Plans for Wood Toys
Vintage Toys
How to Use Wooden Toy Plans
Create Unique Gifts with Simple Woodworking Plans
Handmade Wooden Pull Toys
The History of Wooden Toys
Woodworking Projects for Women