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Safety tips

There's no such thing as being to safe in your workshop. Here are several ideas to make your shop safer.

  • Behind-the-fence guard adds a margin of safety

    The blade on a radial-arm saw often spins for several seconds after you return the saw carriage behind the fence. A careless or impatient reach behind the fence could prove dangerous.

    A simple guard like the one shown will keep your fingers away from the blade. It also prevents cut-off scraps, blade wrenches, and try squares (which don't belong behind the fence anyway) from interfering with the spinning blade. Size the 14 " plywood or hardboard guard to fit your particular saw. Bore a liberal number of 34 " holes in it to allow sawdust to escape. Glue a mounting cleat to the bottom edge on one side. Affix the guard with screws or in some other way that allows easy removal.
    _Cecil Lau, Burnaby, B.C.

  • Control your cuts with a two-legged pushstick

    A pushstick keeps your fingers away from harm, but sometimes you'd feel more in control if you had better contact with the wood. Bandsawing is one of those times. Make a two-legged pushstick like the one shown for better bandsawing. Cut it from 34 " plywood. In use, push the workpiece with the short leg; hold it down and control its movement with the long one.
    –-Clarence G. Searles, San Francisco, Calif.

  • Halt caster-chock slippage with an old inner tube

    If you discover that the chocks you built to secure the wheels on your mobile tools are creeping around, here's a way to stop them dead in their tracks. Take two 2" sections of an old inner tube and stretch them over the extension arms on the chocks. The rubber gives the chock enough grip to stop it from slipping–even on smooth floors.
    –James Shawl, DeKalb, Ill.

  • Bent blade wrench prevents hurt hands

    It only takes one slip when changing tablesaw blades to incur a nasty gash. To help move your hand out of the line of fire, bend your blade wrench. Place the mid-point of your wrench in the jaws of a machinist's vise and tap the wrench with a hammer until it's bent 30°.
    –Bill DeSoto, New Iberia, La.

  • Warning flag prevents bandsaw accidents

    The manual of my new bandsaw told me to loosen the tension on the blade when the machine is not in use. But I was afraid that I would forget and turn the saw on when the blade was loose.

    To avoid this mishap, I made a sign about the size of a credit card and attached it to a large safety pin. One side of the sign says "Blade Tension OFF" in red; the other side says "Blade Tension ON" in green. I also glued a small magnet to the red side of the sign.

    After loosening the tension on the blade, I safety-pin the sign, red side out, through the switch lock holes on my bandsaw. This prevents the saw from being started with the blade loose. After tensioning the blade, I hang the magnetic sign, now green side out, on the saw body to tell me the saw is safe to use.
    –Tim Collins, Clinton, Iowa

  • Rip thin material safely

    Here's a good way to rip thin, flexible material, such as a strip of laminate for edging a counter or tabletop. Clamp an auxiliary hold-down fence against your tablesaw's rip fence just high enough to let the material pass under it. Next, push the work against the tablesaw fence as you slide it through. (If your material slides under the tablesaw fence, you will need to add an auxiliary zero-clearance fence that contacts the tablesaw top. This piece goes between the tablesaw fence and auxiliary hold-down fence.) You also may want to use feather boards or rip-guide wheels to hold down the material.
    –Barney Howard, Sisters, Ore.

  • Childproof power tools with twist-lock plugs

    Kids imitate their parents, and that makes power tools a source of danger. How do you childproof the shop without locking it up? Try attaching twist-lock plugs to all your tools, then make a special twist-lock extension cord that you can hide. Cut the plug end of the cord on the tools you want to childproof and install a twist-lock plug, available at most hardware stores. Then, install a twist-lock receptacle on your extension cord. When you're done working, put away the adapted extension cord, and all your tools are safe.
    –Mike Stockford, Milton-Freewater, Ore.

  • Make a standard switch a safe switch

    Here's a way to protect a power switch from accidental startup. For literally pennies and a few minutes' time, I made the protective side guards for my router-table switch from a couple of fender washers. To further protect curious kids, drill and chamfer a pair of holes in the washers where shown in the drawing. Then, insert a padlock through the holes.
    –Don Cooley, Kansas City

  • Plug lock strikes a cord for safety

    My wife and I don't have kids of our own, but we got a good lesson in child safety when my young nephew came to visit one day. While exploring "Uncle Matt's" stuff, he dug out my circular saw and gave me a good scare. Later that day while looking around the hardware store, I noticed a set of tiny luggage padlocks and knew I'd found a solution.

    The blades of most, if not all, electrical plugs have a hole in the end, and the shackle of the padlock fits nicely in that hole. With the padlock closed, the tool can't be plugged in.

    The locks I bought were in a set of four, all keyed alike (meaning all of them open with the same key), and that key stays on my key ring. As a bonus, my buddies, as well as the guys on the job site, can't "borrow" my tools without my permission (and my key!).
    –Matt McCarthy, Lake City, Tenn.

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