Under Construction!

Note: This entry relates to a proposed new approach to wood shop training. This has not been approved and is intended for discussion purposes only.


While in the process of writing a draft course outline for the table saw red safety training class, it occurred to me that to do a proper table saw class would take 2-3 hours of classroom time. Other machines might not take as many hours but having one class per machine means we'd end up having to produce and present similar long-form classes for other tools such as the bandsaw, jointer, planer, lathe, etc. it becomes apparent that this will quickly become burdensome for instructors and members wishing to become certified.

Even grouping the machines into two different class sessions (say, creating one class for the table saw, band saw, and router table and a second class for the jointer and planer) would require most students to attend two classes.

After doing some research I discovered that other educational institutions often present much more generalized safety classes that cover a broad range of machinery. The goal is not to make students proficient in use of that tool but rather to make them aware of all the safety issues important for each tool. This class can sometimes be followed up with more focused classes on an individual tool.

In my opinion the main benefit to this approach would be that by spending less time in the classroom we potentially have more time to spend in the shop observing each student one-on-one. A student might seem to understand the classroom presentation but be completely uncomfortable actually using the tool in the shop. If we can complete the classroom presentation in an hour we could have one to two hours of shop time to directly observe students on the most dangerous equipment. Assuming a class of 2-3 students and one instructor, one to two hours in the shop would provide ample time for each student to do 3 operations on the table saw, 2 operations on the band saw, jointer, and planer.

I'm suggesting we take a similar approach and am preparing the following course outline to begin debate on this suggestion. Please use the talk page to add your opinions to the discussion.

Proposed Course Outline

  • General Safety Guidelines
    • Reporting Safety Hazards
    • First Aid
    • Breathing & Ventilation
    • Personal Protective Equipment
    • Your Physical & Mental Condition
  • Machine Safety in General
    • Why Power Tools Can Be Dangerous
    • Physics & Mechanics of Power Tools
    • Best Practices
  • Tool-Specific Procedures
    • Stationary Sanders
    • Bandsaw
    • Scroll Saw
    • Drill Press
    • Miter Saw
    • Jointer
    • Planer
    • Table Saw

Woodshop Machinery RED Safety & basic Usage Class

General Safety Guidelines

Reporting Safety Hazards

First Aid

First Aid supplies such as band-aids for minor cuts and abrasions can be obtained from ???? (the on-duty Manager at the Nova Labs front desk???). If you are more seriously injured you should call 911 or ask someone to drive you to the hospital emergency room or to the nearest urgent care center. (Link to wiki page related to accidents)

Your Physical & Mental Condition

Stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, low blood sugar, dehydration, and drug use (prescription, over the counter, or recreational) can interfere with your ability to work safely and effectively. Anxious? In a hurry? Take a break or a moment to gather yourself. Most accidents happen when people are in a rush. Sleep deprived? Lack of sleep severely limits our ability to problem solve and work safely. Sometimes a nap can make a big difference. Medicated? Read and abide by any warning labels instructing against the use of machinery. Drunk? Stoned? We must enforce a ZERO-tolerance drug and alcohol policy in the interest of the safety of all shop users. If caught indulging in drug use while in the shop, you may lose access to the Instructional Fabrication facilities for your duration at Nova Labs.

Breathing & Ventilation

If you are using spray adhesives, spray painting, finishing, or engaged in advanced mold-making procedures; an organic chemical respirator should be considered a required accessory. Reporting Safety Hazards Report any possible defect in equipment or tools to a Shop Manager. The Shop Manager will take the tool out of service or keep the resource out of circulation until the problem is resolved.

Personal Protective Equipment


The use of Safety Glasses is required at all times in the wood shop, and strongly encouraged when using power/hand tools in any capacity outside of the shop.


It is loud in the shop. Earplugs are provided free of charge, and their use is strongly encouraged. Headphones and cell phone use is not allowed.


Gloves should not be used in any operation where there is the potential for entanglement, i.e. operation of any machine. Gloves can be useful in material handling, but not machine operation.


Long hair must be pulled back, away from the face. If hair is especially long, it should be further constrained to avoid potential mechanical entanglement.


Closed shoes only. No high heels, platforms, open-toed or open-heeled shoes, sandles, or flip-flops.


There should be no loose clothing, long-sleeves must be rolled up, shirts tucked in, coats off, et cetera.


Remove all accessories that could get caught in moving parts of equipment: rings, piercings, watches, ID card lanyards, scarves, et cetera.

Machine Safety in General

Why Power Tools Can Be Dangerous

Physics & Mechanics of Power Tools

Best Practices

When working with power tools, be mindful of the shop environment. Not following proper shop safety is dangerous. Take a moment and familarize yourself with the following safe procedural and operational best practices. And above all, always ask questions if you don’t understand something.

  • Secure your material
  • Use a V-block to support dowels or other cylindrical work.
  • Use a push stick or push block. Even if you think it's not necessary for a particular operation keep one nearby.
  • Beware of kickbacks
  • Keep feet shoulder width apart, squarely on the floor
  • Keep fingers 4 or 6 inches from blade
  • Ask first. Refrain from doing anything you are unsure about.
  • Take frequent breaks while doing repetitive tasks.
  • Stay with your tool, never leave the tool while it’s running.
  • Check the floor for slipping and tripping hazards.
  • Feed materials at a slow, even pace.
  • Keep materials flat on the table.
  • Don’t reach around, under, or over blades.
  • Set blade height to appropriate height, adjust guides accordingly.
  • Before backing out of a cut, turn the saw off and wait for the blade to stop.
  • Make sure work area is clean and clear of obstructions.
  • Do not use found wood in the shop or anything with a prepared surface that you are not familiar with. Found wood may contain embedded metal such as nails and unfamiliar surface coverings or coatings might shatter, gum up blades, or release hazardous particles when cut.
  • Pliers, vises, or clamps are to be used to secure material or small work pieces. Stands can also be used to support materials.
  • Fingers need to be kept at least 4-6 inches away from blades and moving parts.
  • Always operate tools with both feet planted firmly on the floor, shoulder width apart.
  • Ensure the cut path is clear on the underside of material.
  • Always stand to the side of the blade in case of “kick back” (material is thrown backward).
  • Always cut away from yourself.
  • Report any malfunction or strange noise immediately.
  • Don’t try to stop a tool.
  • Do not lock the tool in the On position.
  • Use the right tool for the job.
  • If you have not been trained on a tool, do not use it.
  • Become well acquainted with the On/Off switch.
  • Don’t start a tool with material engaged in the cutting edge.
  • If the machine does not run smoothly, turn it off immediately and notify the shop supervisor.
  • Tools are not to be used as general working tables.
  • Keep electrical cords and hoses out of walkways and away from heat, liquid, and sharp edges.
  • Don’t try to fix or disassemble tools.

Tool-Specific Procedures

The following section describes the basics of using stationary power tools. More in-depth training in safe use of equipment will be provided by the shop staff during authorizations and when needed. Woodworking machinery can be dangerous and should be treated with respect. Please read this section carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand something.

Scroll Saw

In a Nutshell

The Scroll Saw cuts material with a short, thin steel blade that moves up and down through the table of the saw. The scroll saw is used to cut tight freehand curves and intricate patterns in sheet stock. The removable blade is flexible and care must be taken to not break it when cutting. Because the blade is removable, it is possible to make closed interior cuts by passing the blade through a hole drilled into the wood.

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. With machine turned off, check the tension of the blade by plucking the back of it like a guitar. It should ring. Have a Shop Supervisor change or adjust the blade if needed.
  2. Adjust the “material presser foot” to hold the work piece in place, but not to restrict its lateral movement.
  3. Disengage work piece from blade before turning on saw.
  4. Turn on the machine and wait for the motor to come up to speed.
  5. Approach the blade gently and take care not to break the blade while cutting. Adjust the speed as needed.
  6. When you are finished cutting, turn off the saw and wait for it to stop before removing your work.


In a Nutshell

The Band Saw is used to cut stock to size and to rough out shapes. The Band Saw cuts material with a vertical steel blade on a continuous loop. The blade rides on two wheels, which pull the blade through the table of the band saw. Cuts may be made ‘free hand’ or with the aid of guides such as the rip fence or miter gauge. The material being cut needs to sit flat on the table in a stable manner, ie, no blobs or organic shapes that can rock.

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Set the blade guides to support the blade ½ inch above the greatest thickness of the mate- rial to be cut.
  2. Turn on the machine and allow the motor to come up to speed.
  3. Begin cut. Feed the material at a slow steady rate. The thicker the material, the slower the speed. Let the blade do the cutting. Do not force the piece through the blade.
  4. Use a push stick when the cutting operation requires your fingers to enter the 4” margin of safety. Keep push sticks within easy reach.
  5. Do not twist the blade. Make relief cuts if the cut radius is less than the blade will allow.
  6. When you are finished cutting, turn off the machine, depress the brake, and wait for the blade to come to a complete stop. Return the blade guide to its lowest position.

Miter Saw

In a Nutshell

The Miter Saw (sometimes referred to as a chop saw) is used to cross cut linear stock to size and at accurate mitered angles. The miter saw is used to make through cuts. Only cut material that can be cut completely.The miter saw cuts wood by turning a circular steel blade that turns downward and away from the operator. To produce a cut, the saw is lowered into the work piece, which is supported by the table and fence.

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Rest the material on the table and tight against the fence.
  2. Set the angle to the desired position and lock the pivot into place.
  3. Without turning the saw on, lower the blade to align it with your mark on your material.
  4. Gently raise the saw all the way up. Do not release the saw suddenly.
  5. Hold the material securely with your hand to the table and fence. Make sure that your hand is at least 6 inches away from the blade.
  6. With the saw all the way up, firmly grip the handle, press and hold the switch.
  7. After the blade has come up to speed, lower the saw slowly through the material.
  8. When your cut is complete and the saw is all the way down, turn the saw off by releasing the switch, and wait for the blade to come to a complete stop.
  9. Wait until the blade has fully stopped, then slowly raise the saw to its full upright position.

There are various kinds of Miter saws. Each is a little different to use:

  • The Compound Miter Saw pivots and tilts on the vertical axis, cutting angles both on the top, and on the side of material.
  • The Sliding Compound Miter Saw pivots, tilts, and slides on linear rails to give the saw a wider cutting capacity.

Table Saw

Dangers of Kickback

Kickback Demonstration Video

Avoiding kickback

Kickback happens when the blade catches the workpiece and violently throws it back to the front of the saw, towards the operator. It can be thrown very hard and can injure the operator. It is not uncommon for the object to have high enough velocity to become embedded in a wall or to cause other damage or injury. Never stand in a direct line between the blade and the fence when ripping narrow stock. A kickback can be fatal. Kickback happens when ripping if:

  • The wood pinches the blade because of internal stresses. This is difficult to predict and can be impossible to control when using fingers to hold the wood down. Many times the board pinches the blade and is thrown back before the wood reaches a splitter. This type of kickback never happens when a board is not cut all the way through (dado). By starting a cut with a dado and then raising the blade to leave a splitter tab of uncut wood, this type of kickback can be avoided, but raising the blade during a cut cannot be done unless anti-kickback hold downs are used, so it is safe to raise the blade with a free hand.
  • The wood is allowed to raise up or moved sideways during a cut, then pushed back down, taking too big a bite at the top of the blade. This can be prevented by using feeder wheels very close to the start of the blade and hold downs after the blade to control the wood all the way through the cut. The right feeder wheels are very effective for both dados in plywood and for rip cuts on boards as narrow as 1/8". Feeder wheels can be powered or unpowered, clamped or held magnetically, and replace fingers near the blade so a hand can be free to turn off the saw during a cut.
  • The board is pinched between the rear of the blade and the fence. The fence should be parallel with the blade, for the best cut on both sides of the blade. The fence can be set with the rear farther from the fence for safety, but at the expense of upcut marks on the "waste" piece. Never allow the fence to be closer to the rear of the blade than the front.

Kickback can also happen when crosscutting boards with internal stresses. A chop saw or circular saw is the best preference for cutting poor lumber.

The risk of kickback is reduced by certain practices:

  • The blade must be kept sharp and clean, something novice users may not recognize. The buildup of pitch on a blade greatly increases friction and increases the probability of kickback. It also decreases the quality of the cut, causing it to burn.
  • The saw must be aligned, adjusted so that it is parallel to the miter grooves, with the rip fence should angled minutely. If the blade is parallel with the fence you will notice the marks made by the back of the blade on the wood. It is possible for the workpiece to be pinched between the blade and the rip fence, which will cause violent kickback if the fence is closer at the back of the blade. The correct relationship for the fence is minutely spread which means that the angle is different depending on the side of the blade the fence is set.
  • The blade guard should be used whenever possible. Typical table saws incorporates a riving knife, a spreader which helps prevent the cut from closing on the back of the saw blade. Natural tension can exist in wood that causes the cut to close. Some blade guards have anti-kickback devices that allow only forward travel past the blade.
  • Push the workpiece past the blade. Do not release a workpiece until it is past the blade and removed from the saw. Turn the saw off before removing small cut off pieces.
  • Always maintain control. Do not execute a cut where you do not have complete control of the situation. Make sure there are no obstructions. Do not cut a workpiece that is too large to handle.
  • Do not use the rip fence as a guide during crosscuts. If you need to make a series of equal length crosscuts, use a stop block in front of the blade so the workpiece is not in contact with the rip fence during the cut. It is easy for the workpiece to twist out of perpendicular at the end of the cut and thus get caught by the blade and thrown.
  • Check for flaws in the wood. Cutting through a loose knot can be dangerous. Cutting a warped or twisted board along the rip fence is dangerous because it can get pinched between the fence and blade.

In a Nutshell

The Table Saw is used to make straight line cuts with the aid of either a fence or a miter gauge. The table saw is used primarily for making rip cuts and cross cuts. A rip cut is a cut made lengthwise through the stock. A cross cut is a cut made widthwise across the stock. Additionally the table saw is used to make bevel cuts, rabbet cuts, and dado cuts.

Step by Step Instructions: Making a Rip Cut

  • Set the blade angle and height and lock the fence into position. Place push sticks where you can reach them.
  • Turn the saw on and place materials at the edge of the table away from the blade. Maintain position on the infeed side of the machine during all operations. You should stand close to the saw and next to the material.
  • It is best to position yourself facing the blade side of the fence, so that you are pressing the material against the fence and into the table with your guide hand.



Router Table

education/too101-woodshop-red-safety-and-basic-usage.txt · Last modified: 2013/10/02 12:52 by gfc
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