Shop Talk

14 Rules to Keep Your Shop Running Smoothly

  • It can be easy to forget which component in the shop is most integral to its production and functionality – so let me remind you – the most vital, most valuable machine in your woodshop is you. Be mindful of yourself as an irreplaceable asset and be mindful of the safety of others as well. Taking care of yourself on the job is the best start to having the most organized, most effective woodshop.

    Being smart and being prepared on the job are traits many craftsman grow out of with experience and familiarity, however, maintaining caution and attention in the shop, and using your brain more than any other tool, are the keys to keeping a productive, organized environment, a safe shop, and happy equipment.

    Be Smart:
    1.)Think things through
    : Knowing what you’re doing before you do it makes everything exponentially easier. Remember, especially, to think before you cut. Knowing your cuts and movements around the blade before you make them can be the difference between and smooth cut and a lost finger.

    — Don’t operate power tools if you are sick or otherwise impaired (i.e. on medication or alcohol).

    2.) Know your equipment and know how to use it: It’s vital that craftsmen know their tools and the right ways to use them – too often craftsmen damage materials or harm themselves because they’ve used their equipment improperly. Read your operators manuals and become familiar with your tools, their applications, and safety precautions. Be familiar with your surroundings, and always be alert in the shop.

    — While not engaged, tools should remain unplugged and always in the ‘off’ position.

    — If handling a disengaged tool that is plugged in, always carry it by its handle, keep your body away from sharp objects, and away from the on/off switch.

    — Tools should never be carried by their power cords.

    — Keep tools in their appropriate places. Always return tools to their cases or keep unused tools put away in cabinets. This keeps the shop more organized, and keeps your tools more protected from theft and unauthorized/inappropriate use.

    — Be certain your tool’s safety features are always in place.

    3.)Inspect your equipment: Be certain power cords are not cut or frayed, and that your tools are in proper working order before use.

    — Make sure handle and bolts are tightly in place.

    — Don’t use rusty equipment or dull blades.

    — Tools that sound or feel funny should be professionally inspected.

    4.) Let your power saw stop on its own: Give your saw blades a sufficient amount of time to wind down – even without power, a sharp, spinning blade can cause severe damage.

    5.) Don’t force your saw: If you experience resistance while cutting, don’t push or force through the cut. Stop for a moment to determine the problem. Your throat plate may be improperly seated, or your rip fence may be misaligned – this can cause materials to stick mid-cut. Attempting to force a blade through these situations can cause bad, rough cuts, blade kick-back, or even contact with the blade.

    6.) Don’t rush your jobs: Mistakes and accident are more likely to occur when craftsmen rush to complete a job. When feeling frustrated or rushed, simply take a break.

    Be Prepared:
    7.) Dress appropriately: Loose fitting clothes or hanging hair/jewelry can get caught in power tools and cause very serious injuries. Jewelry should be removed and clothes should be form fitting and cover the entire body as you work – shorts and sandals should generally be avoided. Steel-toed work boots and hard-hats are recommended where appropriate.

    8.) Be safe: Always wear goggles/glasses, ear protection, lung protection, and heavy gloves when using power tools.

    — Goggles or safety glasses keep your eyes safe from dust, wood shavings, fiberglass shards, and other debris. Safety glasses should always be worn in the shop.

    Ear plugs muffle the damaging sounds of loud tools and shop equipment and keep the ears, and your hearing protected.

    — Masks help prevent the inhalation of harmful particles in the air. Keep your lungs protected!

    — Heavy gloves keep splinters and other sharp objects from harming your hands. Keeping your hands covered and comfortable is a good way keep the rest of the shop in safe, working order.

    9.) Stay focused and avoid distractions: Pay very close attention to your actions, and always keep your eyes on task – pay special attention to your blades while cutting. If you become distracted while working, turn the machine off rather than rushing to finish.

    10.) Always keep clean: Keep both your shop, and your tools clean and properly maintained. Keep your shop as clutter free as possible, and try to work in a well ventilated environment. Always maintain a fresh air supply into your workspace to reduce heath and explosion hazards from solvent fumes airborne particulates.

    — Keep your working environment dry and free of debris. Avoid standing near water when working and always keep your hands dry (to prevent electrocution).

    — Keeping your tools clean keeps you safer, and your tools running longer.

    Be Safe:
    11.) Storage:
    Oily rags and other flammable materials should be stored in a cool space away from heat and fire.

    12.) Medical: Keep a well stocked First Aid Kit always on hand. Also be sure that your shop has working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

    13.) Don’t over-load electrical outlets.
    — Avoid using extension cords whenever possible.

    — Use shortest extension cord possible, and always use correct length (don’t connect cords to meet length) in12-14 gauge.

    14.) Lighting: Maintain adequate lighting in the work-place. Poor lighting creates an unsafe environment, and causes very preventable mistakes and accidents.

    To keep your shop and equipment running happily simply remember to be smart and be prepared. Remaining alert and attentive on the job ensures you’ll do a better job, every time.