Put the drill down, and step away slowly.
Every once in a while I get emails from people who want to give me ideas for things to write about on this website. Mostly I roll my eyes at these emails, because hey, I realize you think if you phrase it as “helping me come up with ideas for my website” I will be fooled into thinking you’re doing me a favor instead of getting some free marketing.
- I don’t mind doing free marketing for products I’ve tried and like. That’s called having an opinion, and I’m good at it.
- If you have a compelling message, I may be willing to share it, provided I don’t have other important things to write about. Like donkeys. Or the state of the ever-expanding hole in my yard. As you can see, the topics of conversation around here are varied and deep. You better come up with something good.
Yesterday I received an email from a company that essentially wants me to do a public service announcement about DIY safety. I read the email seven times to see what product they wanted me to market for them, and then I realized these people are just really concerned about the state of our fingers.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Power tools are used to cut materials significantly more durable than your fingers. Respect your tools. Keep the guards on whenever possible. And try to refrain from doing really stupid shit.
Here’s the thing, I’m not going to quote stats to you about people who get injured by their tools. I will tell you this though, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission almost twice as many workshop injuries come from manual tools rather than those with cords.
I often work barefoot and without safety goggles so maybe you shouldn’t be taking shop safety advice from me, but here’s the thing… I’m never going to tell you not to use your tools, or to hire a professional if you feel a job is too challenging for you. If we never attempted things we thought were “too challenging” we’d all still be sitting in a cave somewhere picking lice off of eachother.
I will give you a few common sense approaches to not losing a finger or embedding a piece of wood in parts of your body you would prefer not to look like swiss cheese.
Top Five Shop Safety Tips From Someone Who Often Works Barefoot
- It’s a shop, not a catwalk. Leave your jewelry, baggy clothes, and fancy hairdo somewhere else. Push your sleeves up before using any kind of tool.
- Start small. Practice cutting 12″ tiles in half with your tile saw before you try to use it to shave 1/8″ off a 2″ tile. Same goes for drilling holes, cutting things with any kind of power saw, using a router, or turning on any other kind of tool. You’ll get used to the way the tool works and then you can tackle bigger jobs.
- Use your head. Not literally. Think about what you’re doing… if you’re cutting something, look at the way the blade is turning. Consider which areas of your work piece need the most support. If you’re cutting through something, what happens when you get through the piece? Are both sides supported independently? During the course of your cut, think about where your hands and the cord will be. Tools work within the laws of physics, just like the rest of us.
- Guides and clamps are your friends. Use them. Always.
- Go slow. MysteryMan gives me shit for taking my time with the circular saw, and I always have to patiently explain that I am half his size thankyouverymuch— a conversation which usually occurs while I’m whipping shims at him from across the shop. The truth is, the saw is a little unweildy for me. I can’t control it with just one hand, and by the time I reach across a four foot piece of plywood to cut through it I’m off balance. I take my time to make sure the saw is running smoothly through the wood, that I have control of the saw, and so that I can slowly shift my weight without overbalancing. I also let the saw blade come to a full stop when I’m finished. Don’t let people rush you and always make sure you’re comfortable and in control.
If you want some tips from people who really care about DIY safety, here’s what they have to say:
Safety Tips for the Amateur DIY’er
Popular home improvement television shows have empowered viewers to tackle projects themselves instead of hiring professionals. For the amateur DIY’er, who has rarely climbed a ladder or used a power tool, Underwriters Labratories recommends:
- Use the 4-to-1 rule for proper ladder placement. For every four feet of ladder height, the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall or object it is leaning against.
- As a rule, be sure to inspect your power tools. When taking your tools out of the tool box for the first time this spring, be sure to inspect them for frayed power cords and cracked or broken enclosures. If the product is damaged, have it repaired by a qualified technician, or replace it.
- Before you mow, have the owner’s manual in tow. When pulling out the lawn mower for the first time this year, refresh your memory and read the owner’s manual. Especially, know how to stop the machine in case of an emergency.
Safety Tips for the Veteran DIY’er
The homeowner who tackles DIY home improvement projects ever year most likely follows their intuition – instead of instructions – and may be more prone to accidents than the amateur DIY’er. For the veteran DIY’er, Underwriters Laboratories recommends:
- Avoid overconfidence. Products are made for certain tasks and have safety features for specific reasons. Never try to use a product in a different way than it is intended, alter it, or remove safety features such as blade guards or electric plug grounding pins.
- It takes two hands to use a power tool. Use clamps or a vise to hold work in place. It’s safer than using your hands and frees both to operate the tool. Even when using a conventional hand tool, be sure to watch where you place your hands.
Note: The last bullet said something about “know your limits and hire a professional and blah, blah, blah.” Like I said, you’ll never see that message on the website of someone who is building her own house addition.
Ladies, gentlemen, I say pick up your drills and have at ’em.