Episode 104 Stop the Saw!

 

SawStop, and my Woodworking Assistant

On one hand, the shed is regarded as a dangerous place for the unwary, and the inexperienced. Not so much inexperience in woodworking, but inexperience in life.

On the other hand, being able to enjoy woodworking with you child (or grandchild) can be an immensely rewarding experience, for both of you.

I would normally be very reluctant to have an inexperienced hand using a tablesaw, yet while making some shelving for some kitchen cupboards, Jess (my 7 year old) wanted to help, and not just help by standing around watching. Having a SawStop meant the answer to that question was not “No” or even a reluctant “Maybe”. It was a definite “Yes, of course”.

Now she didn’t get to cut the board unsupervised or unattended – I’m not that confident! Tablesaws can do damage in plenty of other ways, particularly hurling things at you at 250km/hr!

By setting up a featherboard, having the guard in place, and standing beside her, she was able to feed boards through the blade, and not give me absolute conniptions. Even on a regular saw, she would have been safe, but knowing that there is also the SawStop technology between her and a disaster really enhances the experience of woodworking with your offspring.

And it is another activity for her to add to the crazy quilt that is life’s experiences.

SawStop really makes a huge difference in relieving some of the stress that can surround the workshop.

Rusty

Got out to the shed for the first time in ages (been busy with work, family, and the TWC assembly manual), and even that was a small window.  Decided to tackle (at least start) a small project that I’ve been meaning to do for ages (since June 2008).

Triton Router Bit Cabinet

Getting my router bits into this cabinet.  It may not be the most efficient storage system, but I prefer the concept of each bit having its own holder so it can be lifted out and not roll around the bench until it is needed, and having the front edge of the holder cut with the actual bit to demonstrate its profile.

It is space-wasteful compared to some other storage methods, but hey – I’ve got space to spare (haven’t I?)

Back then I was intending to decommission the CMT 100 bit storage, but still sadly, I haven’t achieved it – perhaps now?

I started by taking some lengths of Tassie Oak (kiln dried) and ran them through the thicknesser to get them down to the thickness of the existing holders.  Although the thicknesser worked, it would have been better if the base was polished and lubricated – the cast iron is showing some (faint) signs of neglect throughout the shed.  Next, I ran the pieces through the tablesaw using the new Flai Ultimate blade, and was a bit surprised with the amount of burning I was getting…on both faces.  So I tried the next bit faster – still burning.  After a few cuts, it started cutting without issue, so I’m wondering if there was some preservative on the blade that was causing an initial problem.

But what was really rusty wasn’t the tools in the shed, but the tool I bought with me…….me.  Not that anything went wrong, or was unsafe, but I just felt rusty.  Need to get those cobwebs blown out with a good, long, successful session (or three) out there.

Checkbox Safety

Got an email about a tool survey from Fine Woodworking (most tools were either not in my workshop, or not in Australia, so I guess rather limited appeal for non-Americans when that Tool Review mag surfaces), and came across a sort of games/quiz section on their website.

After playing around a little with “Spot the Difference” with classic Fine Woodworking covers, I took a tablesaw safety quiz (multichoice), and found I was getting some of the questions ‘wrong’, although I disagree that I was. Not that what was being given as the ‘correct’ answer wasn’t necessarily right in some circumstances, or for some skill levels, which I feel reveals more the danger of using the absolutes of multichoice when discussing machinery safety.

Unless of course, for each question, after A. B. C. and D. there is also “E. Depends”

For example, one question was whether you can rip an irregularly shaped or circular piece of timber on a tablesaw. Their answer is “no”, yet I have ripped many pieces of widely varying shapes on a tablesaw perfectly safely (with the use of a carriage), so the absolute answer really required a “Depends” checkbox.

Operating safely in the woodworking workshop is not a matter of pure black and white “right and wrong”. It is much more a matter of what is needed (including knowledge and skill level) to complete a specific task, rather than whether it is simply “safe or unsafe”.

Can you safely rip an irregular shaped piece of timber on the tablesaw? Depends.

Can you cut a circle safely on a tablesaw? Depends.

Can you cut timber with knots and/or nails? Depends.

Safety Guards should always be used. Depends.

(and before I get tonnes of hatemail, try using a riving knife and blade guard when coving! So “depends!”)

Update: As Sven has pointed out in his experienced comment, there is only one real piece of safety equipment. If that isn’t working in optimum condition, no manner of guarding, or pushstick or anything will help, and that’s the grey mush between the ears.

If you are tired, distracted, intoxicated, or for any other reason off your game and/or not focusing on the job, and tool at hand you might instead be finding yourself suddenly focusing on your hand in the tool.

If your primary safety equipment is switched on, you have every chance of having another great, productive and safe sawdust generating shed session.

Shed Security

Had a good question asked by Calum about securing your shed, particularly given how expensive this hobby can be become

“I recently found signs of prowlers around our house. This set off the alarm bells, how secure is my garage. How secure is the electronic garage door opener? Better put some bolts on the external doors. Better take an inventory of my tools and also take pictures. Have I kept the receipts of all my purchases?

So Stu, What have you done to secure your Shed? Do you keep an inventory. I imagine there are woodworkers out there with tools that would be very hard to replace. I wonder what the insurance companies think about sheds full of expensive tools.”

Nothing gets me thinking about Indiana Jones type property protection than the thought of deliberate acts to deny me what I have bled to collect together. Of course these days the prowlers seem to have more rights than you do, so I guess I’ll put away Spielberg’s imaginings and settle for what is allowed.

There are a number of things to approach with this topic, and if anyone has additional thoughts – do drop them into the comments!

Door Security – a roller door with electronic opener is ok wrt the electronic door opener is concerned, so long as the (hmm – what’s the polite term?) thief doesn’t get access to the space. If they do, then it is a simple button to override the mechanism and, well…… So give consideration to how strong the other doors are – some rear garage doors are done on the cheap, and use a hollow-cored door (especially if it is accessed from the house), rather than something robust. On any hinged door, give consideration to what hinges you use – can the pin be popped out and the door removed? There are hinges designed for secure doors. Roller doors can be pulled off their tracks, and levered up, so just how secure is any roller door? The one saving grace is because it is a garage, with a roller door it is normally fully visible from the street, so any attempts are going to be loud and obvious. Having security lighting (twin movement sensor floods) is cheap, but make sure the power switch is inside the secure area (eg inside the shed)

Roller doors can be great when woodworking- open the whole space up. On the other hand, because you are facing the street, anyone and everyone gets to see what you have.

Having a big door will definitely help (as in a big labrador!!)

Sometimes getting into the shed space is easier if you don’t go through the door! Is there laserlight on the roof? What are the walls made of? How is the wall material fixed to the structure? Some sheds can be easily entered using a Phillips (X) screwdriver, and unscrewing the few tec-screws holding the walls on! No need for a master key (aka bolt cutter). Speaking of which, if you are choosing a lock/padlock, remember what you are securing. Spending an extra $25 or so getting a better quality of lock is an investment in security. Going cheap is false economy – again remember the value of what you are protecting. I went “high security” for both the padlock, and the hasp and staple for the lock mechanism.

If the thief gets access to the shed, then your secondary security systems have to kick in. Motion alarm is a good start – if the idiot gets a surprise, they might just bolt. They are also very cheap.

Your computer can be a sophisticated security system. With a cheap web camera in the worshop plugged in and some software such as Webcam XP, you have a little security system . It has the option of when it contacts you – it can be set to movement sensor mode, so if more than (eg) 10% of the view changed (such as someone working into the scene), you can choose to have the program email you with photos, or with an email to SMS account, your shed can send you an SMS call for help!

You can even view the inside of the shed in realtime through a web browser.

Now, if the worst occurs, what can we have done to help return the status quo?

Insurance obviously. The company needs proof of purchase – either a receipt for example, or a photograph (photos are a great idea). The biggest danger is under insurance. How is that a bad thing? For example if I have contents insurance for $100,000 (and the shed contents is worth a lot less than that), but the house and shed contents combined are worth $200,000 and I have a robbery and the $2000 tablesaw is stolen I should be right ($2000 being a lot less than $100,000).

No. Being 50% under insured means that any pay out by the insurance company will be reduced by at least the same amount (50%), so you’d only get $1000 as the payout. Sucks huh! So don’t underinsure – the correct amount of cover is not that huge a cost (compared to loosing your workshop).

So photograph the collection, keep a record of all tools in the shop, and any identifying marks, serial numbers where available etc. Engraving or using microdots may also be good options.

Put up a sign on the fence “beware of the dog” and one on the shed “smile- your photo has already been emailed to the police”

Finally, remember that they will only really try to steal from you while you are not there. So (just for security purposes mind), the more time you spend out there, the less likely they will be to steal from you!

Hope that helps!

(I’d still prefer an Indiana Jones suitably sized bear clamp, with blowdarts, a 20′ granite boulder that is set loose if my handplanes are touched etc!)

Productive Days

Been a couple of rather productive days, which always feels good, recharges the batteries, keeps the electron population down and generally results in piles of sawdust!

For those that have been asking – yes, the pen turning video (and CA finish) has been shot, and is “In-the-Can” as they say.

Had a few successes, and a few failures, but that is also acceptable as it hopefully means something learned, and therefore less likely to be repeated.

One of the failures was actually the router bit of the month back in November last year – the Linbide Flush Trim Bit.  I cannot seem to use this bit without some colossal grabs, and kickbacks, and I’m starting to feel surprised by the number I’ve had, that I haven’t had a body part pulled into the cutter.  I don’t understand what is going on with it, as I came to a conclusion that I probably will shelve the bit for a good while (at least until the heart recovers (bloody good thing I installed a defibrillator recently!!)) before giving it one last attempt, and the benefit of the doubt.  However, given the number of startling grabs I’ve had with it, I returned to my old pattern copying bit (or straight cutter with bearing bit, however you want to call it), and with the same material, same approach etc etc, I didn’t have a single grab or scary moment.  I was starting to doubt myself there for a while – thought I’d lost my touch (and was quickly loosing my nerve), but it is the bit I tells ya.

Ran some more material through the drum sander tonight – this time some cyprus pine that I had resawed aways back.  I’m steadily becoming more and more impressed with the machine- it is achieving exactly what I was hoping it could do (but didn’t know as never having seen, let alone used one).

‘Slacking off’ as a Safety Mechanism

Gary Rogowski (woodworker (insert a long list of relevant titles here) and star of a number of woodworking DVDs) makes a great point on his blog in a post titled “Habits for your Stupid Days“.

As I replied to his post:

Some great points there – I particularly like that you have formalised the whole concept that there are a list of tasks for days when you just know it would be a little bit silly to even turn a tool on (and recognising that fact).

In my (modest) shop, I have a couch, a TV hooked up to an iPod with a stack of movies (and DVDs by….Gary Rogowski!), and a number of activities I can do there (sharpening, sketching plans etc) for just those days that I am too tired, too distracted, or it is simply too late to make a lot of noise.

However, until reading you post I didn’t realise that this is a perfectly valid safety tool, and not just slacking off!! )

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