I received several comments and a bunch of e-mail following my post on “First look at the tall resaw fence…” One reader commented “…I have to say it made me wince a bit. Have you considered using a push stick to make that operation safer?”
In my reply I mentioned I used a push stick, and highlighted the times on the video at which I pick up the push stick to ensure a safe cut. Currently, the online woodworking community and also federal agencies are quite interested in power tool safety issues, as competing flesh-sensing technologies are developed, patented, and implemented on table saws, changing them forever. Maybe something will come along soon for band saws, too, as regulatory bodies and users seem to be at odds about what direction to go. Should the technology be mandated, or should it be left to the individual in his/her shop?
Meanwhile, for safety’s sake, and in the interest of following up on the reader’s comment, I show in the video below how I use a push stick and a push block to ensure I retain all my fingers without much of a chance of incurring even a scratch. Note that the push block has a piece on the back end that catches the work piece, ensuring I can push it forward; sometimes I also use a push stick to assist pushing the work piece, while the push block helps me keep the work piece flush against the fence and moving forward.
I suggest the following guidelines to everyone working with tools in the shop:
- Always, always, always know how a particular machine works. If not sure, don’t use it until you get proper instruction and advice. I believe it is my responsibility, and that it is also your responsibility, to learn to use the machine properly, to avoid injury.
- Never, never, never, ever work in the shop while tired, or under the influence of medicine, alcohol, or drugs.
- Always think about your next action; rehearse the cut, and make sure you have considered what could possibly go wrong.
- Listen to the little voice that tells you “something” is not right. I remember getting ready to rip a board on the table saw; everything seemed right, except the board I milled the day before did not feel “right”. It had twisted, and the jointed edge was no longer straight — the perfect combination that could result in the waste being pushed into the blade, resulting in kickback.
- Make sure your fingers are at least 3 inches away from a moving blade at all times.
- Use push blocks and push sticks; but do so properly, always using suitable blocks and sticks (not all are suitable). If not sure how to use them, ask for advice on proper design, and learn how how to use them.
- Always make sure you touch the work piece or the waste only after the blade has stopped moving completely. Do not touch anything in the vicinity of a moving blade.
- Maintain your tools. From time time, make sure all bolts, machine screws, belts and pulleys are tightly in place.
- Use machine guards. If you don’t think they are adequate, find suitable replacements. But always use them.
- Hand tools: Always aim hand tools, including chisels and screw drivers, away from body parts. And make sure the tip of the tool cannot hit any body part while working.
I hope the following video will help woodworkers work safely at the band saw. The push stick I use is a 6- to 7-inch long stick I normally use to stack boards on the lumber rack; and the push block is one I built to work on the table saw. The push block has 60-grit sandpaper on the bottom, to minimize the risk of slippage while pushing the work piece.
Using push sticks and push blocks
with the DriftMaster fence — Duration: 6:15 minutes
I welcome your comments, either in the Comments section below, or via e-mail.
— Al Navas