Is Woodworking Dangerous?​

Woodworking is an activity that, as its name suggests, involves making things from wood. The shaping of wood needs the help of various power tools and sharp materials, which makes it risky. Many gruesome woodworking accidents have led to the loss of limbs simply because woodworking power tools were in the hands of inept and inexperienced people. Moreover, the released dust and use of chemicals during the finishing process can cause many respiratory problems and skin allergies. 

The risks of woodworking cannot be understated. Not only is there a risk from wood chips flying into your face while working the wood, but having constant exposure to loud sounds can lead to permanent damage to the eardrums. To protect your eyes and ears from injury, it is important that you remember to wear ear protection along with a mask and safety glasses. 

Dealing with woodworking tools such as power saws and blades requires a certain amount of know-how. Many accidents have been caused when people forget to remove the safety switch or even unplug their tools when they are not in use. Tools that turn on accidentally can cause a lot of damage to a person and property as they are difficult to control. Non-electric tools like hammers and the jigsaw also need to be handled carefully, as they are capable of inflicting bodily harm. 

Though woodworking is a dangerous task, the overall risk it poses can be reduced by taking certain safety precautions. Before starting any project, you should evaluate your existing skills and see if you can handle the project you have in mind. If you haven’t had much experience in carpentry or dealing with woodworking tools, it is a good idea to start on small projects. You can then work your way up to more complex projects once you have developed the skills and gained mastery over the major tools. 

Is woodworking a dying art?

With the advent of technology people have found more convenient and efficient ways to perform their tasks. Woodworking is one of the arts that has undergone development with the help of technology. Traditional woodworking primarily makes use of hand tools to get the job done. However, recent improvements have made power tools accessible to woodworkers, allowing them to get the job done in a fraction of the time. 

Woodworking is not a dying art; rather, it is an art that has undergone changes to make it more efficient. Woodworking is an art form because it involves intricate craftsmanship and precision to create a thing of beauty. There are many different kinds of woodworking crafts that require slightly differing skills. 

Here are some of the woodworking crafts that are loved across the globe. 

  • Wood Carving

This is one of the best-known examples of woodworking. Wood carving is an act of decoration on wooden objects of all sizes. Tools that are used to carve wood include various knives, gouges, and even chisels. Different kinds of wood require different attention. Some wood types are harder to carve than others, while basswood and butternut are the best woods to use for beginners. Newbie woodcarvers also like to use aspen and black walnut wood.

  • Woodturning

This is a unique kind of woodcraft that makes use of a lathe. For most woodworking crafts, the piece of wood remains fixed in a position while the woodworker moves his tools to shape it. In woodturning, a piece of wood is fixed in a lathe which spins. The woodworker holds his tools in a fixed position near the spinning block of wood and is able to create incredibly balanced, symmetrical works. 

  • Wood Whittling

Though similar to carving, whittling stands apart as it only requires a few carving tools. The main tool that is used is a sharp whittling knife with a tempered steel blade. Commonly, basswood, pine, and cedarwood are used for whittling. 

  • Scroll-sawing

As its name suggests, this kind of woodworking involves the use of a specialized saw. The spiral saw has a sharp blade which allows intricate woodworking designs. Using a spiral saw on pine or poplar wood for scroll-sawing yields the best results. 

  • Pyrography

As its name suggests, pyrography involves wood burning to formulate a certain pattern on a piece of wood. Tools for pyrography include a pyrography pen or even a pointed object like a poker. The most common wood used for pyrography woodworking is poplar and maple. 

What is the most dangerous woodworking tool?

Woodworking makes use of a large array of different tools. It is important to realize that the risk factor involved in using the different tools depends on the nature of the tool itself. Some tools have extremely sharp blades, which make them more dangerous than others. Here are some of the most dangerous woodworking tools, which you should be cautious about.

  • Jointer

As its name suggests, a jointer is used for flattening the surface along the length of a board. Incorrect use of jointers, especially without safety precautions, can lead to severe bodily harm, like severed limbs and fingers. While using a jointer, one should employ the help of a push stick, which can keep your body away from the tool itself. The cutter-head of a jointer does not discriminate when anything comes too close. 

  • Router

One cannot ignore the risk posed by a router when it comes to woodworking. The rotating nature of the router cutters is equipped to removed edges of wood pieces at high speeds. A router needs to be handled with extreme caution to ensure that it is always in control. If you don’t have much experience using a router, don’t make the mistake of using it freehand as it may go out of control and hurt you. 

  • Drill Press

Though many people express confidence while using a drill press, things can easily go south if you are not careful while using it. Many injuries have been caused by drill presses that contact workpieces at the wrong angle and then spin out of control. 

  • Dull Chisel

Using hand tools for woodworking is always a great idea as they allow you greater control over the object at hand. However, one of the biggest safety hazards is caused by tools that have dulled over time. Dull or blunt chisels and knives require more force to use, which can easily hurt you. Moreover, any tools that have rust on their surface can poison the blood or cause tetanus. 

  • Table saw

One of the most used tools for woodworking is the table saw, which can be incredibly risky if used incorrectly. It is always a good idea to learn from a master before using one on your own. 

  • Angle Grinder 

This contraption has been responsible for many woodworking accidents. This is because an angle grinder sends the excess material flying, which can harm your face and your eyes.

  • Edge Sander

The “disc” or edge sander is a hazardous tool to use in the woodworking workshop. This tool often has a powerful kickback which needs to be handled with a firm strength. If it is not handled correctly, an edge sander can work its way across your hand, causing it to skin the knuckles. How unpleasant! 

How dangerous is a wood router?

No one can deny the importance of a wood router in a woodworking workshop. However, a wood router is one of the most dangerous tools to use in woodworking. A router is a power tool that makes use of a rotating blade attached to the flat base. Though there are many kinds of routers, generally, routers are either handheld or fixed to router tables. 

A router can be dangerous to use, considering how it features several sharp carbide tips which spin at an extremely fast speed. Routers typically have a power rating of more than two horsepower and have their bits rotating at about 18,000 rounds per minute. It is not hard to see how the sharp tips are well-equipped to cut through blocks of wood and leave them with clean edges. 

There are some specific dangers that can be caused by routers which include, but are not limited to, the following. 

  • Throwing bits of carbide

If the carbide tips get thrown off, which may be likely if your router is old, the tips have the potential to cause severe injury. Some cheap carbide tips are less likely to stay on the router and may come off while the router is in use. 

  • User Error

It is not hard to believe how the use of the router dictates how risky the tool is for use. If you don’t remember to tighten the collet, you are likely to hurt yourself while using the router. 

  • Cutting

Let’s face it; your woodworking router is a cutting machine. Suited to cutting different kinds of wood pieces, the router can easily slice through human flesh. If your finger comes in contact with a router, the chances are that it would be injured or even severed in extreme cases. 

  • The ‘Jump’

While using high-powered handheld tools such as routers, it is important to remember that there might be a ‘jump’ when you first rev up the tool or when you hit a particularly hard patch of wood. When the tool ‘jumps,’ it is important to keep it steady and in your control. If your router goes rouge, there is a high chance of you getting really hurt due to the high-speed spinning bits. 

  • Flying debris

One of the dangers of routers is the debris that would inevitably fly off when you use it against the wood. This debris can cause splinters on the skin or even fly into your eyes. 

Is wood dust hazardous?

Wood dust is made when the wood is cut or shaped with the help of machines or tools. Furniture making and other carpentry-related activities produce high amounts of wood dust. This is because activities like chipping, sawing, drilling, and sanding help release small particles of wood into the air, which, if inhaled in large amounts, can be hazardous. It is important to note that some types of wood, like most hardwoods, for instance, release more dust than others and that the dusts they release may cause different levels of damage.  

Hazards relating to wood dust include:

  • Irritation of the respiratory system

Particles of this dust settle within your respiratory tract and lead to symptoms ranging from violent sneezing, sore throats, and runny noses to nose bleeds and shortness of breath.

  • Decreased lung function

Wood dust can lead to decreased pulmonary function- the ability of your lungs to diffuse gases, for instance- as well as damage the cilia in your respiratory tract, leaving your lungs exposed to any toxins you inhale.

  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis

Regular exposure to wood dust may develop this condition which causes flu or cold symptoms such as headaches and nausea. This condition can worsen with time and may even cause asthma.  

  • Irritation of skin and eyes

Wood dust can settle in your eyes, causing extreme irritation, making them watery and sore. Not only that, but it can dry out your eyes and your skin, making them both itchy and red. Skin exposed to wood dust for long periods of time may even blister or develop dermatitis and eczema.

  • Toxic effects

Certain species of wood contain chemicals that can prove to be harmful once they come in contact with the body. These chemicals, once absorbed by the lungs, skin, or digestive system can disrupt one’s heartbeat, cause cramps, headaches, weight loss, and breathlessness. Toxins released can also cause severe allergic reactions that can prove to be extremely harmful to the individual.

  • Cancer

Wood dust is a group I carcinogen, which means it is known to cause cancer in humans. These cancers include that of the lungs, throat, and nose as wood dust penetrates the most through your vulnerable respiratory tract.

Where is the danger zone in a woodworking shop?

A woodworking shop is a place of great creativity as woodworking is an art form in the truest sense. However, unlike most craft shops, a woodworking shop often has clearly marked certain ‘danger zones’ within its boundaries. The danger zones are often indicated by colored tapes, usually yellow, which indicate a no-go zone. By staying outside the danger zone, visitors to the woodworking shop will be less likely to slip or even fall into a line of danger.

It is important to mark the danger zones as it makes visitors understand the necessity of maintaining a certain distance from the nearby power tools or sharp hand tools, which may hurt or injure if they are close by. The danger zone is dimensional and needs to be considered, especially when the woodworking tools are in use. 

The danger zone typically exists to keep people away from the area where they are most likely to get hurt from flying debris, accumulated waste, and the kickback from power tools. Moreover, being too close to woodworking tools can expose you to noise pollution. Thus it is important to maintain some distance. 

The most common danger zones in a woodworking shop are the following. 

  • Near Lathes

A lathe involves high-speed rotation and typically has flying debris when in use. If a lathe is in use, it is important that only the operator stays in the safety zone while others keep out of the danger zone. 

  • Close to Jointer

The danger zone of a jointer is alongside the feed platform. 

  • Adjacent to the Drill Press

Staying near a drill press, especially when it is in use, is incredibly risky. To stay out of the danger zone, you must stay to the left of the tool. For some uses, to avoid going into the danger zone, it is a good idea to use a stand for added support to the long stock. Bear in mind that even the use of a stand would require one to be in the safety zone. 

  • Band-saw/ Table Saw/ Chain Saw

The diameter of the tool limits is often considered the danger zone. It is important to mind the limits of the zone to avoid injury, even in the cases of the power tools getting out of control. 

40 woodworking safety rules

Like with all great things, it is important to put your safety first while you are woodworking. Even the smallest of inconveniences like a dirty workspace can have major consequences if not taken care of from the start. Before starting any woodworking project, it is important that you remember to follow the basic safety guidelines. 

Here is a fun list of 40 excellent woodworking safety rules that you can follow to make sure you stay safe while being your most creative self. 

  1. Remember to put on safety glasses, masks, and earplugs
  2. Use sharp blades and bits
  3. Wear clothes that don’t inhibit your movement or catch on to things
  4. Wear closed shoes
  5. Keep unused power tools unplugged
  6. Make use of the safety switch on power tools
  7. Don’t drink or take drugs before woodworking 
  8. Use one extension cord 
  9. Check for nails and other metal pieces before sawing/ cutting
  10. Don’t reach across a running blade
  11. Don’t run in the woodworking shop
  12. Put your phone on silent 
  13. Avoid getting distracted 
  14. Wear protective gloves, especially while applying finishes 
  15. Keep your food and drinks away or covered. 
  16. Put away any unused tools 
  17. Clean your tools before putting them away
  18. Store your tools carefully
  19. Assign designated places for each tool
  20. Regularly sweep away the debris to avoid tripping
  21. Clean-up any spills to avoid slipping
  22. Don’t keep things on the floor
  23. Mark the danger zones with tape
  24. Keep a fire extinguisher handy 
  25. Work against a cutter
  26. Don’t carry tools up a ladder
  27. Stay alert about what is around you
  28. Don’t let young children in the shop without adult supervision
  29. Keep a first-aid kit at hand
  30. Know your emergency plan
  31. Write your emergency contacts visibly
  32. Install a sawdust collection system
  33. Use tools only for their designed tasks 
  34. Avoid overloading circuits 
  35. Make sure you have good lighting 
  36. Install a good ventilation system
  37. Learn how to lift heavy things properly
  38. Set aside some time for breaks 
  39. Only take up tasks that you can handle 
  40. Label all chemicals and store them properly 

Risk assessment for carpentry workshop 

To make sure you are safe while woodworking in your carpentry workshop, it is a good idea to prepare a risk assessment. A risk assessment would help you visualize potential hazards and go through ways to control them. 

Here are some risk assessments that could help you stay safe while woodworking.

  • Dust Exposure

Being exposed to airborne dust particles is a serious health violation, which can cause many lung diseases, and even nose cancer. To reduce the threat from dust; a carpentry workshop typically has an LEV (local exhaust ventilation) installed near woodworking machines and has trained their staff to use it appropriately. 

  • Dealing with Machinery and Tools

Woodworking tools and machinery have a high risk of causing various injuries to the body. Some of the cuts can get infected or lead to limb amputations. Other injuries are responsible for actually chopping off body parts. To avoid this, carpentry shop staff need to be trained and provided with a manual to learn how to deal with different machines and tools. Moreover, they need to wear proper safety gloves and clothes to stay safe. 

  • Noise Hazard 

Exposure to loud noises over long periods of time can lead to permanent hearing impairments. Staff should be trained to wear earplugs while working machines and also learn to stand out of the marked danger zone. The woodworking equipment used should be the kind that produces low noises. 

  • Electrical Risk

Using faulty cables and poor grounding mechanisms can cause electric shocks, which may even be fatal. It is important to provide staff with manuals and teach them electric safety so they can use the electrical tools responsibly.