One of my early students from when I first started teaching at my own workshop, about five or six years ago, emailed me the other day with a rather gruesome picture of a finger injury that he sustained while working on his band saw. So I thought a little piece on band saw safety might be appropriate.
Many people, including myself, get a bit slapdash about the band saw, it’s quite quiet and doesn’t run very fast, so it seems fairly benign. True, the band saw does not run at the velocity of the circular saw or spindle moulder, so it is not so likely to throw the wood back at you. But it can still cut your finger off!
A lot of workshop accidents come about because something unexpected happens, I suppose this is true by definition. For instance the saw hits a crack so it cuts a lot faster than you expected and runs into your thumb which you would have moved out of the way in normal circumstances. Machine safety is about planning for the unexpected. So here are my eight top tips for safe working on the band saw:
1. Keep your hands at least 20 cm from the blade. Use a push stick to control the end of the cut and have the push stick ready before you start the cut.
2. Bring the guard down as close to the work piece as possible. On some saws the fence can be adjusted to be lower for narrow pieces thus enabling the guard to come down lower, use this if it is available.
3. Don’t clear off cuts away with the hand, use a push stick. It’s easy to forget that the blade is running.
4. Plan ahead:
a. Make relieving cuts if cutting curves so that
you don’t have to back out of the cut.
b. Think about the end of the cut before you
start, for instance is the push stick easily
hand? If ripping a long piece have you
arranged support at the end of the cut?
It’s while struggling to stop a piece
dropping off the table that accidents can
5. Ensure that guarding is maintained when you make alterations. I think the accident shown was caused by the operator stumbling while the machine was running and accidentally putting his hand onto the unguarded blade under the table. This is usually guarded but I think it had been removed to fit some extraction. I’m sure H. will correct me if I am wrong.
6. Don’t run the saw with the doors open, even when adjusting the blade. Most band saws have a failsafe switch that prevents this. When adjusting the blade carefully turn the wheels by hand.
7. Always switch off when you are not actually standing at the machine. As the saw is quiet it is easy to leave it, to get something perhaps, then return and not realize it is still running.
8. Finally. Concentrate. A lot of the above can be boiled down to this. As with all machines make sure this is the only thing you are doing and give it your full attention.
For those who are worried, H’s finger has lived to fight another day…
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