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Before the First Cut: Important Bandsaw Safety Tips
The Bandsaw has one of the best safety records of all the woodworking machinery that you can use, but that is never a reason to be complacent or take any unnecessary risks when it comes to safety. Like any type of machinery, but particularly so when you consider that a blade is involved, you need to keep a number of safety tips in mind in order to reduce the risk of injury and help you get the most out of your equipment.
Primary safety considerations
One of the most important rules to remember is that you should always wear safety glasses, as custom starrett bandsaw blades rotate at high speed and small pieces of wood can very easily be propelled in an unpredictable way and in any direction. Protective eye wear to ensure that you do not run the risk of damaging your eyesight is a primary safety consideration and you should get into the habit of putting your safety glasses on as soon as you intend to start working with your bandsaw.
Also consider the clothing that you are wearing as anything too loose exposes you to the risk of getting caught up in the machinery, which can have disastrous consequences.
Check your bandsaw
Most bandsaws consist of a considerable number of blocks and wheels which are used to keep the blade correctly aligned and in place whilst in use. You need to perform regular checks to ensure that there is no sign of wear or loose fittings that could cause the blade to break or come away. Always also remember to check that the tension on the blade is set within the defined limits shown in the owner’s manual.
Preparing to make a cut
Once you are satisfied that all the fittings are secure and the tension is set correctly on your bandsaw you should prepare your stock that you are intending to cut as well as your saw. First make sure that the motor is turned off and then place the stock to be cut flat on the saw table being used. You can then lower the blade guards to within somewhere between 1/8” and 1/4” of the stock, bearing in mind that if you leave the blade guards too high you are likely to place undue tension on the blade, which could expose you to the risk of it breaking. The accuracy of your work will also be increased if you work within these distances, along with ensuring that you are working as safely as possible.
Making a safe cut
Start the bandsaw running and make sure that the engine reaches its full speed before attempting to make a cut. It is vital from a safety perspective that when using a bandsaw, you always have the stock being cut flat against the table and you should never attempt to try and cut free-hand in mid-air, which will expose you to unnecessary risk as a result.
Always aim to cut slowly and methodically and if you have to back out of the cut for any reason, only do so once the blade has come to a complete stop.
Protect your hands
Always consider protecting your hands and never take any undue risks or shortcuts that could expose you to the possibility of receiving a serious injury. Just remember that your hands should never be any closer than at least three inches from the blade and never reach across the band saw, so if the power switch is on the left, use your left hand.
If you always have safety in your mind when you are using your bandsaw then you have a much higher chance of avoiding injury, and also remember to tell anyone nearby to not interrupt you whilst the bandsaw is being used.
John Ireland is a former college wood shop safety teacher who still dabbles in his basement workshop. An avid blogger, he enjoys educating others on shop safety by posting on the Internet.