My shop is a very useful place, it’s full of tools to cut, shape, smooth and attach all manners of wood and metal together to create an endless line of projects. But with so many tools, come plenty of dangers. While these are not technically tools, and they’re definitely not as fun as a big spinning sawblade, I consider them essential to the toolbox. I mean, name one other item you’re going to use on every project. Not even a tape measure sees as much action as a pair of safety glasses.
1. Eye protection:
One of the most common injuries in the shop is a piece of wood in the eye. I’ve had two eye injuries in the shop that could have left permanent damage, but I thankfully bounced back. Knots, splinters, or just large chips come off those blades at lightning speeds and can do an amazing amount of damage in a split second. Get about 10 sets of lightweight clear glasses and get in the habit of always wearing them.
The style is up to you, as long as they’re safe. Wraparounds are inexpensive and lightweight and easy to store in a pocket or pegboard. If you wear glasses for vision, a pair of Walter White-esque safety goggles are actually quite nice for a variety of tasks. And a full face shield is great when doing rough work, like turning on a lathe or large hole drilling, or when working with metal and there are sparks a-flying.
2. Hand Protection:
My hands have a few dozen scars from working in the shop. It’s an inevitable part of working with wood that a bit of blood will be smeared on a joint or two. But a thin set of gloves improves grip, and gives an extra tough layer to minimize the sacrifice to the woodworking gods. I’ve found that knit gloves with textured palms and fingers (the gloves are dipped in a latex/rubber liquid) still provide plenty of dexterity and stay cool while protecting your digits. Keep in mind that gloves (and any other loose clothing) is a danger around tools as they can get snagged and pull your hand into the tool. Don’t ever use gloves while using a drill press, table saw, or router table, or other spinning tool where that danger is greatest. The rule is: stationary power tool: bare hands and rolled up sleeves. But for carrying materials, working with knives, carving tools, or chisels, or just any time splinters are inevitable, go with gloves.
3. Ear Protection:
Power tools are sustainably loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage, and that ringing in your head may never go away if you don’t protect those ears. I started with a big jar of ear plugs in my shop years ago, but taking them in and out was annoying and just didn’t work very well. I then switched to 3 sets of ear muffs that I hung on my tools and popped on when I needed them. While that worked better, the best upgrade was to a set of muffs that had integrated earphones. Plugging in my music and keeping my ears protected all at once, now they just stay on all day in the shop.
4. Respiration Protection: Essential whenever you’re dealing with strong chemicals, noxious fumes and finishes, lots and lots of sawdust, or aerosol-based products. An N-95 rated mask works for everyday tasks, but spray paint, pesticides, and other sprays demand an P-95 or R-95 rated mask or respirator. Don’t mess around here. Keep your lungs safe.
Just remember: the most important aspect of shop safety is staying alert, good technique, and proper use of tools and materials. These tools are intended to help, because we all want to be able to come back tomorrow to make a bit more sawdust.
- 3M Clear safety glasses – $2 each
- Dewalt Clear safety glasses – $6 each
- MSA Safety clear over prescription lens safety glasses – $3
- 3M TEKK Protection Chemical Splash/Impact Goggle – $3.99
- Knit glove textured latex coating – $14 per dozen
- Dewalt Knit coated gripper gloves – $13 for 3 pair
- ATG knit nitrile coated gloves – $42 per dozen (oil resistant)
- Howard Leight Sync Stereo Headphones – $40
- 3M TEkk AM/FM/MP3 headphones – $36
- Howard Leight Lighting Slim Earmuffs – $16
Lungs and Respiration:
- MSA Safety Works 817662 Paint and Pesticide Respirator – $27.72
- 3M Particulate Respirator 8271, P95 – $26.00 for 10
- 3M 8511 Particulate N95 Respirator with Valve – $14.91 for 10
- MSA Safety Works 817664 Toxic Dust Respirator P100 – $17.99