- 1 General Safety
- 2 Other General Information
- 3 Machines
- 4 The CNC
- 5 Handheld Power Tools
- 6 Finishes
- 7 Learning Resources
As with the main area, the machines are for use by members only, for both insurance and safety reasons. It is assumed that members understand the risks inherent with power tool use - only you are responsible for your own safety. Never use a machine you have not been shown how to use. This page is a reminder and summary only, and in no way a substitute for training or common sense.
We are currently planning a more formal system for machine training & access control, namely the Tool Usage Policy - this is still a draft at present but is very near finalisation.
Goggles and ear defenders are readily available, and their use is highly recommended. Restrain long hair, sleeves, ties, beards, fu manchus, or anything else that might get caught in a machine. Needless to say, keep hands well clear of all blades. Push sticks and sleds are available. Wear sensible shoes; open-toed shoes or high heels are completely inappropriate. If you plan to make a habit of heavy workshop use, invest in some puncture-resistant steel capped shoes.
Do not distract people using machines, and again, never use a machine you have not been trained on. If you are doing something unusual or you are otherwise in any doubt, ask; people will be happy to help and advise, or supervise. It is highly inadvisable to do heavy machine work when you are alone in the shop, as if you are seriously injured there will be nobody to help until 8:30 am the next day, when Naughty Sheep find the blood dripping through their ceiling.
If you are using wood that has been reclaimed, or is from Woodzilla, bear in mind that nails may be present. As such they may cause issues if they meet any other tool, especially saws, routers, drills, and planers, potentially launching bits of metal, wood and carbide at great speeds, and breaking a costly tool. To avoid this, check the wood very carefully before usage, and if in any doubt at all, use another piece. A full pallet salvage guide exists and is worth consulting before partaking of pallet pieces.
Other General Information
Where possible and within reason you are expected to clear up after yourself. Half finished projects often have nowhere to live and it's somewhat expected that they'll be lingering occasionally. Similarly nobody expects you to deep clean the place after each use to remove every speck of sawdust. Ideally though the place should be left in the same or better state as you found it; tools away, bench as clear as possible, batteries charged, wires coiled, and so forth.
A notable exception to this is swarf, e.g. dust, shards and other debris from metalwork. It has a habit of getting where it's least wanted with great efficiency, is a pain in the everything, and needs to be cleared up as soon as it's made.
The Workshop gets quite cold in winter, so dress appropriately. The British Antarctic Survey have been known to hire the room for conditioning and equipment testing. Strange hairy creatures that do not answer to 'Peter' may in fact be a Yeti and should be approached with due caution.
Unusual wooden artefacts that have Green or Red Tape on them are reusable jigs of some description, and are not to be hacked at or disposed of. They are usually labelled as to their purpose. Hand tools with Green Tape on them live in the Red Toolbag, the others reside in the Black Toolbag.
There are a few buckets in the room; one is for useless wood to be burnt, another for useful small wood scraps, and the third is for general rubbish. The small black bucket under the string is best left exactly where it is.
Please note that this page is a brief summary of the tools and the critical safety features, not a learning resource, beyond a few tips. Links for suggested resources are best added to the bottom of the page.
After much work, the shop now has a dust extraction / cyclone system, and all the machines are linked up via blast boxes, which are located on the wall behind the tools on both sides. If the vacuum is left on with all gates closed, or otherwise significantly impeded, there will be a release valve to stop the cyclone imploding (eg the right side cyclone currently is!), but ideally it should never happen in the first place. Conversely, gates that are left open for idle tools drastically reduce the effectiveness of the system.
The system is for DUST ONLY. If you block it up with rubbish you are expected to clear it out. This will probably mean removing, opening, ram-rodding, resealing and then re-laying the piping, which is about as fun as it sounds. The system is earthed to prevent static build-up, and rubbish may catch and break the earthing wire, which would also then need replacing and rethreading as well.
Right Side Operation
Open your tool's gate (they are labelled), turn on the hoover, and then turn on the tool. Reverse the procedure when done.
Left Side Operation
Open the gate, then turn on the tool. The hoover should automatically start up when the tool does, and turn off about 10 seconds later. If it doesn't then check the hoover switch is set to position II.
A solid workhorse, the bandsaw is the only power tool on which it's relatively safe to have your fingers near the blade (eg a couple of inches), IF and only if you are completely familiar and confident with the tool. This machine is the only exception to that rule. If the blade guard is set correctly the blade is not exposed, it produces no kicks, and is very predictable; this makes it excellent for detailed work. Wherever possible though, push sticks and guides should be used for close work, and they are always nearby.
The saw table can tilt up to 45 degrees. There is a drop-on zero clearance overlay table with a 45/90/180 guide, adjustable fence, and a mitre guide. Unless you need the table to tilt, or an extra centimetre of depth, the overlay is recommended and is usually left in place.
Some specific warnings; never reach behind the blade with your hand when the tool is on. In fact it's good practice to never do it even when off, to prevent habits forming and then absent-minded action when the tool is live. This is doubly prudent now that the right side dust extraction hoover lives under the bench - it masks the sound of the bandsaw being on.
When cutting a slot without an exit cut, turn the tool off before pulling the work free of the blade - if you don't you will probably pull the blade off of the saw, which is aggravating at best and dangerous at worst. When cutting tight corners, use relief cuts to allow the saw room to move. Not doing so will pinch the blade, results of which vary from stalling the machine, removing the blade, or flat out breaking it.
Strange noises under no load should be investigated before cutting. It could be anything from a wood chip to a misaligned blade, and this has caused breakage in the past.
The bandsaw is only for wood and plastics, and thin aluminium with an appropriate blade.
AKA the Express Hogroaster. The important rule with a lathe is to seat the work properly, and ideally don't remove it until completely finished. Bear this in mind as workpieces are at risk of being removed by other users if your project spans sessions.
The mess this makes is legendary, so be considerate of others during use. Tidying up afterwards is even more mandatory than usual.
Always align the drill with the hole in the support plate before drilling. If you do not the drill bit will be ruined, and there is a chance a wood bit may shatter if it strikes the steel. An overlay renders this moot as it should never be punctured deeply enough to be an issue.
The original overlay available here has an anchor wall to prevent 'strimming' when the drill bites the workpiece, and its use is recommended. Drill bits are in the box under the central bench, and some more are usually to the right of the press itself.
The new overlay has a removable/slidable sacrificial plate and an adjustable fence - if you don't know why these are useful things in a drill press, then you probably just want to use the original one.
Use the correct bit for the job; if in doubt, ask.
This tool is quick, powerful and intuitive to use. Always keep your off-hand well clear of the cut zone; if you need more support for the stock, clamp it to the fence. There is a laser guide that will help with cut alignment, but it is not 100% accurate. Reference the inlay cut line to see the slight difference. The saw also does not quite cut to precisely 90 degrees, so bear that in mind if absolute perfection is required. When cutting along the work, rather than simply downwards, it's best to start the cut with the saw fully extended then move inwards against the cutting force.
There is a zero-clearance inlay currently installed, it is set for vertical / 90 degrees. Please do not ruin it by using the mitre modes without removing it first!
A 90 degree bend sits under the saw, if you need to make a cut less than 45 degrees you will need it.
- Old Faithful. Combi blade that can tear through most things, including aluminium, some steel, and pallet wood with nails. This is the ONLY blade that can do this!
- 40t wood blade. Cuts most wood, good for general usage. Not surgical but gives clean cuts, especially with the inlay. Ideally this is the blade that should be left in the saw.
- 60t wood blade. Wood blade with finer teeth, use for higher-tier edging only, we do not want to blunt it on rough construction work. Whilst it sadly isn't super-fine it's the best we've got, so unless you know that you need this blade for your cut, use 40t.
The table saw is the most dangerous tool in the shop, followed by the routers, which are deceptively safe looking but just as capable of launching workpieces or pulling fingers into the blades. Always keep your hands out of the blade line, and your body where possible. Never lean over the saw or reach past it while it is spinning! Use the guided pusher or a push stick for close cuts, and the featherboard for narrow stock. There is a cross-cut sled, although it currently requires re-squaring. A blade guard is also available, but it is usually not attached as it prevents several common forms of use. If your intended cut would accept it, as with all safety equipment, its use is recommended.
Note: The guided pusher uses the fence, thus neither it or your hand can be pulled into the blade, but by nature it pushes one side of the workpiece only. As with all pushers, it's best used for the latter part of the cuts. If it is used BEFORE the workpiece reaches the riving knife, e.g. with very short stock, then it could in theory cause kickback if the work turns into the saw. Use of a featherboard will prevent this.
To understand the speed, unpredictability and sheer power of kickback, watch this Youtube video. The man in question was intentionally trying to cause it and fully expecting it, was using a pushpad, and had both his body and hand out of line with the blade... and was still lucky to leave with his fingers intact.
Absolutely NEVER cut from the back of the saw. It will literally launch your work across the room, and probably your hand with it. This is not an exaggeration.
When cutting long pieces of wood, or sheet goods, ensure you have enough room in all directions. This is easier said than done. There are sawhorses for support, but you are better off getting another person involved. The last time we had to cut a sheet of ply (and it wasn't even a full sheet) it took three people, a sawhorse, and some serious logistics, to the extent that Yakkety Sax was playing in the background. If there is nobody else around to ask, you shouldn't be using the table saw! Alternative options for oversized lumber include using a circular saw with either a rip guide or a guiding rail clamped to the workpiece, ideally using the workbench for supporting sheet goods.
If you are not confident with the table saw, the chop saw and bandsaw are usually viable alternatives. When not in use, the saw blade must be drawn below the table surface; this protects both users and the blade. This is doubly relevant now that it is hooked up to the dust extraction system, as it is usually powered on most of the time.
Relatively safe to use, the main hazard is dust. It is possible for the belt to grab work and pull it, with practice you will recognise when this is likely. Always keep fingers away from the belt intake. Whilst the gap is narrow it can still pinch, and if you get something caught in there, it will be ground away in moments, whether that's your workpiece or a fingertip. Using the heel (rounded end) is likely to cost you some knuckle skin occasionally, as it is its wont to grab the work.
This has no guard attached, and is unsafe to use without a face mask. Additionally, sparks may ignite the worryingly close polystyrene on the ceiling nearby. Be Careful. It also has a narrow sanding belt; be aware that they both activate at the same time. Currently it is set up for sharpening, with a coarse wheel and 120 grit alox.
The router is deceptively dangerous for a static tool, on par with the table saw, and as with other power tools must be treated with respect at all times.
Always feed your workpiece against the cutting direction, which is to say move it from the right towards the left. If you reverse feed (AKA 'climb cut') the router will usually grab the workpiece, pull it (and potentially your fingers) straight through the cutting bit, and shoot whatever's left off of the bed at great force. The kickback video linked above demonstrates this too.
Use of guards (and/or guide pins as applicable) is essential, and featherboards are again highly recommended whenever possible, for both safety and control. As with other tools, use push sticks to finish the pass, or scrap wood. Scrap has the added benefit of preventing chipout at the end of the cut.
Note that the router is primarily a trimming tool. As with the handheld version, it's best (and safer) to take multiple passes at a cut, getting progressively deeper per pass. Excessively deep or fast cuts risk control being lost, breaking your work, and/or the bit.
This semi-sentient beast mainly eats wood, polystyrene, router bits, and the unwary. If you see it in action keep well clear of the work area, it moves quickly and erratically, and will chew through any wood or fingers it encounters without pausing for breath.
It's not yet ready for general use, but Adam & Jon are working on it heavily so that will change at some point. It's capable of 2.5 degree milling to varying degrees of accuracy - results vary wildly depending on the medium, model detail and pathing quality. There is a Wall of Shame demonstrating many projects which have fallen victim to poor pathing, misstepps, and collet catches.
Preparation of files for this is significantly more challenging than with 3D printing, and will later be an article in its own right. In short though, something flat / 2.5D or less than 3cm deep is usually millable. An article which requires two (or more) sided milling, 100% precise depth and bit changing, or over 3cm in depth is much more complicated, to the point of currently being impossible. The polystyrene blocks are for testing purposes, as they are less likely to damage the tool than with wood.
ESTLCam can perform some basic outline and finishing profiles, as can Meshcam. We are leaning towards Fusion 360 as the recommended processor, and experiments are well underway with it. The downside to that is the complexity that inevitably comes with more control; it's significantly more involved to set up pathing compared to ESTL or Mesh, as it is an industry standard tool. Again this will need to be an article in its own right later on.
Repetier-Host can visualise gcode. Once a script has been created you must always sanity check it to see that it moves as you expect, but bear in mind that this will not show cut speeds! Fusion 360 in particular specifies movement speeds in mm/ps (millimetres per second) in all places, except for one field quietly buried among them, which always uses m/ps - metres per second. This is very easy to miss and completely ruined a testpiece when the router exited stage right at warp 9. If that program had been running on wood the machine would now be thoroughly broken. Always test cuts.
Handheld Power Tools
Similar caveats apply to these as to their mounted brethren, so they will not be repeated again here, however since the handheld tools are not fixed in place it is comparatively more important to be aware of people around you. Additionally, when plugging a tool in, assume it will immediately start up, even if you believe it is off. This policy has saved many fingers.
We currently have: a sabre saw, circular saws, planer, belt sander, orbital sander, palm sander/polisher, angle grinder, heat guns, drills, jigsaw and a router. Some of these are corded and others are battery operated. Always charge batteries after use, and remember to turn chargers off when leaving the Space. In winter months, note that the cold will drain the batteries quite quickly. If the tool has a dust bag or an adapter for the Cyclone system, you should use it - hose extensions are available if needed.
The angle grinder will produce significant quantities of sparks when used on metals. The obvious general precautions applicable to all power tools don't need restating, for this tool or the others, but a less obvious hazard is the presence of polystyrene on the ceiling and by the CNC. This is very prone to catching fire, so be incredibly careful if grinding anything.
The air compressor can theoretically do many things, but most will make a monumental mess of the workshop. Currently the accessory of choice is the nail gun, which you should talk to Steve or Jon if you wish to use. It's only really worth using for large projects. Bear in mind that the backdraft from the gun is also capable of launching projectiles, including dust and grit, at hazardous speeds. The sedimentary dust that the blower disturbs is worth mentioning also, as it is mostly the exceptionally fine dust that has made it through the vacuum filters; this also bypasses your nasal filters and settles in the lungs.
Once we have a spray booth, painting and sandblasting may become viable.
We have an array of paints, dyes, varnishes and oils available. If using oils you must ensure that you air the rag sufficiently - oily rags have an unpleasant habit of spontaneously combusting. Ideally rinse it, then leave it unfolded on a metal surface. Just chucking it in the waste bin may well lead to a fire several hours or days later when the space is unoccupied! If in any doubt about what to do, ask the keyholder, and in either case you should notify them that you have used oilcloths due to the potential hazard they can represent.
Power tool, noun. A device for making mistakes very, very quickly.
Note for Youtube learning: many 'presenters', especially Steve Ramsey, ignore critical safety features or information, even when playing at teaching 'safety'. Viewer beware. (Please note that Izzy Swann is for entertainment purposes only.)
Woodworking Masterclass, from Steve and Bob the dog. Playlists usually follow individual projects, for a holistic learning experience, individual videos are usually more specific, eg for techniques or individual tools. Well worth a look.
Paul Sellers, another decent channel similar to the above.
Mathias Wandel, 95% sane engineer does woodworking. Lots of jigs, home-made tools, and rodents.
Fine Woodworking Information on a range of woodwork topics and related matters. Slightly commercial sometimes.