Woodworking tools usage

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Back to Tools and Equipment

NOTICE: All members using the Woodworking area are expected to join the woodworking channel, AND refer back to this page frequently to keep abreast of important notices, changes, warnings, etc.


  • Many of the tools and equipment in the Woodworking area are EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS. Misuse can cause serious injury or property damage.
  • Persons entering the Woodworking area must dress appropriately, including wearing/using the appropriate protective equipment.
    • Loose fitting clothing, long sleeves, gloves, long hair, jewelry, etc., can all get caught in the moving parts of many tools!
    • Wear footwear with non-slip soles. Steel-toed shoes are advisable in many circumstances.
    • Safety glasses, hearing protection and dust masks are available at the entrance to the Woodworking area. If you notice items missing or the supply getting low, notify the Area Captain(s) as soon as possible.
  • Use of the Woodworking area, and the equipment therein, is at the discretion of the Area Captain(s). Failure to follow the rules and proper procedures is cause for immediate removal from the area and revocation of privileges in the Woodworking area.
  • Willful disregard for these rules and procedures may be cause for immediate ejection from the space and termination of Rockford MakerSpace membership.
Safety goes beyond a set of information and rules to memorize. Safety is a culture.
You live it by learning it, and learn it by living it ... so that you and others can go on living.
SAFETY is very important!

This page is UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Please check back regularly for updates.

General rules for the area

  • Nobody, whether member, guest or visitor, may be in the Woodworking area when power tools are in use unless they
    • have a signed Liability Release on file, and
    • are wearing the proper protective equipment -- safety glasses, hearing protection and respiratory protection when required.
  • Nobody, whether member, guest or visitor, may be in the immediate vicinity of a power tool in use unless they
    • are actively participating in the operation of that tool, or
    • are being trained on the use of that tool, or
    • are viewing a presentation of that tool by an authorized user.
  • Anyone using the Woodworking area must clean up after themselves.
    • brush, vacuum or otherwise remove sawdust, small scraps, etc., from the tools and surrounding area, and
    • place usable leftover materials in the appropriate bin, unless you are taking it with you.
  • Report broken tools or accessories immediately:
    • mark the item as unavailable, and
    • notify the Area Captain.
  • Keep the area around tools free from obstructions or slip hazards.
  • Give your work undivided attention. Looking around, carrying on a conversation and "horse play" are careless acts that can result in serious injury.
  • Do NOT attempt to repair any tool or other equipment without prior approval of the Area Captain.
  • Do NOT operate any power tools in a wet environment. If the floor or work surface is wet, power tools must not be used.
  • Do NOT eat or drink while running power tools. (Food or beverage may be consumed in the Woodworking area, but must be done in a safe manner, away from any power tools in use.)
  • Do NOT operate any power tools if you have been drinking alcohol, using any drugs or medications that may impair your ability, are sleep-deprived or are in any other way impaired.
  • Do NOT make adjustments while the machine is operating; wait until the machine has come to a complete stop.
  • Do NOT use measuring tools (calipers, tape measures, gauges, etc.) on a workpiece while the machine is moving.
  • Do NOT leave a power tool unattended while it is running.
  • Do NOT use makeshift tools.
  • Do NOT remove protective equipment (safety glasses, hearing protectors, face masks, respirators, etc.) from the Woodworking area without prior approval of the Area Captain.
  • Use of the Woodworking area, especially certain powered tools, may be restricted when such use would interfere with a training class or other event in an adjoining area. Examples would include training in welding, ceramics, etc.

All tools

  • Because these tools are shared among many users, all tools should be considered "unsafe" until they have been checked for safety.
    • Ensure that blades, cutting bits, etc, are
      • properly and securely installed before use, and
      • in good functional condition, not broken, bent or otherwise unsafe to use.
  • Floor tools with wheels must have the wheels locked when in use.
  • Floor and bench tools must be made "safe" when you are finished using them.
    • All tools must be powered off.
    • If temporary power cords or dust collection hoses are used, they should be removed and properly stored to avoid becoming a tripping or other hazard.
    • Miter saws should be locked with the blade down and the blade guard in place.
    • Table saws should have the blade lowered below the table's bed (i.e., work surface).
    • Radial arm saws should have the blade moved to the rearmost limit and the blade guard in place.
    • Drill presses should have drill bits removed and properly stored.
    • All tool work surfaces must be clear of anything not normally part of that tool -- no other tools, parts, accessories, material, etc.
  • Locate and ensure you are familiar with all machine operations and controls before using that machine.
  • If a circuit breaker trips when using a power tool, unplug the power tool before resetting the circuit breaker.
  • Do NOT stand on the machine.
  • NEVER leave a running machine unattended.
  • Return handheld tools to their proper storage location when you are finished using them.

Blast cabinet

  • The blast cabinet is a yellow tool. A proficiency checkout and authorization by the Area Captain is required before it may be used.
  • Use ONLY approved media.
  • The cabinet must remain closed at all times except when loading media or parts.
  • In the event of a catastrophic failure of a blasting operation (such as a glass item breaking), the user is responsible for safely removing non-media materials from the cabinet. If the user is unable to do so, they must mark the cabinet as "unavailable," post an appropriate notice in the woodworking channel and notify the Area Captain immediately.
  • If a glove or the viewing window becomes damaged, the user must mark the cabinet as "unavailable," post an appropriate notice in the woodworking channel and notify the Area Captain immediately.

Additional online resources:

Downdraft table

Note: The downdraft table is under construction and is currently NOT available.

  • The downdraft table is for sanding only. Do NOT use it for hammering, drilling, painting, etc.
  • Wear respiratory protection when using the downdraft table.
  • Nothing that is not part of the current sanding operation should be on the downdraft table when it is being used.
  • Use only proper, approved bench dogs, clamps, etc., to hold your workpiece, when required.
  • Remember to activate the dust collection system or shop vacuum (whichever is to be used), and don't forget to turn it off when finished.

Additional online resources:

This section is UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Please check back regularly for updates.


  • All the non-handheld drills (e.g., drill presses), unless otherwise marked, are red tools. Use is restricted to trained members only.
  • Handheld drills are green tools unless marked otherwise.
  • Make sure the drill bit or cutting tool is locked securely in the chuck. Remove the chuck key before starting the drill.
  • Use a clamp or drill vise to prevent work from spinning.
  • Use only round, hex, or triangular shank drill bits.
  • Center the shank, tighten and securely lock the drill bit in the chuck.
  • Do not tighten the chuck onto the drill bit’s cutting flutes.
  • On drill presses
    • Be sure the table lock has been tightened.
    • Always operate the press at appropriate speeds.
    • Power off the drill press before changing the belts for speeds.
    • Long stock should be drilled with the excess to your left; if the stock rotates, it will hit the drill post, not you.
    • Never reach under or around a rotating bit.
    • If a drill bit binds, turn off the drill and carefully turn the chuck backwards by hand to free the bit.
    • Where necessary, ensure the depth stop has been set properly.
  • Always drill with a sacrificial backing board under the workpiece; this helps prevent tearout and protects the surface underneath.
  • Secure the drill bit firmly in the chuck by tightening the chuck key in all three holes on the chuck; this is especially important with large diameter bits.
  • Always run large diameter bits at slower speeds. This is particularly important for forstner bits and wheel cutters.
  • When drilling, check that the bit is running 'true' and not wobbling.
  • Do NOT drill with too much pressure; let the bit do the cutting.
  • Hole cutters are especially dangerous because the cutters and horizontal bar are essentially visible when in operation.
  • The drill bit should be a 1/4 inch away from your work before drilling. Never start the drill press with the drill bit pressed against the work piece.
  • If smoke appears when drilling wood, immediately withdraw the bit, stop the machine and verify the speed and that the bit is not blunt.
  • To improve drilling accuracy, center punch the required hole position to help center the start of drilling. Consider using a brad point bit since the point will assist with centering.
  • Remove burrs and chips from a drilled hole. When making deep holes, clean out the hole frequently.
  • Reduce the drilling pressure when the drill begins to break through the workpiece; this action prevents drill from pulling into the work and breaking.
  • Always keep hands and fingers away from the drill bit.
  • Never try to stop the drill chuck and spindle with your hands.
  • Do NOT touch the drill bit immediately after drilling; it may be very hot.
  • Use a vacuum, brush or rake to remove cuttings.
  • When finished, clean and return drill bits and other tools to their proper storage area.

Additional online resources:

Dust collection system

  • Material should be limited to sawdust only. Be careful to avoid sharp and/or heavy items (nails, screws, glass, etc.) being drawn into the system!


  • Lathes are red tools. Use is restricted to trained members only.
  • Wear safety glasses with side shields or safety goggles, or a face shield (with safety glasses or goggles) to protect yourself from flying chips.
  • Wear hearing protection that is suitable for the level and frequency of the noise you are exposed to in the woodworking area.
  • Wear respiratory protection when dust is generated (e.g., during sanding operations).
  • Wear protective footwear when required.
  • Work only with adequate lighting.
  • Inspect chucks for wear or damage. Flying pieces can be very dangerous.
  • Nothing that is not part of the current turning operation should be on the lathe when it is in operation.
  • Before the lathe is turned on, make sure that all clamps and fittings are secure and that the work piece is free to turn.
  • Use stock that is free of defects, such as loose knots, splits, cracks, or foreign objects.
  • Hold tools firmly with both hands and against the tool rest.
  • Hold the stock securely on the faceplate or between the centers.
  • Use only furnished or approved tools that are meant for lathe work.
    • Use sharp, well-maintained chisels and gouges.
  • Select a speed that is appropriate for the job. Operate at speeds recommended by the manufacturer. Select a low speed and use a moderate cut depth to prevent splinters from flying out during roughing operations. The actual speed of the lathe depends on type of wood, diameter of stock, nature of work being done and type of tool used.
  • Adjust tool rests so that they are parallel and as close as possible to the stock. They should also be set high enough so that tools will cut into the wood slightly above the center of the work being turned.
  • Remove the tool rest when sanding or polishing.
  • Use appropriate tools to hold the sand paper or emery paper whenever possible. Examples include a 'nut cracker' or the paper fixed to a piece of flat wood. If you must use your hands always hold the paper in a way that will not allow the paper to catch, pull or entangle around the stock.
  • To make a faceplate turning, the one hand steadies the tip of the chisel, which holds the edge against the tool rest while the other hand guides the tool. Keep the tip of the chisel held higher than the handle.
  • Turn off power and lock out the machine when making any adjustments or changes to the set up.
  • Use a vacuum, brush or rake to remove cuttings only after the lathe has stopped moving.

Additional online resources:


  • All the non-handheld routers (e.g., router tables, CNC routers) are red tools. Use is restricted to trained members only.
  • Handheld routers are yellow tools unless marked otherwise. A proficiency checkout and authorization by the Area Captain is required before they may be used.
  • Nothing that is not part of the current routing operation should be on the router table when it is in operation.
  • Before the router table is turned on, make sure that all components are secure.
  • Use stock that is free of defects, such as loose knots, splits, cracks, or foreign objects.

Additional online resources:

This section is UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Please check back regularly for updates.


  • All the non-handheld power saws are red tools. Use is restricted to trained members only.
  • Handheld power saws are yellow tools unless marked otherwise. A proficiency checkout and authorization by the Area Captain is required before they may be used.
  • Non-power saws are green tools unless marked otherwise.
  • All saws with a blade guard, riving knife, kickback pawl, etc., must have that safety equipment installed and in use. Check their action before starting the saw.
    • The only exception is when employing those safety devices would interfere with the safe use of related accessories, such as a crosscut sled or similar.
    • If any of these is removed, it is that user's responsibility to see to it that it is properly reinstalled. If proper reinstallation is not possible, that user must mark the tool as "unavailable," post an appropriate notice in the woodworking channel and notify the Area Captain immediately.
  • Always make sure that the table, miter or circular saw blade is turning freely before you turn on the power. In other words, spin the blade without power a time or two to make sure there are no scraps or tools touching it.
  • On bandsaws
    • Never stand or allow others to stand to the right of the band saw when it is running.
    • Keep upper and lower doors closed and all guards in place.
    • Lower the blade guide and guard as close to the workpiece as possible, at least within 1/4 inch.
    • If the band breaks, immediately shut off the power and stand clear until the machine has stopped.
    • Check the speed table for the material that you are cutting. Do not run the band saw too fast or the blade will wear out quickly.
    • Plan cuts carefully; layout and make relief cuts before cutting long curves and curves of small radii. Turning holes should be made where required. Plan work so that all cuts will be made in the forward direction.
    • Cutting cylindrical or irregular stock on the band saw may be done only with a special jig, such as a V-block.
    • If the saw stalls in a cut, turn the power off and reverse the blade by hand to free it.
    • When removing scrap material from the band saw table, always be aware of the blade.

Use a piece of scrap stock to remove scrap pieces; do not use your hands.

  • Nothing that is not part of the current cutting operation should be on the saw when it is in operation. Keep the saw work surface and surrounding area clean, free of stock, cutoffs or excessive sawdust.
  • Large pieces must be properly supported by an infeed/outfeed table or other support as required.
  • Push sticks, feather boards, etc, must be used, where appropriate.
  • Disconnect power (pull the plug) before changing the blade.
  • Remove adjusting keys, wrenches, etc, before starting the saw.
  • Do not start the saw with the blade engaged with the material to be cut.
  • Allow the saw to reach full speed before starting to feed your work.
  • Maintain a good, solid stance with a wide base to keep a good balance.
  • Keep your hands and fingers out of the line of the blade.
  • Do not stand directly in front of the blade, so that if a kickback should occur, the stock will not kick back into the body but will slide past the operator's midsection.
  • Do not reach over the blade or make any fence or blade adjustments while the blade is still moving
  • Use the proper zero-clearance insert. Without a blade insert, a piece of stock could fall into the saw cabinet and become a projectile.
  • Align the rip fence parallel to the blade. Make sure that the fence is locked in position after you set your desired width.
  • Do not "free hand" cut.
  • Do not use the fence and miter gauge together.
  • Do not attempt to cut very small items.
  • Check stock for foreign objects (nails, screws, knots, stones, bullets, etc) before sawing.
  • Never try to cut warped or water damaged boards as these may cause the workpiece to kick back.
  • Avoid any awkward operations. If you feel like a gawky fool doing a cut, then don't do the cut in that manner. This helps you avoid losing your balance and possibly falling into the blade or table.
  • Use a stop block when you crosscut short lengths. Mount a stop block on the fence--this can be as simple as a clamped on board that stops just before the saw blade, so that cut-off pieces cannot bind between blade and fence.
  • Never try to push the workpiece faster than the machine can accept.
  • Stop the saw before attempting to back the work away from the blade.
  • If the blade develops a 'click,' stop the saw immediately follow the 'broken tool' procedure.
  • Do not cut cylindrical or irregular stock without the aid of a suitable jig.
  • Do not force a wide blade on a bandsaw on a cut of small radius. Use relief cuts when making sharp curves.
  • Work should be released only when it is past the blade. Releasing work too early is an invitation to kickback as it is possible for the blade to grab the part that has not yet gone by.
  • Whenever the stock is lifted or tilted above the surface of the table, the saw is able to shake the stock. If this happens, and you lose your grip, duck down and hit the stop button because losing your grip on the work means it probably is going to come back at you.
  • Remember: If a procedure feels unsafe, it probably is.

Additional online resources: