I don’t need to tell you that mistakes happen in life, and the shop is no exception. We try to avoid them, but here’s some good reasons why you should look to make mistakes in the shop. I’m not advocating for making mistakes in the shop – rather, looking for where or how mistakes could be made, and taking steps to stop or avoid them.
The shop is a dangerous place. Machines that can tear through flesh like a chainsaw can through butter, or hurl heavy objects at a good speed – or little ones at ballistic speeds – constitutes a dangerous environment. A little mistake you make in the shop can have terrible consequences. For example, I had my riving knife off on my table saw; it was’nt working right ( I think it was bent, map-adjusted, something like that), and of course I thought if I’d just be careful, everything would be fine. Nope. I was cutting off a small piece of scrap – probably a piece about the size of a cigarette lighter – and went to flick it off the table. I mis-flicked it, and it caught the back of the blade, sending the piece right towards my face. I had no time to react. the piece barely grazed my cheek, but hit my ear protection headphones, knocking them clear off my head. Talk about dodging a bullet. Had that caught my cheekbone, it might have broke it. I always wear eye protection, but who knows what that may have done to my eye area, even with protection.
In other incident, an unparalleled saw fence was to blame, catching a small piece of 1/4″ plywood, and hurling it into my gut, like a karate master delivering a chop! Let a black and blue mark for days.
Therefore, you need to be constantly on the look out for a possible safety issue that could occur. I caught one yesterday, when I happened to notice that the belt on my stationary belt sander was ripping apart at the seam that connects the two ends. That stitch coming apart could make for some interesting action!
Better results, less waste. It’s not just about equipment or technique safety either – though obviously that is the most important reason to look for possible mistakes. Look for possible mistakes you could make that could really set you back on your project. Common mistakes:
- Cutting too short
- Drilling a pilot hole too deep – and through the show side.
- Snapping off a screw deep into a piece.
- Not pre-staining cherry to avoid blotchiness.
- Forgetting to get sandpaper / stain / hardware when you were at the store just yesterday, and now you have to drop everything and make another trip, wasting time.
- Glue squeeze-out that you forgot to clean up, has now hardened, and you’re having a hard time trying to scrape and sand away, because of access.
- That “3” your wrote too sloppy for a length to cut off that piece was actually an “8”, and now you’ve cut 5″ too short.
…and a million other little things.
The upshot here is to look for these little things that could cost you time, money and quality, but more importantly compromise your safety, and being proactive in avoiding them, making your shop experience more productive and safe.