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Archive for May, 2014

It’s been too long since I posted anything and I apologize for my absence. We have been very busy this Spring and I have a few insights from the people we met at events.

A sharp tool is a safer tool. Many have heard and repeated this phrase in one form or another. What I have written here is the accurate version. The difference, that makes these words true or untrue is whether the letter “r” is used at the end of s-a-f-e. A sharp tool is easier (not easy) to control as it requires less force to make it work. Herein is the key; control.
An sharp tool is not a safe tool. A sharp tool is more efficient, accurate, and satisfying to use than a dull tool. Again, it is also safer. In particular, I have in mind a drawknife with regard to safety, but any tool with an unguarded cutting edge (chisels and carving tools, saws, chopping tools etc.) should be thought of in these terms. The drawknife is about as potentially dangerous as any tool in the kit. It is used by pulling it toward your torso with no protection other than the limited range of motion as one set of muscles transfers movement to another. I’m sure someone could restrain this tool with some sort of halter or perhaps a dowel sticking out of the work holder, but this is only a part of the problem.
Those of us who are blessed with an un-erring and unperturbed ability to focus on the task at hand and to be fully aware of our surroundings don’t have the problems that come from not having these personal traits. I, for one, am a little high-strung, creatively vigorous, and just plain careless. These traits are both a part of my nature and a result of being self-taught and somewhat undisciplined. Therefore, tools are not just dangerous when they are being used, but also when they are being picked up and put down. And while this danger is to myself for the most part, account must be given for the presence of others as co-workers or spectators. For instance, after finishing a particular activity, I have seen a tool swung away from the work only to wallop a by-stander who was too close or in a “blind spot” with regard to the worker; this is often the case when allowing children to make use of tools during a public demonstration/event. Siblings and other peers who are anxious to have a go will often crowd in, waiting for their turn. Then there is the transfer of control of the tool from one to another, which can be a very dodgy time. I, and those who demonstrate with me, both give and receive the tool (a spoke shave in the case of children and other accomplices of un-known skill). With each exchange we are also able to reiterate the instructions for using the tool.
In any case, accidents happen. This brings us to yet another aspect of safety; minimizing consequent damage. A quick, clean slice is the best sort of wound to suffer. It is the intent of a good surgeon to make such incisions as part of their work. Such a cut causes minimum damage and heals more readily without scarring than a slashing swipe from a blunt or jagged edge.
Again, with more force/strength needed to make a dull tool work, less control results. The material being worked may suddenly break apart at an unexpected moment, a point where too much effort is given to removing wood and there is no time to counteract for restraint once the wood “lets go”. Also, the longer one works with a dull tool, the more fatigue sets in and reduces the ability to concentrate and therefore to control.
So, develop safe and safer work habits, one of which should be to keep your tools sharp. Sharpening is another topic altogether.

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