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Safety Tip: The Dangers of Blade Spin Down

Everyone loves a well-tuned and super-smooth running shop tool. A woodworker recently wrote to us with the observation that his smooth running bandsaw made it difficult for him to tell when the blade had completely stopped after he turned off the saw. Some may construe this as a good problem to have; a bandsaw purring so quietly that you cannot tell if the wheels are spinning or not. But a blade on a tool whose power is turned off, but spinning is still quite dangerous. An unsuspecting spinning blade can cut items you inadvertently place into the blade, or worst cut your flesh as you unknowingly put your hand into the path of blade still moving.

To lessen the chance of this happening, first and foremost, you want to provide the conditions that let you see the blade as clearly as possible at all times. Be sure your shop is well illuminated. Besides adequate overhead lights, consider specific task lighting to light up where the blade meets the cut line. Not only will this let you see a spinning blade easier, you'll probably get more accurate cuts as well. If telling the difference between an at rest blade versus a moving blade is really difficult for you, you may want to see a vision specialist. If you need magnification to correct your vision, safety glasses are available with different levels of magnification .

Keep in mind the hearing protection you wear in the shop. If you are not hearing the tool noises made once a tool is turned off, but still spinning down, your hearing protection may be masking sounds being made as the blade spins down. Pull open the protectors from your ears for a moment and listen for the sounds of wheels turning. If you think your hearing may be impaired, get it checked. Getting hearing assistance could help you better detect subtle machinery noises in the shop and probably improve your marriage.

Feel the Force. Be aware of the vibration made from your machinery. This is easier to do on a wooden joist floor than a concrete slab, but normally the wheels turning on a bandsaw create vibration that can be felt through your feet, while the noise from the motor and blade running through the blade guides can be often be felt in your chest. If you turned the power off to the saw, the blade will eventually stop as those pesky laws of motion suggest. Patience you will learn, if you let the saw completely stop before going on to the next task.

Some bandsaws give you features to help determine the blade is not spinning. There are models that sport a clear access window into the wheel housing that lets you see if the wheel it turning. Other models will have a brake pedal for stopping the lower wheel. The pedal is a time saving device to lessen the time it takes for the blade to spin down. If you are a professional shop where time is money or you're just generally a bit impatient, this could be a very useful feature, and is one that you can find on the Rikon 14 inch Professional Bandsaw .

So when should you reach in to put your hand near or on the blade? Use the three monkey method: Hear no movement, feel no movement and see no movement. If all three conditions are met and you can tell for certain the blade is not moving (and the tool cannot be powered on by accident), then it is safe to touch the blade.

Ed Scent

Highland Woodworking

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