Hand tools have become such a common part or our lives that at times, it may be hard to remember that they still can create safety hazards. While wood chisels benefit from centuries of use and advancements in impact tool manufacturing make these hand tools safer, oftentimes serious accidents can occur because steps are not taken to ensure wood chisel safety.
Wood chisels are wood-shaping tools used for removing sections of wood by hand: carving, cutting, joint creation, making mortises, cleaning grooves and accessing tight spaces. This tool has an angled or bevelled, sharp cutting edge at the end of a blade attached to a handle. Better quality wood chisel blades are made from laminated steel and come in many different types, but fall into two categories, short- and long- bladed chisels. Short bladed chisels, also known as butt chisels, generally have a blade that ranges from 2 and ½ inches to 3 inches long. This type of chisel is used when paring, carving or comparable work and can be used with a hard-faced hammer. For deeper wood cuts, use a chisel blade that is from 3 and ½ inches to 6 inches long. This type of chisel should only be used with soft-faced hammers.
Safety glasses and/or a face shield are vital to safety for woodworkers handling wood chisels. Another critical factor in adhering to wood chisel safety having the right tool for the right job. Using the wrong wood working tool can cause accidents and may not achieve the desired results. A dull blade can be difficult to control and require more strength to do the job. And a clean, dry floor surrounding the work area can help mitigate slip-and-fall accidents.
US Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cites that an improperly maintained wood chisel is an accident waiting to happen. Splintered or loose handles can cause personal injuries and don't allow for a good grip or adequate control of the blade. Staples, nails, screws or knots in your wood product may affect the flow of the tool upon the wood surface and may be the basis for the chisel to hang up, slip, or rip the wood in a manner not acceptable to the desired outcome of the project. Securing the wood stock allows for a proper application of the wood working tool upon the wood surface. Cutting away from your body ensures personal safety.
Use plastic or wooden mallets with a large striking head on your chisel as metal heads may damage your chisel. The only types of wood chisels that can withstand a steel hammer are heavy-duty or framing chisels. Use hand pressure when you make the finish or paring cuts---no hammers. If a chisel is bent, chipped, cracked, or shows excessive wear, replace it. Wood chisels are not for prying or wedging. They should never be used on metal. If your wood chisel has a mushroomed face or a chipped edge, redress it.
Never use a dull chisel---and do not use a grinder to sharpen a heat-treated wood chisel. A file or a whetstone must be used to sharpen your wood shaping tools. A storage roll made up of a cloth or plastic bag with pockets for each chisel is a safe way to keep your wood chisels stored in a drawer or tray of your work or tool chest. Use a protective plastic cover for the blade tip if you don't have a cloth or plastic bag. Splintered handles should be replaced immediately. Clean and sharpen your wood chisel after each use.
According to OSHA, the greatest hazards posed by hand tools such as wood chisels "result from misuse and improper maintenance of the tool." Because hand tools are powered by user strength and force, it is easy to forget that these tools can still cause accidents.
OSHA provides other warnings when working with chisels. For instance, OSHA warns against substituting a screwdriver as a chisel, as this may cause the screwdriver tip to break and fly causing an injury. A wooden or plastic handle that is loose, splintered or cracked, upon impact, may cause the blade of the wood chisel to fly off. Chisels that have mushroomed heads are unsafe. Upon impact, the head might shatter sending sharp fragments flying. Improperly storing wood chisels on a high shelf is not recommended as these wood working tools could fall and cause injuries.
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