Canadian Woodworking
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Dangerous woodworking videos?

Blog by Rob Brown

Since I’ve been spending more time on Instagram lately, I’ve noticed that I’m wincing at a lot more videos than I had anticipated.

They usually include scenes involving a table saw, but sometimes a mitre saw, jointer or other power tool commonly found in a woodworking shop.

To be clear, I’m not saying the operations the creators are showing are inherently dangerous. I’m just saying they look dangerous. This is usually because the videos are sped up about five times, maybe even up to 10 times, and they’re edited to remove some of the dull moments when nothing is happening. When this happens, people’s hands and arms are whizzing around looking wild and uncontrolled, and almost always within a few inches of a rotating blade.

One thing I tell my students is to always move slightly slower than they normally would when operating something like a table saw. Rather than quickly reaching for an offcut or moving a workpiece, take a bit of extra time to move slowly and deliberately so your mind has time to catch up to your hands as they reach, grab, move and lift while a machine is on. Watching videos set to a high playback speed, especially when they’re edited to remove the waiting between some operations, only makes me think someone is going to lop off a finger.

My videos, too

A few videos I’ve made over the past few weeks had me worried I’d cut my fingers off and somehow didn’t notice. I didn’t do it on purpose, but that was what the videos left me thinking after watching them after they were edited.

Even though these sorts of videos make me nervous, creating videos that move more slowly won’t attract many views on social media sites. Sure, some woodworkers may want to watch a 15-minute video on how to cut a mortise and tenon joint, but these videos serve a different purpose.

The high-speed videos I’m talking about are more for entertainment and inspiration than the longer, more detailed instructional videos. Instagram is for entertainment and fun, whereas the instructional videos we’ve produced for our website are very much on the slow and detailed side of the spectrum so viewers can become better woodworkers.

Looks can be deceiving

Maybe I have a sick mind, but watching all of these videos got me thinking about trying to make videos that look dangerous when they’re sped up 10x, but are actually not at all dangerous when played back at regular speed and are unedited. It’s not that I want to scare anyone, but rather show viewers that looks can be deceiving. Just as not every video that’s been sped up and edited is dangerous, not every video that’s on the internet playing at normal speed is safe. It’s up to all of us to make up our own minds. A good rule of thumb would be to not do something that we’ve seen on the internet if we think it might be unsafe. Basically, think for yourself, be aware of good practices and learn how to operate machinery, power tools and hand tools from a trusted source so you don’t injure yourself.

Still Looks Dangerous

This is a video I shot of me working on my table saw, making some crosscuts. I did everything safe; waited until the blade stopped running to remove the offcuts, unplugged the saw before checking the blade, I kept my hands well away from the spinning blade, etc. It still looks quite dangerous.

Published:
Last modified: November 9, 2023

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

7 Comments

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  2. Rob, woodworking safety for me has its roots three generations ago. When my father saw my workshop, he said “Don’t end up looking like Albert”. Albert was my maternal grandfather who was missing two middle fingers on his right hand due to a woodworking accident about 1920. He still made some beautiful furniture which we treasure. I remember him every time I start a project.

  3. Great subject as many videos do show what looks like unsafe cutting. I like your slow down and think while reaching for your cut offs.

  4. Hi Rod,

    Thanks for your message. I’m certainly not going to say you’re wrong. I think we could show even safer operations in print and online. Having said that, I have honestly got more mail about readers not being able to see the operation because of guards / etc, than I have about us not showing guards /etc. Readers usually want to see what’s going on.

    I also just went through a bunch of back issues from a few other popular woodworking magazines and not one of them showed a guard in use, even though there are dozens of images showing operations on the table saw.

    I’m not trying to play my “get out of jail free card” here. It’s something we’ve talked about before. The conversation often includes “where do we stop?” Do we include a guard on every single tables in use? Do we only allow flesh sensing saws to be pictured in our pages / videos, as they could easily be called safer?

    Then there’s the practical side. To shoot this video I went into the shop and took a small dado stack off, added a crosscut blade, and shot a few minutes worth of video. I think a riving knife can be a good safety device, but it’s not going to do much while cross-cutting 2” wide stock. The stock literally would have never reached the riving knife, so no safety increases there. But then again, maybe we should have used textbook best practices just to prove a point and be very much on the safe side of things.

    These decisions are never as easy as they seem. What I was trying to point out to viewers with my video is that things can sometimes look a lot different than they really are, and to use common sense when working in the shop. Move deliberately, think clearly, be smart.

    We won’t please everyone. On the other hand, maybe we should pay even more attention to safety details we show in our pages / videos.

    Sorry for the stream of consciousness reply, without re-reading what I’ve typed. It’s late and I should get to sleep because I have a busy weekend starting early tomorrow.

    Thanks for your message, Rod.

  5. I see your point on the speed of videos, but that’s the least of the issues I’ve seen, lately. I just watched a video by Jimmy Diresta a few weeks back and was floored by some of what I saw. To be clear, I like his videos, and think he is an amazing woodworker who has a great deal of skill. However, he showed techniques such as cutting a curve freehand, which are not safe. He did use a SawStop, but that doesn’t save you from kickback.

    His message was things people say aren’t safe can be if you are comfortable with your skill. This video was really surprising to me as he cut his finger off about a decade ago performing a rather routine cut on his table saw. I could only shake my head at how he seems to have forgot that being comfortable doesn’t mean safe.

  6. Well Rob, the fact that you’re showing a saw in operation without a guard and splitter/riving knife is just plain poor instructional technique.

    Experienced people making videos, in my opinion have an obligation to show safe work practices, guards, a riving knife and a deflector wedge to move cut pieces away from the blade would have been a good approach.

    I also don’t like the sped up videos, however that’s just personal preference.

    Regards, Rod

  7. Well done Rob, just shortly after reading your last post on tool safety I visited a retired carpenter who had just put bandage on his finger. He was making repetitive cuts on his bandsaw and having had a busy day allowed his mind to wander he reached in to remove an offcut piece near the blade and got a reminder of why you need presence of mind always .

  8. We all do stupid moves in our trade, I am an electrician and thinking of a few jobs I did I still wonder why I am still alive. Happy to be a teacher at our community college now and I do enforce safe work and double think of anything you do while working. Accidents happen way too fast! I am very happy you put this article on. Love working with wood and readying the Canadian Woodworking articles.

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