Few things are more exciting than getting a new power tool! After saving the money, doing the research and all the comparative shopping, finally receiving the box and calling it your own is a great feeling.
Machines: they will cut, they will drill, and they will flatten or chop almost anything. But you have to take care of them. Read and understand the owner’s manual, then keep it for later reference. Once a machine is set up, it still needs to be checked periodically for alignment, for bolts needing tightening, for lubrication and cleaning.
Learn to ‘tune’ each machine within its tolerances: band saw wheels need to run in the same plane, a drill press needs to raise and lower vertically square to its table, and a table saw blade must be ninety degrees square to its tabletop, with the front and rear of the blade running parallel to its miter slots. Books are a good source of information of this sort.
Before you load a motor with heavy use, allow it to build up to full force so it can do its job efficiently. New machines, especially, need to be allowed to run several minutes before heavy use a first time, to allow the brushes in the motor to ‘seat.’ Learn the sound of the motor on each machine, and pay attention to how it sounds under the load of an operation. If something’s wrong, you’ll often be able to hear or feel it from the machine before things go further a wry.
Don’t try to work any machine too fast. If a procedure takes excessive force, something is probably amiss such as: hardened wood or not enough chip clearance for a blade, or misalignment of essential parts. If you feel the work is overtaxing the machine, find a different way to do it, or approach the job in smaller steps.
Know ahead of time where your ‘panic button’ is. Practice holding the work- piece clear of the blade, then turning the machine on and off. Before you begin, know where that off-switch is, and know how you are going to get to it. There are after-market aids to make off-buttons accessible by your knee rather than fumbling for it by hand.
Always unplug a machine when handling or changing blades. Not only can bumping a switch give you a nasty surprise, but faulty switches (even the ‘safer’ magnetic switches) have been known to connect and come on with a sudden blow to a tabletop, such as a dropped tool or piece of wood. If there is a power outage, unplug each machine individually and leave the lights on to tell you when the power has been restored.
Keep your machines clean. Vacuum the dust out of motor vents, off belts, switches, pulleys and inside router collets. Keep band saw tires clean with a toothbrush and isopropyl alcohol, turning the wheels by hand. If you have a rack and pinion height adjustment, be sure its teeth and gears are kept free of sawdust buildup.
As a rule, see that your work piece is securely clamped in place or guided as it passes a blade. Never cut freehand on a table saw; stabilize the work piece against a fence or miter gauge, but don’t use the two together because that may bind the work piece against the blade and cause a nasty kickback or jamming of the blade. A panel-cutting sled riding in the miter slot is the safest way to do cross-cuts.
With hand held power tools, before you begin, plan how the electrical cord will pass freely as you complete the operation, and if your cord is of adequate length (this is one great advantage of battery-operated tools.) Be certain a cord isn’t going to snag on something unnecessarily or coil around your feet.
The best advice on new machinery is, educate yourself, and practice before you begin the work. Woodworking is wonderful hobby, but you are responsible for your own safety.
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