Woodworking with Gloves: Am I Crazy?

By Scott Wunder | Posted: 05/30/2013 11:36PM

 

Scott Wunder Wunderwoods Before you answer that question, let’s discuss.

This photo was in a recent newsletter from Fine Woodworking. Notice the gloves?

Everything I read regarding safety in the shop says don’t wear gloves when operating machinery. Gloves can get caught in moving parts and suck you in. It makes sense. Don’t wear loose clothing, tie back your hair and don’t wear gloves. But, I am not one to just let things go unquestioned. Are gloves in the shop really that dangerous?

Scott Wunder, Fine Woodworking, glovesThis photo was in a recent newsletter from Fine Woodworking. Notice the gloves? These are the gloves that I currently wear from Home Depot.

I almost always wear gloves in the shop, even while operating machinery. They are tight-fitting cloth gloves with nitrile-dipped palms from Home Depot. I like them because they are inexpensive, fit great, aren’t too hot, and give me excellent grip. I especially like to wear them when I am using the jointer, but I find the grip to be helpful any time that I am pushing smooth-planed wood through a tool like the table saw.

I use the jointer (mine is 12″ wide) to flatten the wide face of all of my lumber before it goes through the thickness planer, leaving it flat and straight. On wider, longer and heavier boards it takes a lot of force to move them across the jointer. Often, I am really leaning into it and the gloves are the only way that I can get enough grip. I know push blocks are recommended, but they are slow and very cumbersome to use when you are faced with several days of jointing rough lumber.

Scott Wunder, nitrile glovesThese are the gloves that I currently wear from Home Depot. On the table saw and router table, the enemy is smooth wood. I constantly envision myself losing my grip and pushing my hand right into the action. Guards, of course, would help, but we all know that there isn’t one on my table saw and there probably isn’t one on yours either. On the router table it is easier to cover the cutter and be productive, but I still want a good grip, so that I don’t jam my hand into the bit. I think gloves are the answer.

So, why are gloves dangerous? They are dangerous because if you accidentally touch that table saw blade, instead of just getting cut, you will get cut, sucked in, and cut some more. To that, I say, “Well, don’t touch the blade.” I have been doing this a long time and I still get a little nervous when my hand is getting in the vicinity of the blade. I pay attention, think about what could go wrong and try to avoid it. I always picture myself at my college bakery job at 3 a.m. making donuts. I am tired, the floor is covered with grease, my knees are locked and I am leaning forward over a boiling vat of death. But, no matter how tired I was, I knew that if I lost my balance and fell forward, I was going to catch myself on the side of the fryer and not in the bottom of the hot oil. The thought of my hand frying like a donut goes a long way to making me focus and so does the idea of sticking my hand in the table saw. Gloves aren’t an issue if you keep your hands out of the saw.

Now that I have tempted fate and thrown it out to the universe, let’s say my hand does go into the proverbial “fryer." If I am wearing a glove, is my result guaranteed to be worse because of it? I have heard stories from friends of friends and distant acquaintances on the internet about how things were bad because of a glove. But, what about the times that an accident was averted because of gloves? It is certainly possible. Nobody is going to tell a story of how they didn’t put their hand in the saw because they had a firm grip and everything went smoothly. There is no gore there, no tale of doom to pass down from generation to generation.

I would only use these loose-fitting gloves for moving lumber. Not for work around tools.

Scott Wunder, cowhide glovesI would only use these loose-fitting gloves for moving lumber. Not for work around tools. With this in mind, I tried to be more scientific and find studies about gloves in the workplace. The one that I found to be the most relevant only asked questions of people who were injured on the job and whether they were wearing gloves or not. They really needed to ask glove wearers about specific times when the gloves either made their outcomes better or worse. But again, worse outcomes are going to get more airtime because you can’t identify when things went better or nothing went wrong.

For now, I am still wearing my gloves. They make me feel confident when I am close to the tools, and I think that goes a long way towards safety. In the meantime, I hope to find more scientific data and plan to do some tests by sticking gloves in the tools to see how things go. I just need to find some volunteers.

Let me know your thoughts and if you have any first-hand accounts.

From felling the trees through installation of the final piece Scott Wunder, owner of WunderWoods in St. Charles, MO, shares his woodworking knowledge with anyone that will talk to him about wood. Whether you want to learn about milling lumber or need help on a project, get your fill of woodworking infotainment at WunderWoods.com. Scott writes about all aspects of woodworking and specializes in finishing (mostly because no one else likes to sand).

Related Guest Blog: Woodworkers: Are You Wearing the Right Gloves?

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About the Author

Scott Wunder Wunderwoods

Scott Wunder

From felling the trees through installation of the final piece Scott Wunder, owner of WunderWoods in St. Charles, MO, shares his woodworking knowledge with anyone that will talk to him about wood. Whether you want to learn about milling lumber or need help on a project, get your fill of woodworking infotainment at WunderWoods.com. Scott writes about all aspects of woodworking and specializes in finishing (mostly because no one else likes to sand). Scott can be reached at wunderwoods@sbcglobal.net. Check out Wunderwoods' website at Wunderwoods.com.

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Trevor    
Canada  |  May, 31, 2013 at 08:10 AM

No gloves, if you are concerned about pushing your work through a saw or jointer consider a roll feeder. Skin, it's a wonderful thing, use it enough and it gets tougher and repairs itself'.

Jerry Finchj    
Wisconsin  |  May, 31, 2013 at 08:15 AM

Scott, I do not have a problem with you original premise, I also wear tight-fitting gloves in the shop sometimes, prmarily when cutting up rough stock or handling razor-edged melamine board. The only incident I know of where gloves were a culprit was a friend who was feeding stock into an edge bander wearing loose-fitting gloves. A glove got caught in the feed chain and pulled his hand through the trim saw, router and buffer. He lost 4 fingers. Your cavalier attitude towards having a guard on your table saw does give me pause. I have worked in the industry and taught wood product manufacturing for over 35 years and have witnessed numerous incidents where people were injured because they foolishly removed guards. I realize that the factory-suppied guard can sometimes be an annoyance, but there are other ways to guard the process. The time taken to provide proper guarding is more than offset by the lack of time spent in the hospital and recuperating. By the way, I DO have guards on my table saws, jointers, miter saw, etc. and I use them. You also dismiss push blocks as cumbersome. I ALWAYS use push blocks when face-jointing stock. Two of the worst incidents (notice that I don't say accidents, because they were preventable) happened to a individuals who were face-jointing stock with their hands flat on the boards. Their fingers went over the ends of the boards and into the knives. Even with gloves the ends of their fingers would still be gone. Properly made push blocks give greater control and keep your hands clear of danger. While your questioning of the absolute prohibition of gloves is fine, your overall safety sense is foolish. Jerry Finch

j Giannnuzzi    
Lorain, Ohio  |  June, 01, 2013 at 11:28 AM

I have been a machinist for over 25 years. I would never wear gloves I have witnessed more than a few people have their fingers ripped off. The one I most remember was a very good machinist was running a CNC mill and was doing some secondary work on a drill dress. Someone called out to him and distracted him for a second. that was all it took for the glove to catch in the drill press and he lost two fingers.

M Claypool    
Horseheads, New York  |  June, 05, 2013 at 10:24 PM

I also wear gloves at certain times while working in the shop. I usually wear tight-fitting Kevlar fabric gloves with gripping dots on the surface. I specifically wear them while chiseling, edge joining, tablesaw ripping, routing on the router table and sanding on the edge sander. These are all machines that require good manual control of the stock when feeding, and the gripping ability of these gloves give me that control while protecting my hands from sharp stock edges & splinters. I sometimes use a tight fitting leather rancher glove on the guiding hand while using a gripping glove on the gripping hand. I am always very aware of the cutterheads & blades and keep my hands well away from them. In my opinion, gloves add a level of safety & control when used correctly. From time to time, over the past 35 years, I have had minor hand injuries while working with wood. I have had two instances where large splinters along the edge of oak boards have gone all the way through my finger. I have had one instance where my push stick caught the table saw blade and jolted straight back into my palm tearing the skin. I have had parts ripped from my hand while sanding on the edge sander. I have had the chisel slip and cut my hand. In each case, I have learned a valuable lesson. And, in each case, a gloved hand would have given me more protection & more control. I believe in safety first, and sometimes, when used correctly, gloves can & should be part of the safety regimen.

 

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