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Woodworking With Scouts

General Shop Safety
Woodworking is fun and can be a very safe activity with a little common sense. Having said that, fingers will get hit with hammers, toes will have things dropped on them, and sawdust just might get in your eyes. So have a good first aid kit available. In addition:

  • Wear clothing that is easy to move around in but not overly loose. Short sleeves are better than long sleeves. Have you scouts take off their neckerchiefs and the dads take off the ties. Finally, necklaces, watches, and rings should be removed if at all possible.
  • Wear tennis shoes or boots in the shop. Flip flops and bare feet just don't make the safety grade.
  • A shop apron is not required, but parents will appreciate it during the painting and staining stage. When staining, make sure everyone wears disposable gloves. Stain does tend to stain things.
  • Finally, no one uses a power tool in my shop without hearing protection. Also, no one uses a lathe or other tool that throws wood chips without eye protection. It works for me, and you must enforce both rules by setting the example.

For Cubs, make sure a parent is standing beside their scout at all times helping with the project. This cuts down on the horse play which is a serious safety hazard. Webelos and Scouts can be trusted to behave in the shop, but anyone under 16 must be supervised by a trained adult.

Please, if you don't know how to use a tool safely, get trained before you injure yourself or one of the scouts.

Who Can Use Power Tools?
According to the guide for safe scouting, Tigers, Cubs, and Webelos should NOT use power tools. Think about it, safely using power tools requires dexterity, strength, weight, and patience - none of which these kids have. Every woodworking requirement for this age group can be accomplished with hand tools. You can precut the pieces for them as needed.

Boy Scouts can use most power tools safely - with training and supervision. Scouting does not let the boys shoot rifles without training, and power tools can be just as dangerous. The next section gives guidance for typical tools a Scout would use.

Power Tool Safety
Hand Held Power Tools: (age 10+) Hand held Drills and palm sanders make up this set, and can generally be used safely. Biscuit joiners and circular saws are safe tools for older scouts (15+). This age restriction has to do with the strength needed to use the tools.

Drill Press: (age 10+) A drill press is one of the safer tools a scout can use as long as the work piece being drilled into is clamped to the drill press table. Most scouts do not have the strength to hold down a piece that is not clamped, and it will tend to spin if the drill bit binds causing injury.

Scroll Saw: (age 10+) Scroll saws are one of the safer cutting tools, and it is the first one I let my kids use. Even if a finger comes in contact with the blade, the damage won't be as extensive as with other cutting tools. Draw a 2 inch red circle around the blade and tell the scouts not to let their fingers cross into the circle. If the work piece is too small to cut without putting their fingers into the circle, then it's too small to cut.

Band Saw: (age 12+) Band saws are more dangerous than scroll saws, but are generally safer for a scout to use than a table saw. Because of the way a band saw cuts, there is a very small chance the work piece will be thrown forcibly from the saw (this is called kickback). Most cutting done on a table saw can also be done on a band saw. Like the scroll saw, use the 2 inch red circle as a safety reminder. Also, wooden or plastic push sticks should be used to move the work piece close to the blade. A band saw will take off a finger very quickly.

Miter and Radial Arm Saws: (age 14+) These saws are usually safe to use as long as the work piece is clamped correctly. I don't let younger scouts use them because they take some strength and size to use correctly. Also, don't let scouts “rip cut” on a radial arm saw. Let the adults do this if needed.

Table Saw: (age 14+) When they're ready, scouts can have a lot of fun with a table saw, but it can be a dangerous machine if used incorrectly. Like any tool, it must be set up correctly. It's very important on a table saw to prevent kickback. Use the blade guards and anti-kickback devices that come with the saw and make sure the fence is parallel to the blade. Finally, always use a push stick to move the work piece when ripping.

Lathe, Joiner, Planer: (age 16+) These tools, especially the lathe, take a good bit of arm strength and weight to use correctly. They can also be very dangerous. I've seen more fingers lost to jointers and planers than any other tool. Leave these for the older scouts.

Router: (age 16+) I love routers because they are so versatile. However, a router takes a lot of concentration and strength to use, so they are not tools for a beginner or young scout. Most accidents with inexperienced woodworkers involve using routers. It's safest to mount the router in a router table and have the scouts use it like a shaper. It's just safer. If the scout needs to route something by hand, like a sign, then make sure the work piece is on a nonskid mat and clamped down.

by Mike Russell
Other great tips, can be found at www.scouts.caincreek.com.


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