Guarantee a longer career as a knifemaker following these simple steps! Be sure to stay tuned for Part 2!
There are two steps to having a long career as a knifemaker:
1. Learn to make knives
2. Live and stay healthy for a long time
Sounds pretty easy so far, right? Almost anyone can learn to make knives to one level of competency or another. You may then decide that you want to make knives for the rest of your life, whether it’s to pay the bills or just as a hobby.
The only other variable is the longevity of your life. Certain factors, such as smoking, being overweight and heredity, can affect how long we live. However, other factors, such as how careless or lazy we are willing to be, can shorten our lifespan. I’m talking about the decisions we make to take chances with our health and safety. These decisions can shorten our lives, or at least make the rest of our lives less pleasant.
Nearly every shop incident that results in an injury or a close call is due to a conscious decision that we made. Either we did something we shouldn’t have, or we didn’t do something that we should have.
Think back to your last shop incident and ask yourself what caused it to happen. Was it because you didn’t take the time to put on your safety glasses? Did you take a shortcut in the process to try to save a few seconds? When you honestly answer the question of what caused the injury, you can ask yourself: “What could I have done to have kept that from happening”? Keep thinking along these lines and you will discover a root cause for the incident.
Most often the cause of an accident is because you took a shortcut, didn’t wear your protective gear, or didn’t keep your head in the game. This article probably won’t tell a knifemaker anything that they don’t already know, and many may feel that they don’t need anyone telling them to be careful. But, we do need to be told—we all do. If this article reminds you to take the time to do things safely, then it’s ink well-spent.
As knifemakers, we nearly live in our shops; they are like a second home. While we enjoy the time spent there, we need to be mindful that there are many ways to get injured there, too. Injuries don’t have to be acute or immediate. Long-term health can suffer if you don’t make the effort now to control dust and fumes in your shop.
Here’s a partial list of potential shop hazards and their sources. If you think of others, please leave a comment and share with us!
Cuts: Cuts can come from most of the tools we use. The list is just too extensive.
Dust and fumes: Grinding, buffing, sawing, soldering, etching, welding, plasma cutting, drilling lubricants overheating, sandblasting, coal forge
Abrasions: Every tool that is designed to remove metal or wood will remove flesh even faster
Pinch points: Vises, clamps, prying, moving heavy objects, gaps between contact wheels and work rests, power hammer, manual hammer
Burns: hot metal, sparks, acid, torch flame, forge (coal or gas)
Shock: Starting/stopping electric motors with wet hands
Fatigue: Long, hot hours, eyestrain from precision work, physically demanding work, such as forging
Trips/slips: Extension cords, trash, dust or liquid on the floor
In Part 2 we will look at specific machines and how to properly handle them, so be sure to check back!
By Allen Strickland