I was upset to read about the student that lost parts of two fingers to a jointer accident. Shop accidents are horrible enough when they happen to pros, and even worse when they happen to someone who hasn't had a chance to start their career yet. So let's go over some jointer safety tips for new shop users.
A jointer is a powerful machine with a vicious bite and it must be respected. What you want with a jointer is to reduce the chance of surprises, and to anticipate what will happen if something goes wrong.
First off is attire. In the original article about the student who had the accident, it seems she was wearing a coat. Some of you may disagree with me, but I think you should never wear long-sleeved anything when using a jointer. Even with the sleeves rolled up, as sleeves have a way of unrolling themselves at inopportune moments. That spinning blade can catch a loose sleeve and pull your hand in and then it's game over. I don't care how cold it is in the shop; you can get over catching a cold, but getting over the loss of fingers is a great deal harder.
Secondly, if you have long hair you should of course tie it up.
Safety glasses are a must! Always have a pair handy, and remember that the few seconds it takes to put them on are a lot shorter than it takes to learn to read braille.
The Wood Itself
Check for Cup
You should ensure that if your board is cupped, you are feeding it with the cupped side down, to avoid the board rocking.
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Check the Grain
Another basic tip that I think is often overlooked these days is that you should learn to read the grain of a board and ensure you're cutting with the grain, not against it. This is visualized here in this vintage 1950s shop safety display. Cutting with the grain will prevent tear-out and ensure you can feed the board smoothly.
Check for Knots
Old shop hands might be able to look at a knot and estimate if it will be a problem or not, but I tend to think of them all as little bombs embedded in the wood. If I had to flatten a board that had a big, nasty knot in the middle of it, I'd find a way to work around it. When a blade spinning at high speeds hits that unyielding end grain, you have, right beneath your hands, a smaller version of the unstoppable force and the immovable object.
Which leads me to the next point, never try jointing or planing end grain with a machine.
This video on jointing edges is by the Woodworkers Guild of America. While it appears a bit dated, the principles are still valid:
This video by Tommy Mac shows the proper technique for jointing faces, and also demonstrates the usage of an excellent shop safety tool, the MicroJig Grr-Rip Block:
You can pick up a pair of Grr-Rip Blocks for about $60. I dig the drop-down feet that MicroJig has designed, as it allows you to use one for both downward pressure and feeding. If you're on a budget you can build something similar yourself out of wood, though I think you should take the time to add some kind of anti-slip surface to the undersides, and you'll of course have to make separate ones for downward pressure and feeding.
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If any of you have any jointer safety tips I've missed, or if you've created safety devices of your own, please tell us about them in the comments.