Drill Press Safety ( Lesson Cost Six Stiches)





Introduction: Drill Press Safety ( Lesson Cost Six Stiches)

Any accident, mistake, or blunder is a learning opportunity.  The following incident is no exception.


I was making an oak cabinet which included some nice brass hinges, but the screw holes in the hinges were not large enough. No problem, I could just ream out the holes on my drill press. I chucked the drill bit.  I paused, realizing that a power drill can be dangerous, the bit can catch in the workpiece and cause it to spin; it can become a very dangerous spinning blade. Since I didn’t want that, I got out my vise grips and held the hinge tightly in one hand as I operated the drill press with the other.  It did not spin, that’s for sure. The helix of the bit caught in the hole and slammed the hinge and my hand almost instantly up into the chuck. In a fraction of a second the sharp edges of the spinning chuck did the inevitable damage to my thumb and forefinger.  A trip to the emergency room and six stitches later, I had definitely learned another lesson. Like clamp the workpiece down and get my hands out of the way!



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    Six stitches is a cheap lesson. Only my compulsive wearing of safety glasses saved my one good eye some years back.

    I think people get bit by this because they think the danger comes from the size of the workpiece, which is small and easily controlled and not the power of the drill motor, transmission and leverage. They should reflect that a bullet is much smaller and has less mass than the gun and propellent that fire it.

    Once any work piece becomes engaged by the drill press the full energy of the press's rotation, including angular momentum, can be transferred to and concentrated in the workpiece turning it a whirling blade or projectile. Like a bullet the workpiece now that packs most of the energy imparted to it by the drill press but concentrated in a very small area.

    That means our intuition is backwards. We intuit that the smaller the workpiece the safer it is and the less clamping and securing it means, the opposite is true. The small the workpiece the more it needs to be nailed down.

    Excellently put - and point taken!

    Thanks for the words of wisdom.

    I also have just one good eye left, so this is serious stuff.


    Thanks - I've always done what you did first time around, from now on I'll heed your advice!

    two words: LEATHER GLOVES!!!! Do not EVER operate a power tool like this or others without them. And forget those "mechanix"-style gloves, they'll snag and suck your fingers and hand in faster than bare hands. Nitrile gloves are okay for automotive work, but not great with power tools. only proper cowhide/pigskin/goat hide/deerskin will provide enough protection to save your hands and fingers.

    Thanks; I'm sure you saw my bare hands in the photo.
    I have two pair of leather gloves, will put one by my drill press.
    Appreciate your comment.

    I've always heard one should NEVER wear gloves near any rotating equipment. In this case, they would have saved you from 6 stitches.

    If they someday snag on a bit, especially a 1/4 inch or bigger, they tightly wrap your gloved finger and arm around the chuck until the bit breaks. Sometimes that means breaking every bone in your arm. Gloves save you from a lot of little nicks and cuts around the shop, but they cause amputations, too.

    I would recomend that you continue operating without gloves. Most valuable lesson i've learnt over the years while using various types of machinery is to not wear gloves or long and loose armsleeves. Especially rotating machinery. I've been unfortunate enough to witness what happens when you get caught by the glove or sleeve, and it is not pretty

    Thanks; I understand how things can get caught and cause a problem. In my shall shop I have a belt sander, and have to reach over it to turn on a vacuum. Last month I turned to sander on FIRST then reached over to turn on the vacuum. My loose shirt got caught in the sander, not causing an injury, but keeping me pinned there until I could find tools to take the sander apart!

    This is a perfect example of what can happen with loose clothing around machines. thankfully you escaped unharmed. Imagine same scenario with a much higher torque machine for example a lathe, drill press or planer which wont seize up or jam, but rather pull you in. As far as gloves go i understand Why one would want to wear them to avoid cuts and splinters, but id rather have cuts on my hands than torn limbs. This may sound overly dramatic but its very much possible with high torque equipment. Hopefully someone reads this and save themselves a trip to the ER.

    I wish all safe D.I.Y