Introduction: Guillotine Safety Guard


Safety is something that we take very seriously in our Makerspace. We are a mixed group, with kids and learners always around. We believe that best practice not only keeps everyone safe now, it encourages people to stay safe in the future!
So, as a director, when I saw makers using a guillotine with a broken safety guard, I took action. The safety guards of such guillotines can be vulnerable to breakage, because they extend so far from the base, and this one had been snapped off somewhere along the way. The guillotine in its existing state wasn't dangerous so long as it was used correctly - one hand on the handle, the other clamping the material - but a new guard ensures the safety of any inexperienced user, curious child, or other user of the space.

While you probably won't have a guillotine that needs a new guard - though who knows? - this is more about resourceful repairing.

Step 1: Find Suitable Guard Material

Like many of our makerspace projects, this projecut utilises what we have to hand rather than going out and buying something. If you have a similar project I encourage you to look round and see what you can use before going out and buying something. It is greener, cheaper and encourages resourcefulness.

In the end, I opted to upcycle a piece of foamalux PVC to make my guard. We have quite a bit of it around as we get second-hand acrylic from our local Scrapstore for people to use in the laser cutter. This is typically old signage or offcuts from signmakers, and while most of it is acrylic (great for lasering!), some is foamalux (PVC and definitely not suitable for lasering). The Scrapstore is a wonderful place that does a great job redistributing business waste materials to organisations like ourselves who can make good use of it. If you have one nearby I certainly recommend them!

Step 2: Measure and Mark Up the New Guard

The guillotine guard needs to protect fingers from being chopped off. Taking this into account, we need to have full protection along the entire arc that the cutting blade travels:

  • The scrap material was located firmly on top of the broken guard, slid forward to the beginning of the blade. The blade was closed and a mark made along the top of the closed blade, highlighting the cutting area.
  • The blade was then opened and using a pencil at the rear of the handle the arc was transcribed onto the new protector.
  • Once the arc has been transcribed and checked (please always double check!), the arc was closed using a ruler from the top of the arc to the rear of the blade.

Step 3: Cut the Material to Shape and Test Out

So the process of cutting the material was quite straightforward. However, there was a number of tweaks that had to be made to get the guillotine to work correctly:

  • Using a sharp Stanley (craft knife) cut the straight edge using a metal ruler. Take your time and do multiple cuts, with each cut going a little deeper. Remember that it is easy to find new material but impossible to regrow fingers.
  • I used a free hand cutting method where I followed the arc line that was drawn in the previous step. Use multiple small and delicate cuts. If you make a mistake you can correct it in the next step.
  • Now that your guard is cut slot it into the machine and operate the blade. If required shave off small portions to get it to operate correctly. Take your time, cut away from your hands, body and face. If required put something between you and the blade in case you make a mistake.

Point to note: I cut myself opening the craft knife packet. My blade went through the bottom material and into my hand. I was being safe and following my rules, but I didn't realise that I had become too tired, this led to a drop in concentration.

Step 4: Fix the Guard and Use

When fixing the guard we considered if it would have to be removed and a new one fitted at some point in the future. We quickly decided that we would ensure that we could do so.

Looking in our trusty adhesives container we found our doubles sides flooring tape, that is designed to keep high end floors stuck down for 25 years. It will be a secure, but removable, solution

So we cut a strip off and offered it to the old and new guard. Our guillotine is safe again!

Safety Challenge

Participated in the
Safety Challenge