Planning to prevent failures and problems


Mark Baker

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We often go to our workshops and pootle around without a clear plan of making something. As we know, our workshops are, at times, not only hives of activity, but also a place to get away from it all and chill out. Many will undertake projects on a whim and a fancy and this can be quite fun and liberating at times. But there are occasions when things, if not thought through fully, can have implications for safety.

I will relay one incident that occurred some time back where someone had made a bowl –well a wide rimmed bowl which wasn"t quite a platter – and decided to carve some detail on the rim section. The piece was duly indexed off, the carving was done safely with the cutter always working away from the body and rightly so the person concerned was chuffed to bits with the result. Having looked at it, that person then decided that they wanted to do something else to highlight the nicely carved detail. Various colouring and gilding techniques were mulled over, but all were rejected, but the desire to highlight the carved section was still strong. After further thinking on this matter over a cup of coffee it was decided that scorching the area with a blowtorch may well work.

They had a blow torch and decided to light the torch and gently scorch the top section to highlight the tops of the carved detail. The piece was indexed off, the torch was gently moved over the surface and lightly charred the surface. On inspection it was decided to go a little further and make the light scorching more pronounced and the torch was duly waved and moved and a heavily charred surface was created. Some areas glowed a nice orange colour and considerable smoke was generated from the process. The door was opened to allow the dispersal of such smoke and after inspection of it, the surface, it was decided, needed a brush over with a bronze brush to clean off the loose bits of carbon and so on before coating with a lacquer finish.

This was done with gusto and a coat or two of lacquer was sprayed on while the bowl was warm and still attached to the lathe. It was left to dry while the person left to make another cup of coffee.

On returning to the workshop some 30 minutes later, the person was confronted with a workshop full of smoke and a small but growing fire had started below the lathe in the shavings that were there. This of course needed putting out, but, and you may be ahead of me here, there was no extinguisher in the workshop and the water supply was some way off in the house. The person decided that the quickest course of action was to get a board and dampen the fire by laying the board over it and stamp on it. It had the desired effect of shutting down the flames but spread the glowing motes of burning sawdust for quite a wide area. Thankfully no further fires were created and quite quickly all the shavings and dust in the locality were quickly put in a metal bin there after, taken out of the workshop and doused with water.

So, beware of impromptu projects and make sure you think things through properly, take sensible precautions to minimise the risk of something going wrong and deal with hazards appropriately. Fire extinguishers, and if you can, a fire blanket, are a must in the workshop even if you don’t use a blowtorch in the workshop.

Suffice to say that person feels somewhat chastened and very lucky that it wasn"t a much worse incident with potentially catastrophic consequences. They never use a flame in the workshop anymore and scorching is done out in the garden in a specially designed area on concrete.

Let us know of any other workshop mishaps that will serve as a salutary lesson and, in the mean time, have fun.

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