This article was originally posted on the Little Good Pieces blog on September 15, 2010
”Sometimes stopping is more important than starting.”
After my wife’s adventure with the mower, we did an after-action analysis. This practice is a good idea after any sort of mishap to determine if anything can be changed to prevent a recurrence. She kept saying, “If I could have just stopped the blades…”.
<address> </address>I made the suggestion that she spend a little time sitting on the mower and quickly hitting the PTO button that stops the blades. This would help program that action into muscle memory. Then, if a similar situation occurred, the action would more likely be accurate and quick.
This is a great idea for the shop as well. Stationary power tools have no standards for cutoff switch location. Not many are as well placed and intuitive as the SawStop pictured above. The one thing they share is your need to be able to shut them off quickly in case of a problem.
Let me suggest that you spend some quality time with your machines. Place yourself in the various positions you normally assume during operations, and practice hitting the cutoff switch from there. Work with just one machine at a time, and practice the drill until the movements become automatic
Then, repeat this exercise with a different machine.
You may come to realize, as I did, that some machines need a different switch. Not all switches are as easy to reach and hit as my SawStop. My router table needs an aftermarket switchbox to replace its present homemade one, and my lathe needs something similar between the outlet and the control box. Both have off switches that are small and difficult to operate in a hurry. In the case of my lathe in the above-right picture, I need to position the cutoff switch on the tailstock end. As you can see, the control box is right below the headstock spindle – the one place you DON’T want your head if something goes wrong! There are aftermarket switches that can be used as replacements, or as add-on emergency cutoffs. The one I think I’m going to go with is sold by Rockler (http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=17401&filter=paddle%20switch). Please leave a comment if you know of a good alternative.
So, practice with your cutoff switches. True, this takes a little time, but when something goes wrong, there IS no time to think. You’ll be glad you took it now.
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-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog: http://littlegoodpieces.wordpress.com