A Power Tool Safety Lesson From Alexander the Great

While the popularity of a manly beard has waxed and waned throughout history, there will always be those who buck whatever the current fashion trends happen to be, in favor of thick and lengthy facial hair. When it comes to working with power tools, proper technique and taking proper precautions can mean the difference between successfully completing a project, or disastrous physical injury.

Although power tools as we know them were not around during the reign of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.), we are certain that if they were, he would have known how to skillfully incorporate them into his conquests and empire building operations! During a time in history when beards signified wisdom and sophistication, most Macedonian men grew their beards as long, and as full, and as thick as they possibly could. Alexander, however, realized that beards were dangerous in battle, since a beard could give one’s enemy something to grab onto during hand-to-hand combat.

While operating power tools does not have quite the same intensity as hand to hand combat, improper use could be just as deadly. Whether you are ripping large boards with a table saw, or making small cuts with a circular saw, keep the following safety precautions in mind:

Start by reading the manual. Be sure that you fully understand each tool, and every function of each tool before you begin.

Wear appropriate gear. Gear will vary slightly, depending on which power tool you are using. Ear protection and safety goggles are always a wise choice. If your power tool of choice is a chainsaw, cut-resistant chaps, and non-slip boots are always a wise investment.

Be cautious about sleeves, loose-fitting clothing, jewelry, and hair. If you have long hair, tie it back with an elastic band. Wearing a long beard? Remember Alexander the Great. You don’t necessarily have to shave, but just like he didn’t want to give his enemy a hand hold, you certainly don’t want any of your saws, jigs, or drills to catch your beard during operation. Tuck long facial hair into your shirt to avoid catastrophe.

And finally, take your time. Woodworking should be an enjoyable experience. Many power tool disasters can be avoided by not rushing. Using a circular saw? Take time to set up your equipment properly, so that you’re cutting a board on a stable surface, not propped between your knees. Using a nail gun? Set your gun so that you actually have to pull the trigger. Sure, it may take a little extra time, but this extra step could save you from a dangerous accidental misfire, should your gun bump against a hard surface or drop unexpectedly.