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You are encouraged to add to this article.  Safety is a frame of mind and a set of habits.

Safety is important in all areas of pen making.  Using power tools on the small pieces of material as we do, Our hands are close to spinning parts and cutting blades.



No claims are expressed or implied regarding the safety, usefulness, or accuracy of information on this web site.

About Your Safety

Like any type of woodworking or workshop activity, there are dangers inherent in pen making. Use common sense in the shop! Understand everything you’re working with including raw materials, chemicals, hand tools, and machinery. Keep a fire extinguisher and a telephone near your work area.

  • Protect your eyes, ears, and lungs with appropriate safety gear.
  • Don’t work when you’re tired or under the influence of anything that dulls your senses and slows your reactions. Keep your shop as clean and organized as possible to minimize tripping hazards and the danger of fire.
  • Using hand or power tools incorrectly or ignoring safety practices can lead to serious injury. Make sure that your woodworking tools and equipment are properly assembled, adjusted, and maintained, and that you are thoroughly familiar with their operation. All guards and safety devices should be in place and functioning, and never attempt any operation unless you are confident that you can perform it safely.
  • When working with and on power tools, STAY FOCUSED!  Distractions can contribute to injuries.
  • Some adhesives, solvents, and finishes contain chemicals which may cause short-term allergic reactions and long-term health problems. Many of these compounds are also extremely flammable. Pay close attention to the manufacturer’s warnings regarding exposure and ventilation.
  • Exposure to fine sanding dust can cause a variety of health issues. Accumulation of particulates in the lungs and sinuses, and irritation from natural and applied chemicals, mold, and fungi in the wood can cause problems ranging from a runny nose to serious disease. Some woods, such as Cocobolo, Red Cedar, and Teak can produce severe allergic reactions in some people from inhalation of sanding dust or skin contact.

Enjoy working in your shop, but make health and safety your first priority so you can continue to enjoy this activity for a long time.

General Safety

You should have a fire extinguisher, telephone, and first aid kit hung in a highly visible spot in your shop!  Next to the door is a good idea.

The sharper your tools, the easier they cut which means they require less force. When we don't have to force the tools, they're easier to control.

Hence, sharp tools are safer to use.

Tool Safety

Never wear gloves when working with any spinning power tool.  Your glove can become snagged and pull you into the spinning part before you realize it!  Even latex gloves can pull your hand into a spinning bit.

Cutting blades

Penturners work with very small pieces of material.  A clamp to hold pieces and keep your fingers away from spinning saw blades is a good investment.  A clamp can be replaced, but your finger will never be the same.  A saw sled is a good investment of time and effort.  There are several in the IAP Library 

Lathe Safety

  • Remove any jewelry, loose clothing, or hair that may become entangled in the lathe.
  • Cloth rag or paper towel should never be wrapped in any part of your body.
  • A spinning chuck that catches your finger can do serious damage before you realize it!

Lathe tools

Lathe tools are razor sharp, and can cut you without your realizing it!  Always lay the lathe tool down if you need to do something else with your hands.

Dust Collection


Eye Protection

Protect your eyes!  You only get two and they are not replaceable.  Safety glasses, goggles or a face shield should be mandatory.  Face Shields are rated according to impact resistance.  Z87 is the lower standard.  Z87.1 or Z87+ is  rated for about 8 times the impact resistance of the lower face shield.

Hearing Protection

Hearing protection is important with some tools.  Hearing damage is cumulative and irreversible!  Dust collectors and shop vacs are loud enough to do permanent damage to your hearing.  Table saws and bands saws also warrant hearing protection.

Material Concerns

Many of the materials, finishes, glues, and chemicals have specific hazards.  Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available for many materials and products.  These are usually found on the manufacturer's web site in Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF) format.

Wood Sensitivity and Dust Collection

Everyone's lungs are subject to damage breathing fine sawdust or dust from sanding your pen barrels some woods are worse than others but you should use at lease a face mask and much better a respirator or filtration equipped full face mask.  This would be especially true for those who smoke or have other risks to their lung function.  Dust is damaging to your lungs and the effect is cumulative and irreversible.  Sensitivity to various woods and Super Glue (CA) develops over time and will damage your long term health! 

Sensitivity to Finishes

Glue Hazards and Sensitivity

CA glue fumes can cause adverse reactions and these become worst with repeated exposure.  Ventilation is important when working with CA.  Use a Dust collector or fan to remove the fumes from the immediate area.

  • Cyanoacrylate (CA) is combustible. Store in a cool, dry, well ventilated area away from heat sources. Optimal storage temperature is between 40 degrees and 80 degrees F or between 5 and 25 degrees C.
  • A chemical reaction occurs when CA comes in contact with water or alkaline substances. This causes the glue to heat rapidly and can result in burns to the skin if precautions aren't taken.
  • Individuals displaying symptoms of respiratory or eye irritation should leave the gluing area to a place with fresh air until the symptoms pass.  If the symptoms are severe, medical assistance may be needed including 911 or other emergency service.

Fire Hazards

Many items we use are flammable.  Most finishes are petroleum solvent based.

Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) releases heat as it hardens or cures.  It can start a fire if oil soaked rags are not properly disposed of.  Use an air tight container and if the rags are not to be used further, dispose of in a water filled metal bucket.

Paint thinner, Denatured Alcohol, and Acetone among others are flammable.

Chemical Hazards

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