General Safety and Conduct

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Using Stationary Machines



Machine tools are designed to be versatile, and each machine is capable of performing a variety of tasks. As a result, many of the stationary tools described here have overlapping functions. While there may be several tools capable of performing a specific task, some may do so more accurately or more safely than others. Therefore we require that certain cuts be made using only specific machines.

General Guidelines

The following guidelines apply to all stationary machines in the shop

Keep the area around any machine you are operating clear of debris and unnecessary tools and materials.

Secure and tighten all guards, fences, or other attachments before turning on the power of any machine. Any adjustments, oiling, or cleaning of machinery must be done while the machine is unplugged. Never remove guards or safety devices from any machine.

You must use a fence when using a stationary machine. Working without a fence is dangerous. Working with two fences can cause the work to bind between the fences and result in a kickback.

Carefully plan your course of action before turning on the machine you are operating. Stay with the machine you are operating until the work is clear and the blade is stopped. Do not walk away from a machine that is still running.

Only the machine's operator is permitted within the defined safety zone of any machine. Do not crowd or distract the operator of any machine.

Be attentive to the machine you are operating and aware of your surroundings at all times. Always know the location of your hands in relation to the cutting blade.

Never stand in line with the "throw" of any machine. If a saw breaks, if a machine becomes overloaded, if the stock is not held securely, or if a knot or large sliver becomes loose, these objects may be thrown out with terrific force.




Drill Press



The drill press is used for drilling holes in material, and is far more accurate than a hand drill. Although generally set for drilling 90 degree holes, the drill press table may be tilted for drilling holes at specific angles. As with other drills, the drill bit is held in place by a chuck, which has jaws that clamp around the bit. A chuck key is used to tighten the chuck securely around the bit. 


The drill press may be used on wood and plastic, and with the correct bit may be used on thin metals. Thicker metals cannot be drilled with a drill press, and require a vertical end mill. Always use a sharp drill bit which has been ground properly for the material to be cut.

Be sure the drill bit is centered in the chuck and tighten it securely using the chuck key. Chuck the drill bit on the solid shank, not on the cutting spirals. Remember to remove the chuck key.

Always secure the work to be drilled to the table. Small pieces require the use of a drill vise. Larger work needs to be clamped to the drill table.

Back the work with a piece of wood to prevent the drill from blowing out the material as it exits. Always use a backing board when drilling sheet metal.

Do not drill into the drill table base.

Set the appropriate drill speed for the size and type of drill bit and hardness of material to be drilled. Harder materials will require slower drilling. When using large bits, such as a fly cutter, set the drill press at a slower speed.

Do not use excessive feed pressure when drilling. Too much pressure can cause the drill bit to catch in the work or cause the drill bit to break.

Stop the machine immediately if the drill bit catches in the work and causes it to revolve.



The grinder/buffer is mainly used to sharpen tools and do light machine work.

Be sure that the tool rest is 1/8" away from the wheel and properly tightened. If a wide space is left between the wheel and tool, the work will be caught and launched.



Do not grind against the side of the wheel. It may cause the wheel to break.

Stand to one side when starting the grinder, in case the wheel breaks.


This is important information, however you will most likely be using the abrasive belt metal grinder for metalworking, because it allows a more sculptural approach.



The abrasive cut-off saw is also an effective metal working tool. This tool can cut square or pipe steel up to 4 1/2" in diameter.





The jointer is where woodworking usually begins. This machine is designed with rotating knives that shave thin layers of material from the edges (or faces) of rough or warped lumber. The outfeed table is fixed, and aligned with the apex of rotation of the blades. The infeed table is adjustable and is lowered so that stock passing over the jointer is removed at the level of the outfeed table by the blades. The jointer is the only machine in the shop designed to create a true straight edge. Do not joint pieces that are less than 12 inches in length or less than 1 inch tall.

Do not joint used material (there may be nails) or material with loose knots.

Always joint with the grain, never across the grain.

Never joint the end-grain, the wood will shatter and splinter, and the operator will get hurt.

Limit the depth of cuts to 1/16" or less. Heavier cuts cause kickback and poor results.

Push the stock past the knives and allow the guard to cover the knives before you pick up the stock.

Use a push-stick whenever possible, particularly for small pieces.



Keep your hands away from the blade region of the jointer. As the piece advances across the cutter, raise the forward hand and place it on the piece ahead of the cutter. Follow the rear end of the piece with a push-stick.

While jointing, keep an even pressure against the fence with the left hand. Keep your hand on top of the board to stay clear of the blades. Exert light downward pressure with the push-stick and glide the work across the jointer, letting the jointer do the work.

Keep the blade guard over the knives at all times when machine is running.

Make fence adjustments only with the jointer stopped.

Keep hands away from the blade region of the jointer at all times.




The planer is a machine with rotating knives that shave small thickness of material from the top (upward facing) surface of stock. Planers are used to clean rough lumber, re-dimension material, or to make surfaces smooth and parallel, unlike a jointer. Begin planing wood with the concave side down, and flip the board each time you run it through the planer to remove warps and defects. This tool does not automatically activate the dust collector, and you will need to switch on it's dust collector directly. Always use the planer to surface with the grain, never across it.

Our planer can plane surfaces up to 13 inches wide.

Do not attempt to surface lumber that is less than 12 inches long and 1/4" thick.

Lower the blades 1/32" (or one-half turn clockwise) with each pass.

Check material carefully for loose knots, dirt, splits, cracks and metal fasteners before planing.

Be sure the planer is unplugged before you clean off shavings or chips.

Support long boards as they are fed through the machine and always check that there is sufficient clearance to the wall.

Keep the feed rate of the material through the machine constant. This may require pushing on the infeed and pulling on the outfeed of the machine.

The wider the stock, the larger the surface area, the more difficult for the machine to surface the stock. Compensate by surfacing less per pass with wider stock to reduce the load on the machine.

Keep hands away from the feed rollers and from stock already gripped by the feed rollers. Do not allow your fingers to be pinched between the underside of the board and the planer table.




Disc, belt, and spindle sanders are motor driven sanders on stationary platforms used to smooth material before sanding by hand for finer finishes. Perform all adjustments before starting the sander.

Move your stock around on stationary sanders while operating, if you leave stock in one place for prolonged periods, it will leave burn marks.

Use caution when sanding small objects, as they may slip and cause your fingers to come in contact with the sanding surface.

Do not press stock to hard against the sander, as it could cause a kickback.


Belt Sander



A belt sander has a large sandpaper belt that sands as stock is pressed against it. Belt sanders are called "edge" sanders when mounted at 90 degrees with the bed of the machine. Belt sanders are safe and effective for making straight or curved surfaces in wood. Before operating a belt sander, check to be sure the sanding belt is not ripped or torn, and if it is notify the shop supervisor.


Spindle Sander



The spindle sander is used to sand inside pockets and curved edges. It provides a good 90 degree finished edge


Disk Sander



A disk sander has a large rotating sandpaper disk mounted perpendicular to a table. The disk usually spins clockwise, so that the left half of the disk travels upward and the right half of the disk travels downward. Only the portion of the disk traveling downward toward the table surface is used for sanding. Attempting to sand material on the upward-traveling half of the disk will cause it to be thrown out of control. The bed of this machine can be tilted up to a 45 degree angle to accommodate sanding angles.

The crepe eraser is used to clean the sanding surfaces of all stationary sanders in the shop. Its use is encouraged to improve sanding results.





The bandsaw is ideal for most model making purposes and is fairly safe for smaller, more intricate work. This machine is also used to resaw thick lumber into thinner pieces and for advanced techniques such as "book matching" of woods. The blade on the bandsaw is a continuous band, and can produce straight or curved cuts. Angled cuts can be achieved by tilting the machine's table base. There are three sizes of bandsaw available in the shop, and it is important to select the correct size of bandsaw for the size of the work. 


The large 120-inch band saw is usually fitted with a 1" wide resaw blade and is used for making straight cuts. 


The smaller bandsaws usually have 1/8" to 1/4" blades which can cut tighter radiuses.



Only wood, plywood, or masonite may be cut on the bandsaw. Do not cut metal on model shop bandsaws. There is one bandsaw in the shop that is also plastic compliant.

Make adjustments to the bandsaw only when the machine is completely stopped.

Bandsaw guides should be adjusted to approximately 1/8" above the stock to be cut.

Obtain the shop supervisor's permission to saw any material that does not lie flat on the table. Use a clamp or jig on uneven material.

Make side or relief cuts through the scrap side of your work to avoid backing out of a long cut, or cutting too tight of a radius.

Stop the band saw completely if it is necessary to back out of a long cut.

Make side or relief cuts while sawing small radius curves.

Do not twist or bind the blade, as it will break and may harm you.

Do not cut cylindrical stock without a holding device.

Be sure that your work is vertically supported. Because the bandsaw blade travels downward toward the table, if the leading edge of your work is cantilevered forward, the blade will force the work downward violently and cause you to lose control.


Table Saw



The table saw is a circular saw attached to a table which cuts from beneath the table top. This machine is highly versatile, but it is mainly used to to produce parallel straight cuts in plywood and cut larger lumber down to workable sizes. The blade can also be angled to make bevels, chamfers, and other complex cuts. With very few exceptions, we do not use the table saw to make crosscuts in this shop. Crosscuts can be made more safely using the radial arm saw or the panel saw. In our model shop, nobody operates the table saw alone. The operator must be assisted by a spotter. The spotter's function is to help hold the material against the fence, hold down the material as it passes through the blade, and insure the material on the outfeed table gets past the blade every time. (And if anything goes wrong, to run around screaming like a decapitated chicken after turning off the saw, of course).


You must use a spotter, hold-downs, and a push-stick when operating a table saw.

The table saw is not to be used as a workbench or eating table. Any objects left on the saw are potentially dangerous. Be certain that the saw table is clear of any tools or material except the stock to be cut.

Before starting the machine, see that the blade is securely fastened to the arbor, that it revolves freely, and that the screws or clamps on the fence are tightened. Be sure that the fence is sound and locks down securely. Failure to check these points could cause the wood to be thrown back at you.

Raise the saw approximately 1/4" above the stock to be cut. The least amount of blade above the work is safest.

Set the fence hold-downs so that the front hold down is just to the left of the blade, and the back hold down is closer to the fence. Make certain there is adequate downward pressure on the material from the hold down.


Controlling Material

The material between the fence and the blade needs to be controlled at all times. Have a push stick accessible, and plan the best path for its use between hold-downs, the fence, and the blade. Use the push stick to provide diagonal pressure against the table saw fence. Controlling the off-cut is a secondary concern.




Never release control of the material until it is completely clear of the saw blade.

Do not attempt to cut material that does not lie flat on the table.

Keep your fingers clear of the path of the blade. Do not allow your hands to cross in front of the blade or to pass beyond the blade towards the outfeed table while the machine is in operation.

Be sure the edge of the board that is against the fence is straight. (If it is not, run the board over the jointer.) Curved material will bind if passed between the blade and the fence, generating a kickback which will hurt the operator :-(

Always use a push-stick when ripping stock. A push-stick is narrower than a hand and will keep the operator's hands a safe distance from the blade.

When ripping long stock, have the spotter assist in supporting the material. The spotter should support the stock, but should not pull on the material unless directed to do so by the operator.

The operator should stand to one side of the saw, out of the path that the material will take in the event of a kickback. Do not allow anyone else to stand in line with the throw of the saw.

Do not attempt to stop a coasting blade by holding wood against the side.

Never lower work onto a moving blade. Blind cuts are not allowed on the table saw.

Exercise great care when using the table saw blade in a tilted or angled position. There is greater risk of the material binding between the saw blade and the fence when making an angled cut.

If you are unsure about making a cut, consult the shop supervisor (that's what he's there for).


Table Saw Miter Gauge


The miter gauge provides the only safe method of making a crosscut on a table saw. Exercise care while crosscutting.

Do not crosscut stock that does not rest firmly along the miter gauge.

When making a crosscut, be sure that enough of the material is supported by the miter gauge so that the saw blade does not have enough leverage to bind and throw the material.


Cross Cutting:

At the ENV Model Shop Tablesaws are used for rip cuts, however there are safer methods for cross cutting.


Radial Arm Saw (Crosscut Saw)



The radial arm saw has a circular saw blade attached to a stationary stand. Its main function is to cut long pieces of lumber down to more manageable sizes. This saw produces a 90 degree cut. Though the radial arm saw is capable of making rip cuts, it is not recommended. In the model shop we use this machine for crosscutting only. Check all adjustments and locks before operating the machine. The blade should be positioned just below the top of the table.

Hold the material firmly against the fence. Do not move the material until the saw is back and completely clear of the work.

Hold the saw handle firmly and pull slowly to prevent the saw from "jumping" or feeding into the wood. On thicker or harder material, the blade will try to run toward you. You must control the saw and move it slowly through the material.

Cut only one piece of material at a time. After each cut, remove any scraps from the track of the saw.

Do not cut material shorter than 1" with the radial arm saw. When cutting shorter material, use a long piece of scrap (rather than your hand) to hold the material against the fence.

Use extra care when cutting warped, twisted or crooked stock. For bowed lumber, face the crown toward the fence and the table surface to prevent binding the blade. In other words, be sure the part of the board to be cut is supported by the fence.


Panel Saw



The panel saw excels at crosscutting large material, including plywood. It is an extremely safe saw to use although indexing is primitive. The operator must place a mark on the material to be cut and line the mark up with the blade of the saw as there are no accurately metered fence stops for this tool.


Miter Saw (Chop Saw)



The miter saw is used for making precision angled cuts. The blade can be positioned from 90 degrees to 45 degrees in either direction for mitered cuts. The machine cuts by dropping the blade downward into the material in a chopping motion. This tool is useful for making mitered corners in small boxes, model wall sections or architectural moldings. Be sure that the ends of the material are properly supported

Keep hands clear of the blade.

Wait for the blade to stop moving before raising the handle after making a cut. Raising the blade while the machine is running will damage the work.


Scroll Saw



The scroll saw is used to make detail cuts on small work. The machine's base is adjustable so that wood can be cut at an angle. The blade is attached to an overhead arm that moves up and down, similar to the motion of a sewing machine. When fitted with the right blade, this tool can cut in any direction and can be used to cut pockets inside of thin material. Select the appropriate blade for the material to be cut.

Use a sharp blade to improve the quality of the work and reduce the risk of breakage.

Install the blade with the teeth pointing downward. (To change the blade, raise the tension arm and insert the allen wrench before loosening the holding nut. Be sure the blade is back against the holding screw before tightening.)

Adjustments should be made only when the machine is stopped.

Check all tension adjustments and be sure that all set screws are tight.

For most applications, set the saw for 1000 cpm (cuts per minute).

Adjust the pressure foot to rest on top of material to be cut.

Plastics and harder materials are cut at slower speeds.

Push the work gently against the saw blade, do not force the cutting action.

Hold stock firmly against the table and keep fingers away from the front of the blade.

Dust Extraction

The ENV Shop is equipped with a state of the art dust collection system that is computer controlled and functions automatically. When you turn on a stationary tool the dust collector should turn on (if it is not already) and the dust gate to the machine you are using should move to the open position (if it is not already). If you experience excessive dust at your workstation know to look and insure the system is functioning correctly.