Woodturning Safety – What To Look For In A Sawbuck

Woodturning is a very safe part of the woodworking family of arts and crafts, however it uses power tools and sharp edges and carries a certain amount of risk. One of the areas of woodturning which has its own dangers is rough wood preparation, particularly in the area of faceplate work. A few simple rules and especially the use of an appropriate sawbuck will make the work much safer.

The most common form of faceplate for most people is bowl turning and most bowl blanks are cut from the log in undried or green form. This is almost forced on the turner as blanks thick enough to use for turning a bowl are very difficult to find unchecked and then very expensive when found. Cutting one’s own with a chainsaw quickly pays the cost of the chainsaw and its upkeep.

While a course in chainsaw safety should be undertaken by everyone who lans on the use of one, there are a couple of rules that every woodturner needs to know and follow. Note that most bowl blanks will start with a log longer than it needs to be so that a shorter one is cut from it and then sliced in two.

First of all, never cut logs to length in the pile. They need to be placed in a sawbuck so that the end of the log to be cut projects out of the buck and will fall away from the log when it is cut. This prevents kickback from the chainsaw. For in stance a ten inch long piece may be cut from a ten inch diameter but six foot long log to make ten inch bowls.

Second is to prevent the sides of the short log from jamming when slicing it down the center. The shorter log must be sliced with the chainsaw into two bowl blanks. This particular cut is peculiar to woodturners and requires a unique sawbuck. Most sawbucks are made of a couple of sets of legs made from two by fours in the shape of an X connected with a couple of crosspieces. While this is good for cutting to length, when the shorter log is cut lengthwise the X’s allow the pieces to slide down and grab the saw bar causing kickback that projects the saw at the sawyer’s head. This is both frightening and dangerous.

What is needed is a sawbuck that holds the log securely to prevent rolling and yet allows the two separated sides to fall away safely, releasing the chainsaw bar. One simple way to achieve this is to make a channel from two by fours. The log rests in the channel securing it from rolling but the width of the channel is narrow enough to allow the pieces to fall to safety. All that is now needed is a set of secure legs which hold the sawbuck at waist height or a bit below for comfort in the work.

Safety needs to be first and foremost when using a chainsaw. A good sawbuck easily made adds a great deal to the safety and enjoyment of woodturning wood preparation.