Fire Safety in the Shop
How to prevent, detect, and put out fires
No matter the size of your shop, fire hazards are present day in and day out. Wood is a combustible material, but when it’s in the form of a solid mass, such as a plank of lumber, it is difficult to ignite and to keep burning. Try holding a match to a large piece of wood and see which gets burned first, the wood or your fingers. If you took that same piece of wood, put it through a thickness planer, and held a match to the pile of shavings, you’d be amazed by how quickly it would ignite.
The best way to prevent a fire in your shop is to practice good housekeeping. Sawdust and wood shavings are the two most commonly dangerous products in a woodshop. They are ignited easily, and the fire can spread with unbelievable speed and intensity.
Excerpt from FWW #174 article “Fire Safety in the Shop.”
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The careless use, storage, and disposal of finishing supplies also are frequently encountered fire hazards. Many woodworkers store cans of varnish, containers of solvents and thinners, and organic-based finishes, such as linseed oil and tung oil, on open shelves in the shop, where they can provide the fuel to greatly accelerate the spread of a fire.
Prevention is mostly common sense
Three elements are required to cause a fire: fuel, oxygen, and a source of heat. Take away any one of them, and you cannot have combustion.
We need the oxygen to breathe, so we can’t remove that. We often can remove the heat to prevent a fire (by not smoking or not using torches or welding equipment in a woodshop). But the easiest item to remove is the fuel. It may seem like a real chore…