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doh.jpgWelcome to our first round of Toolmonger’s “Doh!” of the Week where we’ll gather up reader mail (and our personal experiences) to bring you some tales of folly in the shop. 

First of all, thanks to all those users who’ve stepped up to share their pain with everyone both to entertain and to help us all avoid stepping in the same cold, slush-filled pothole.  And special thanks to readers Rick and Tyrone who really threw down the gauntlet in comments to get the ball rolling.

This week’s theme: kids in the shop.

One reader sent in the following:

The earliest stupid thing was around the sixth grade. We were in the shop of a piano refinisher/repairman. He and my dad were engaged in a long conversation while cutting something on a belt-driven bandsaw. I was bored and found myself drawn to the belt and pulley, letting my finger bounce on the belt. Eventually I let my finger slide on the underside of the belt and before I realized it, my index finger was pulled into the pulley and thumped out the other side. Tears filled my eyes and a quick glance showed there was still a finger and no blood was spurting. My dad didn’t see it happen but knew something was up. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Nothing” I replied, nursing a sore, and eventually black and blue finger behind my back.

In the same email, he also mentioned the following incident(s):

Second stupid thing was the summer of the stripper wars. Not what you think. My brother and I spent summer vacation stripping God know how many chairs for a restaurant refinishing job. Teenage boys will be boys and before long we were clandestinely flicking the caustic orange stripper gel onto each other’s sensitive areas (crotch). A few seconds to soak through the bluejeans and there was a break in the boredom as one of us writhed in pain. The only thing that would cool it off was a squirt of lacquer thinner but that too had a burning effect. Luckily I was able to have children and they appear to be normal.

Reader Eli said:

Don’t ever leave a can of paint open if you have children, learned that one the hard way too. (must use water based paint if your kids are in the same state as you)

There seem to be a few lessons to learn from these experiences: First, remember that children don’t always see the shop the same way you do.  What seems like a tool-to-be-wary-of to you — and a spinning death machine to others — might indeed look like a toy to an interested child.  While it’s possible to share the shop with your kids, they require close supervision. 

Our fathers always took a relatively direct approach, explaining the tool, its purpose, and its primary safety considerations.  What approach do you take with your kids in the shop?


6 Responses to Toolmonger’s “Doh!” of the Week: Kids in the Shop

  1. Rick says:


    Hey Tyrone… We’re famous! or is that “infamous”?


  2. Tyrone says:

    I vote infamous. I’m just glad I haven’t burned down my house.

  3. Eli Golub says:

    I’ve got one son who’s two, and another on the way in a month or so. I made the decision as soon as the first could walk that if I showed him everything as he got curious, maybe he’d decide to get an office job eventually, and if not, at least he could do all the jobs I didn’t want to. So, if he wanders out of the house (into the shop) and I’m working, I just explain everything to him as if he were an adult. My wife thinks I’m crazy of course, but I only started a year ago, and if it’s dirty when he gets out there, he asks for the broom and starts sweeping. I let him carry some of the tools and supplies to the job every time. I try not to use any power tools most of the time he’s at home, waiting until they go to the playground or shopping. If I do sand or make a cut, he stands in the house on the other side of a baby gate with glasses and muffs on. I wear them as well. I’ve also started using hand tools a lot more than I did. It’s faster a lot of times to use a hand plane and a block sander than it is to dig out two or three power tools and swap plugs around. I don’t have to worry about the noise being too much for him, ditto dust and danger. My gas meter was inconveniently located where my two benches meet in the corner, and I was constantly barking shin on it, so I boxed it in with 3/4 birch ply, and now he can stand on it up at working height and I give him whatever he’s interested in at the moment to play with over there. I think because I share most of what I’m doing with him, he’s okay with the times when I insist he can’t be there.

  4. Chris Gosnell says:

    I agree that is is important to teach your kids about the shop, just as it is important to teach your kids about firearms. You will feed their curosity in a cotrolled fashion, and help them respect, not fear the tools.

    After saying that, I have to share a story about my son. I was doing some woodworking in my unheated garage in the winter, and I had one of those propane powered ‘trashcan style’ heaters running. My 6 year old son came down to the garage to call me for dinner. I shut down the heater and told him ‘don’t touch that, it’s hot’. I turned around to unplug the table saw, and turn off the power, and sure enough, when I turned back around there was my son with tear filled eyes, looking at his index finger. Of course he touched the still hot heater. Luckily, I was able to bury his hand in snow and limit the burn to a blister.

    Your children will always be curious about your ‘toys’, and you can never be too careful. Always lower the blade on the table saw when not in use, remove cutting bits from drill presses, and remove all sources of power from the tools when not in use.

  5. shawn says:

    My tool obsession started when I was little when I went to my uncles to live. His garage was the size of his 4 bedroom house. It had everything, a welder, oxyacetylene torch, drill press, Air Compressor, table saw, band saw, all sorts of hand tools, power tools & air tools. I was able to help (hold the light or fetch tools) completely restore a 1969 GMC Pickup with a dump bed. I helped build a bunch of picnic tables one summer. He used every tool, & I learned how everything worked before I was 13.

    Now I am 30 & I am able to do anything, I’ve tried, be it make furniture or do an engine swap. I learned the value of tools at an early age.

    But I did make a big mistake one time. I was helping my uncle weld something, & I accidentally let the electrode touch the metal while he was adjusting the ground. He got a good strong electric shock & I got a good strong backhand. I’m sure it hurt him more than it did me. Oh & I dropped an engine onto the ground one time too. It broke my toe, & ruined the engine. Don’t let an engine hang from a hoist, & then turn your back around a preteen.

  6. saftey guy says:

    Ensure that your children always where proper Personal Protective Equipment. Grease, oil, paint, paint thinner, stripper & other chemicals can cause cancer when absorbed through the skin, so make sure your kids when rubber gloves if you let them help with the messy (fun for a kid) jobs. Always when at least a paper mask when making dust or cutting wood. And always were ear & eye protection when working with power tools. When your kids learn these good habits at an early age they will continue using proper PPE when they grow up.

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