Modern woodworking shops rely on machines for every aspect of production, from initial cutting of raw lumber and panel products to joinery and assembly. While the size and focus of every shop is different, there is machinery that is commonly used in most. This resource aims to provide an overview of these machines, including their basic purpose and function, tooling, set-up, maintenance, and safe operation. Additionally, there is specific information on using the machines to perform a variety of common cutting and joinery operations.


Woodworking machines must be used safely as potential for injury is inherent in every operation. Understanding the mechanics of how the machine operates will aid you in preventing accidents. A spinning saw blade, drill, or router bit acts in a predictable way — once you understand the forces involved. Always have adequate training before attempting to use any piece of machinery and always use best practices for safe operation to ensure both you and those around you remain accident free.

Before using any machinery, ensure you have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). For all the tools covered in this book, hearing and eye protection must be used.

Make sure to review the current WorkSafeBC policies, regulations and guidelines for workers.

General Safety Guidelines

While every machine has specific safety rules, these are applicable to all machinery and equipment.

  • Never operate any tool or machine unless you are confident you know how to safely operate it.
  • Some machine operations generate fine dust particulate that is not adequately cleared by the dust extraction system. Use an approved dust mask or respirator.
  • Wear shop appropriate clothing that will not have the potential to come in contact with any moving parts.
  • Tie back long hair.
  • Do not wear gloves except for handling materials in the shop as they can be caught in the machinery and pull your hands into blades and feed mechanisms.
  • Do not distract another person operating a machine — wait until they power off the equipment and all motion has stopped. Do not leave a machine until it has come to a complete stop.
  • Keep machine tables clear of clutter and debris.
  • Keep machines cleared of sawdust and chips as they are combustible and a fire hazard.
  • Inspect all machinery before using to confirm engineering controls for safety are in place. These could include dust collection, guards, splitters on table saws, and anti-kickback devices.
  • Plan your movement around the shop environment for safety. Do not walk through potential hazard zones and keep a safe distance from machinery that is in use.
  • Ensure any machine’s power source is locked out before changing cutters. View the WorkSafe BC video below.


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Woodworking Machinery by Sandra Carr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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