Friday, July 26, 2013

Gloves in the machine shop

Well somehow I have managed to post a little over one hundred articles on this blog. I just want to take a second to thank all the readers that follow the blog, and especially those who participate in it with their comments. The feedback and interaction is what stimulates me to carry on with the blog project. Thanks again for your support.

The subject of this post has the potential to be somewhat controversial. What I want to talk about is wearing gloves in the machine shop. Many of you out there may have noticed that in some of the blog pictures or on my YouTube videos I am wearing gloves while operating machinery. I have received several comments asking about this practice so I thought I would explain it in more detail.

When I was an apprentice I got yelled at a few times for wearing gloves in a situation where it probably wasn't a great idea. Those old loud codgers were just trying to protect me which I thank them for. The typical metalworking shop is loaded with machinery just waiting to bite the unwary. They were doing their job and protecting me like one of their kids.

Not that long ago I did a shop study. The subject of the study was injuries to my hands while working in the shop. I actually called them insults but that's beside the point. As many of you well know in the course of working in a machine or metal working shop you expect a certain number of minor hand insults and dings as part of the job. As part of my study I recorded anything that happened to my hands during the course of working in the shop.

After some time had elapsed logging entries I reviewed the specifics of each insult. The object was to filter them into several groups. The first group was injuries or insults that would have been prevented by wearing some kind of a hand protection. The second group was insults that would have been greatly minimized by wearing gloves. And the final group were injuries that gloves would have not made any difference.

I admit this was a limited study conducted by a minor klutz. I will tell you there were no insults that gloves would not have made a difference. In other words everything that happened to me during the study period would have been totally prevented or greatly minimized. Also during this period there were zero close calls because of wearing the gloves.

Now before you jump down my throat and say how dumb this sounds lets talk about it. I've been working in metalworking shops for forty years now. I can say that I've done some pretty good dings to my hands over the years but they still have all the fingers and everything works fine. Also things have changed in that forty years.

When I first started in metalworking there were not a huge variety of glove options readily available. Thanks to manufacturing technology we now have a huge number of choices for personal hand protection for a large cross section of specialized  hazards. Hand injuries are quite common and some smart business people realized the huge potential market there was for hand PPE. In the old days you just used your leather gloves for everything unless it was cleaning the shop toilet. For that you shared a pair of somebodies hand me down dish washing gloves. There was a fifty fifty chance of a hole or leak in them to add to the fun.

So where I'm heading with all this is my opinion is the risks of wearing gloves around many types of machinery are very manageable.  Just having the right gloves on in the shop has a huge potential in reducing hand injuries and insults in the metalworking industry.

I have been experimenting with some gloves in the machine shop for more than a year now. I don't always wear them but I try to do it regularly and note the situations where my spidey sense tells me its a bad idea (like the belt sander) as well as when I note a positive effect like my hands don't cramp as easily from pinching small parts while de-burring. The gloves I have zeroed in on have some gripping abilities that enhance  your hand grip and allow you to use less pressure or apply more pressure when needed.

The gloves I like and have settled on for most work are the Maxiflex Ultimate. These are a close fitting precision dry handling glove coated with nitrile foam. The dexterity is so good you can pick your scale off the bench or floor with them on. Some Airgas welding supply shops carry them and S&S safety solutions in Martinez CA stocks them.

The small injuries that occur most frequently are things like getting cut on a burr or chip, bumping a sharp tool  bit or insert while handling a part in the machine, dumping scrap in the bin, unfolding a band saw blade etc. All preventable with gloves. As machinists and metalworkers we very rarely get cut from any rotating member on the machine. Those old guys yelling at us did their job well on that count. We get dinged by bumping into things, reaching for things, in other words all the other things besides the rotating machinery.
Nobody blinks an eye when a chainsaw operator puts on a pair of gloves. Why do we get so nervous when a machinist operates a milling machine with a gloves on? Neither person is touching the moving cutting edge right? There are dozens of industry examples of people wearing hand protection while in close proximity to rotating machine parts. The general shop rule is to never directly touch a moving surface, blade or machine member with your hand. Well if you adhere to this guideline when wearing gloves you will stay relatively safe.
Now there are lots and lots of things I would never do with gloves on in a million years. But after forty years experience I can spot these situations with an excellent success rate. Most of that comes from having made many of the mistakes that hurt and learning from them.  So if you are a beginner then I suggest you proceed with caution. If something bit you before then pay attention.

A funny side story about fingers. I had a welding student many years ago that came to class with one of his fingers swathed as only the medical industry can swathe something. When we asked him what happened his story sent shivers down my spine.

This particular student worked in a structural steel shop as a helper of some sort. He was helping rig a large I beam for rolling over with the crane. I guess the sling was offset from the center of gravity so the beam would  roll when they lifted it. Well he somehow managed to get his finger between the table and the beam. The thing that gives me the willies was how he described the damage to his finger.

When he related the story to us I asked the question, Ouch, that sounds bad. What happened to your finger? He paused for a second thinking about it and said, "Well have you ever stepped on a hot dog?" Apparently the end of his finger burst out much like a stepped on hot dog. Youch! I can't eat a hot dog now without thinking of that story.

Now that is an example of an event that gloves would not have made any difference except getting less blood  on the workbench.

The gloves I prefer for machine work I discovered by accident. We were in the process of moving and between my wife and myself must have 200 cubic feet of books that had to be moved. Now if you have moved you know not to load book boxes very heavy or else you kill yourself. What happened was my hands naturally dried out handling dozens of boxes. Take a look at the UPS drivers hands for a clue as to what happens when you handle cardboard boxes all day long.

After work one day we were loading a truckload of boxes to take over to the new place. I had a used pair of these gloves that I forgot to take out of my coat pocket. On a whim I put them on just to keep my hands from going UPS. I noticed the advantage immediately. The gripping force to hold the box securely dropped to roughly half. It was like spider man gloves for boxes. After having this dramatic example I started experimenting with the gloves for all kinds of things, like working in the metal working shop.

So here we are fast forward. My experience with wearing gloves in the shop has been manageable, positive and hand healthy. Here are some of the positive benefits I have seen from wearing gloves in the shop.

  • Lower gripping force required to hold items.
  • I can tighten the drill chuck significantly tighter by hand wearing these particular gloves.
  • I can carry more weight in each hand than I could before.
  • Hands stay warmer and cramp less without the sweating.
  • Hands stay cleaner in general. Nice when you have to run to the office and do something.
  • Cuts and nicks are reduced to near zero
  • Vibration isolation


The vibration isolation properties are well worth it. If I have any amount of jitterbugging to do my fingers end up feeling like their electrified for the rest of the day. Wearing gloves reduces this to nothing.

This article is just my opinion and observations from actual shop testing. Its okay if you disagree. I'm not forcing anybody to drink my flavor of Kool-aid. Gloves in the shop is not right for everybody. So in closing I suggest you conduct your own test and see if you find any similarities with my observations. Report back your own findings and opinions and please be careful when testing and don't do any of the following things,

Belt sand. Any converging gaps that the tip of the glove could get sucked into are bad. Plate rolls and moving chains and sprockets fall into this category.

Grind tiny tool bits on the bench grinder.

Don't polish on the lathe by gripping the paper directly to the work wearing gloves.

Don't stick your finger in a rotating bore to check the finish. In general don't touch anything rotating. But that's already a standing rule.

These gloves are completely useless for hot stuff.

Thanks for looking.

Tom Lipton












48 comments:

  1. Congrats on 100+ posts, and please keep it up. I check in at least once a week to see if there's anything new posted.
    As far as gloves go, as a working electrician, mostly heavy industrial, I find more and more jobsites are all 100% gloves required. At first I could not stand it, but now I find myself feeling naked without em. It goes for earplugs and steel toe boots too. Funny how that works.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Machine bed is a base the machine is sitting on, for medium to heavy machines the beds are usually made of cast iron for better stress relieving and vibration absorption; for light machines the beds can be made of steel structure (welded); cnc mill

      Delete
  2. Hi Hulk,

    Thanks for the comment. I took me a while to get used to it on the mill and lathe. Now after seeing some major advantages I thought it worth the risk to share the experience. Your comment is a nice little confirmation I'm not on drugs.

    Kind regards,

    Tom Lipton

    ReplyDelete
  3. Congrats Tom on the 100th posting.

    Cheers,

    Glenn in Spokane

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Glenn,

    Thanks for the comment. Looking forward to the next hundred.

    Regards,

    Tom Lipton

    ReplyDelete
  5. As was mentioned above, almost all construction jobs now require gloves. The safety programs and rules on jobs are driven by insurance companies as contractors try to minimize costs. I suspect that insurance companies have done studies which prove gloves generally make the workplace safer, thus the rules. A machine shop is slightly different as their are more hands on rotating equipment, but common sense and experience will tell you when they are appropriate and when they aren't.

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  6. In a shop environment, I think an important consideration is who is watching. A rookie who thinks its ok to wear gloves while operating machinery won't have the experience to make good judgements. You know the old saying, Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement.

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  7. Hi Gordon,

    I totally agree I wouldn't allow an apprentice to wear gloves unless I vetted the intended operation. Its the job of all us old farts to do the proper yelling when required. Like many things good supervision is crucial to the development of knowledge and good work habits.

    Regards,

    Tom Lipton

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  8. Hi Tom,
    I have been reading your blog for a few days and I find it very informative.
    It helps to improve my machining skills.
    Thanks for sharing.
    I also enjoy the videos very much.
    My problem is that I often have burns from the hot chips when I work on the lathe.
    These nasty bits go everywhere, even with protection.
    How do you manage with that?
    Cheers,
    Chris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chris,

      Avoiding burns and chips on exposed skin is almost an art. Typically where you stand to observe the machining operation has the most to do with it. Welding is similar. Leave your arm in the wrong place and get burns. Two inches another way and you are fine. Many machinists like tight fitting long sleeve shirts. I find them too hot for my own comfort. On the mill I often use a thin piece of plywood that I hold in place on the vise with a magnet to block the rooster tail of chips when using a inserted milling cutter at high speed.

      Hope that helps.

      Regards,

      Tom Lipton

      Delete
  9. Dude, one hundred posts... Awesome work!

    Oh, and yes, I am a glove wearer. Predominately Sheet Metal, and welding, but yes, sometimes on the lathe and mill. Leather Tig Gloves, not a bad feel, and they protect from heat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ian,

      Thanks for the comment. See if you can find some of those maxiflex gloves. You will love them.

      Regards,

      Tom Lipton.

      Delete
  10. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for the tip.
    I will follow your advice and make a board that I can fix with magnets on the lathe.
    Cheers,
    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks Tom,

    I've just bought some of those gloves and am going to give them a try.

    Also, my left arm currently has 20 or so burns from some lathe work this past week. The wife is making me a cuff to slip over my forearm while turning. I'll give that a try as well.



    Glenn

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Glenn,

    The lathe is one of those machines that its critical where you stand. A few inches one way or another and you're covered in coolant or hot chips. Try shifting your position back toward the tailstock more than you normally do and see if that helps. Also if you are getting a racing stripe on the left side of your shirt you are too close to the sling line of the chuck.

    Hope that helps. Regards,

    Tom Lipton

    ReplyDelete
  13. Good read, thanks for the tip Tom. I might pickup a pair to try out when I use our lathe and mill (which is not enough BTW). I thought they might be good for wearing when cleaning equipment but maybe not due to their permeability...

    As you point out there are certain situations where wearing gloves is a bad idea. I work in a school shop and see this every so often. Sometimes gloves can give someone who is inexperienced a false sense of security. The belt or disk sanders come to mind, pushing way too hard because your hand can't feel the piece getting hot. Plus the moving abrasive material and the gap to the fixed table pose a serious risk of grabbing the glove and the hand in it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Tom,

    I have been enjoying your videos and articles very much. I am a high school Industrial Arts teacher. Presently I teach Welding and Metal/Machine shop. When I was doing my schooling to become a teacher, gloves were a no-no for any machine work. I am beginning to change my tune on this topic. I am very likely going to let my students use gloves anywhere but on the sanders and pedestal grinders. Kids are always cutting there hands. Not severely, just severe enough to be annoying to them and myself. Thanks for the tips! Also, I have been very interested in the steady rest you built for your lathe. I watched all 11 videos intently and would like more info so I could design one of my own for my 1903 American Tool Works 20"x36" cone head engine lathe. It is realy tough to find origonal parts for a machine of this age.

    Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the comment. I was worried I would start a flame out with this article. Its still fairly controversial. I do believe the risks are manageable and the benefits are positive in general. Don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions when you start your steady rest build. In hindsight I would have done a couple things differently.

      All the best. Say hello to your class for me.

      Tom

      Delete
  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ann,

      Thanks for your comment. Sorry but I don't allow folks to utilize my content for advertising. If you want to post a link it needs to be oriented to the subject matter of the article.

      Best,

      Tom

      Delete
  16. +1,000,000 on work gloves.
    Not only do they prevent injuries to your hands, but to the rest of your body. Being able to properly grip (heavy) items, prevents the whole range of injuries that can happen to your joints or back. Good gloves allow a much better transmission of your body's energy into the task, instead of being wasted in trying to maintain grip or prevent injury to the hands etc.
    I'm also evangelical about them after a lifetime of bashed knuckles and countless slices and slivers. One strange yet nasty incident was when I worked as a conservation picture framer. One day after sweeping, I was shoving the floor mess into a dustpan with my bare hand. Naturally, since picture framing involves a lot of glass cutting, there was no shortage of glass bits in the sweepings. I took a tiny shard in my middle finger. It didn't hurt too much, but I was never able to get it out. I lived with it in my finger for a few years - and it wasn't a problem except when I happened to grab something firmly at a particular angle - resulting in violent pain like firing an ardox into your fingertip with a nail gun. (something I've done btw).
    Anyways, I eventually went to the doctor to get him to take it out. I figured 15 minutes in the office with a local and a tourniquet - slice and stitch and I'm on my way.
    Nope. Because it was in the blood rich finger tip (and because glass doesn't show up on xrays), that had to do a full exploratory surgery...and even then they said it's possible they might not find it. In the hospital, the surgery was a such a production, I thought they got the charts mixed up and were going to give me triple bypass. It was unbelievable - racked out on my back with arm stretched out on it's own little gurney - big foil electrode stuck to my leg in case I flatlined because of the anesthetic! The hypo with the anesthetic for my arm was the size of a caulking gun..and they used all of it. They had to completely tourniquet off all blood flow to my arm, which meant they had a limited amount of time to work before the arm started asphyxiating and dropped dead.
    After about 15 minutes of intense scrutiny, they were successful.
    The doc removed a sliver of glass about 1/8" long. He showed it to me in a little test tube. I was, of course, utterly embarrassed. But more glad to be rid of the damn thing and the pain it caused. I could use my hand normally again.
    Nowadays, I always wear gloves whenever I work with my hands. And with the incredible range of work gloves available for any job or situation, there's not much reason to risk injury.
    Cheers!
    Quin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Quin,

      Thanks for sharing your adventure at the doctors. I have discovered there is a lot of perceived risk with gloves around rotating machinery and power tools. Another poster mentioned that OSHA has been collecting data on this kind of thing for a long time. I suspect this is part of the reason there are so many glove choices now. Everybody that makes gloves is trying to cash in on what should be obvious to people doing the work. That is gloves help prevent and minimize injuries to the hands. Thanks for a great post and story.

      Cheers,

      Tom

      Delete
    2. Hey Tom;
      Yep, just like other tools, it's a case of knowledge and picking the right gloves for the job. Use the wrong ones or use them the wrong way, and better have 911 on speedial.
      Case in point...
      One of my first real jobs out of high school was at making nickel stampers at a record pressing plant. One of the first steps in processing the stampers after separating them from the mothers was to sand the electroplating nodules off the backs. The raw stampers were placed on a faceplate (with a loose felt pad) of a disk sander, and held on with metal knob screed onto the center stud. The faceplate was attached to the end of a big motor looking much like a giant pedestal grinder. It had a foot brake that used a leather strap over a wheel.
      They gave us these honkin big leather and canvas work gloves to protect us from the jagged razor edges of the stampers while sanding.
      The thing was, when you switched off the motor and put on the brake, you had to maintain pressure on the knob to keep it (and the stamper and hard felt pad) from spinning off and flying across the room.
      Well, one day I must have grabbed the knob a little too enthusiastically. In a split second, the finger and thumb of loose leather glove became wrapped up in the whole business. My finger and hand twisted into a coil spring and then got ballistically spat off the knob. I pulled off the glove and stared incredulously at my index finger. It was bent like a comma and felt all numb - but to my amazement, it still worked. I thought for sure it had been dislocated, but I got real lucky that it was grabbed when most of the rotational speed had already been braked off.
      (It still has a slight bend in it to this day, however.)
      Anyways, a snug fitting glove would have gone a long ways to prevent that mishap. (Well that, and a less retarded attachment mechanism on the sander than a threaded metal knob with no locking mechanism.) Lol. :D

      Quin.

      Delete
  17. very interesting read, thanks for providing a debate from the normal 'absolutely no gloves in the machine shop' routine.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Tom, my brother tells me that he found this post very informative and mentioned it as his reasoning on why he wears gloves when he uses his lathe. I believe he references you in this article he did.
    http://www.greensandmachines.com/2013/12/baseball-bat-key-chain.html

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Pelican,

    I took a look at your brothers site. My opinion is filing on the lathe while wearing gloves is getting close to the limit on how far I would go. In particular if it was spinning fast and up close to the chuck. Too much temptation to check the surface with a gloved hand which could lead to trouble. If turning slow not nearly so bad. Thank you for posting you experience and comments.

    Kind regards,

    Tom

    ReplyDelete
  20. I haven't been wearing gloves in the shop... but I can now see having a pair would be useful when changing the chuck, handing stock, etc. When running the lathe or mill... I'll go naked... don't ever want to chance anything moving at speed catching the cloth... but for static use, sanding, etc... yeah... I can see that,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jerry,

      Gloves are certainly a personal choice when operating rotating machines. There are many examples of using gloves in these situations. Each person will have to weigh the risks and advantages of each situation. Thanks for the comment.

      Cheers,

      Tom

      Delete
  21. Hey man, on your excellent recommendation, I bought some of those gloves. I've run thru a dozen pair already. I just bought my second dozen. Amazing how little grip strength is needed. They are amazing. Thanks man! Good products.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Star,

      Thanks for the comment. I found you can actually wash these pretty easily if they are not torn or totally worn out. I squeeze them out in simple green and water and rinse. Let them air dry and they are nearly new.

      Cheers,

      Tom

      Delete
  22. Ive had customers ask for these gloves and they are pricey but worth it..We sell all kinds of different gloves and tooling so it is definetely a good item for us to look into..www.midwestsupplyusa.com

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ive had customers ask for these gloves and they are pricey but worth it..We sell all kinds of different gloves and tooling so it is definetely a good item for us to look into..www.midwestsupplyusa.com

    ReplyDelete
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  34. I concur with your experience Senor Lipton!
    I'm actually nursing a right hand injury that would have been prevented if I was wearing my gloves. I was in a hurry and didn't want to take the time to walk across the plant and get them. Live & learn right. :-)
    Not a major injury, one of those annoying items that you are reminded of when you bump it for a couple weeks.
    Keep up the great information & videos on your YouTube channel.
    You're a real treat!

    Cheers,
    Nate

    ReplyDelete
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  37. Thanks for the article, Tom.

    I often hear machinist saying to never use gloves around lathes. That's why I was surprised when I saw this documentary about the small factory industry in Japan.


    "BEGIN Japanology - Small Factories"
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYzQNgIwqgo

    Most of the workers wear gloves while using lathes and buffing wheels. Even owners who are 70 years old with 40 to 50 years of experience still have their hands intact.

    Of course it doesn't tell us what the injury statistics are, but it seems like wearing gloves isn't an immediate death sentence. I do like the advice of avoiding gloves as a novice, until you have a better idea of where the dangers are.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thanks for the article, Tom.

    I often hear machinist saying to never use gloves around lathes. That's why I was surprised when I saw this documentary about the small factory industry in Japan.


    "BEGIN Japanology - Small Factories"
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYzQNgIwqgo

    Most of the workers wear gloves while using lathes and buffing wheels. Even owners who are 70 years old with 40 to 50 years of experience still have their hands intact.

    Of course it doesn't tell us what the injury statistics are, but it seems like wearing gloves isn't an immediate death sentence. I do like the advice of avoiding gloves as a novice, until you have a better idea of where the dangers are.

    ReplyDelete