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You'll need to learn some basic machine skills before you can use the CASTING LAB

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Before you even think about using a machine, check that you are in a position to do so. i.e. that you are dressed appropriately, including having your hair tied back, are wearing your safety glasses, and have completed the training you need to use the machines, as indicated by the Traffic Lights.


Are you dressed appropriately, according to the Lab Dress Code?

safety glasses

Are you wearing safety glasses, and any other PPE if required?

Are you allowed to use the machine, according to the Traffic Lights?

Take the time to set the machine up before you think about doing anything else. Clear waste material, tools and anything else from the table of the machine, as well as from around it. Otherwise it will get in the way during the operation and distract you. Likewise, ask anyone standing close to the machine to stand back and give you space to work. Give the machine a quick visual check that it has no obvious sign of damage, and especially check any consumable items like sanding discs for tears or other issues. If everything seems normal, adjust the guard and the fence as you needed to complete your operation.


Clear the area on and around the machine of anything unnecessary including debris and onlookers.

check area

Preflight check the machine (i.e. look for worn sandpaper, loose guarding, damaged cables).


Adjust the machine for your machining operation, including table, fence and guards.

Once the machine is set up and ready to go, you still need to make sure that you are ready too. Think through the process you are about to start from beginning to end, to make sure for example that there is space for the material to feed right through the blade without hitting anything. Envisage any issues that might crop up in the course of a cut, and deal with it before it happens, not while the blade is running, and the material is stuck in the machine!

When you do know what you are going to do, make sure you are standing firmly on both feet. This sounds silly until you have experienced the phenomenon of 'kick back'. Rather than cutting or sanding the material, the machine rapidly ejects the material into your face or body. You need to be prepared to duck or take evasive action at a moment's notice. If you are standing on one leg checking your phone, you'll find this difficult!

Finally, obvious as it may sound, before you press the power button you need to FOCUS ON WHAT YOU ARE DOING. Keep ALL your attention on guide the workpiece against the blade, and your fingers away from the blade. Because you prepared everything in advance, you should be able to work without distractions and produce an well-crafted part, without injuring yourself.


Plan the task and think it through before you start, including familiarising yourself with the controls.

Brace yourself so that you can respond to the machine in case it rapidly ejects any material.


Focus on what you are doing!

Most machine tools have motors that only deliver the power they need when they are running at full speed. Always keep your material away from the blade or disc and wait a few seconds for the machine to spool up to its operating speed. If you don't you risk damaging the machine and your work.

This also gives you time to check the dynamic state of the machine - i.e. that everything is working normally while it is running, as well as while it was switched off. When you do begin your machining operation, the key rule to bear in mind is to hold the material firmly, and press it securely against the fence if your are using one. But apply only light pressure in the direction of the cut. You need to let the blade or abrasive surface do the work, and they work better when the material is NOT being forced against them.

This is the same principle you will have learnt for using a knife: hold the material firmly, and make multiple, lighter passes with the knife. Finally, and most importantly, when you are making your operation KEEP YOUR FINGERS AND BODY WELL AWAY FROM THE CUTTING EDGES AND MOVING PARTS. These machines are deceptively powerful. They are designed to power through wood and in some cases steel. They will go through your skin like butter. We will show you in the Practical Class how to make sure your skin never comes in contact with the cutting edges using good technique and tools to help you guide the material through the machine called pushblocks.

on button

Allow time for the machine to spool up to full speed before starting the operation.

firm and light pressing

Apply firm pressure on material and light pressure against the cutting edge or abrasive surface.


Keep fingers well clear of cutting edges and moving parts, using push blocks where appropriate.

Always switch off the machine as soon as you have made a cut, and wait for it to slow to a stop. The less time the machine is running, the less likely it is to hurt you or the unsuspecting person following you. Then remove not only your parts, but the mess you have made as well! Leave the area tidier than you found it, and the Lab won't just be safe, but also a much nicer place for us all to work. Finally, if you noticed anything at all suspicious when using the machine (damaged sandpaper etc.) do tell Lab Staff straightaway so that we can deal with it before there is a more serious problem.

off button

Switch off between operations, and wait for the machine to stop before you think about doing anything else.


Clear away the waste and leave the area tidy.


Report any problems with the machine immediately to Lab Staff.


If you think you need to, go back and review these 5 stages and 15 points. If you are sure you've taken them all in, then please now proceed to the Quiz to see if you've got it!