Wearing Gloves While Doing Woodworking

Gloves create a risk of the hands being drawn into machinery. June 26, 2009

What is the prevailing wisdom with respect to wearing gloves while doing woodworking? Is this a safe practice or an unsafe practice?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor B:
I wear gloves sometimes for cutting melamine or sheet stock when I am doing a bunch of it. They are those real lightweight cloth gloves with rubber palms. Other than that I don't wear gloves in the shop.

From contributor J:
I wear gloves every day, all day in the shop. There are half leather, half synthetic with cutoffs at the knuckles. They prevent cuts, scrapes and rough hands.

From contributor J:
We wear the latex dipped gloves in my shop: much easier to get a grip on smoothly planed parts. But then, all of our workstations are designed to keep hands away from rotating parts that might snag a glove.

From contributor I:
We wear woven polyester gloves that have the palms dipped in grey nitrile. They give you better grip on everything and fit well enough you can tie your shoes with them on. I am now uncomfortable hand feeding a board without them because I feel like I have less grip and control then when wearing the gloves. The ones we like are called "The Assembler". We buy them at Ellettesville Indiana True Value in 12 pair packs for $15.00. I issue two pairs a week to each of the guys.

From contributor K:
I wear gloves for certain operations in the shop but was always taught that gloves as well as long sleeves were just an accident waiting to happen. We should all probably stop wearing gloves around machinery. Rough fingers are better than no fingers.

From contributor D:
The only place gloves can be allowed in a shop is handling rough lumber, and even then, I discourage it. Let the hands toughen, and the splinters decrease to near zero. Wear gloves and you will always be at risk of nuisance splinters, blisters, etc. Not wearing gloves is fundamental, as taught in every trade shop for the last 100 years. Obviously, gloves cannot be near any auto feed equipment like ripsaw, shaper, molder, etc. All you have to do is see one person trying to get a glove off their hand before the board goes into the blade of a ripsaw to ban them forever.

From contributor V:
Thatís true about tough hands and few splinters. I wear rubber finishing gloves to hand feed melamine faced panel through the tablesaw, this really helps me get a good grip and a straight rip. I agree that gloves on machines that feed like planers are bad. Did you ever get your sleeve or shirt tail into the jointer?

From contributor S:
Cabinets are one thing, but when doing furniture and you run your hand along a planed edge to see how it feels. I think you need to be able to feel what you are doing as much as seeing it. I don't like gloves myself, but I buy them for a few of my employees who won't work without them. We only have two people in our shop who use the machines and the rest mostly do assembly. That being said, I think the next time I cut some Wenge I will wear gloves.

From contributor P:
Also, if you use a SawStop saw, the "stop" feature might not work if you're wearing gloves. Other than finishing, I never wear them in the shop.

From contributor R:
Contributor D is right on this one. If you can't stand the smoke, stay out of the kitchen.

From contributor Y:
I wear the cloth gloves dipped in rubber coating. If I didn't wear them my hands would be cracked and bleeding by noon, and without them I would have to give up woodworking. If youíre worried about getting them caught in the blade I would say youíre not doing it safely to begin with.

From contributor C:
I started professionally milling lumber on a table saw when I was 16. Years later, my skin became very sensitive and needed gloves full time. There was an exception: I didn't use gloves when I had to work within 12" of any blade, jointer inclusive. So consequently, my hands hurt a lot because mill persons work close to blades and cutterheads.

From contributor C:
Some of the old school people will say no gloves, but truth be told, how dull must your blades be that they grab gloves instead of cutting right through them? I'm not going to care whether I had gloves on or not when I cut my fingers off. A good pair of thin leather palmed gloves will do more good than harm. Sawstop will still work just fine with them as well. I wish I'd had mine on anytime I slip on the edge sander.

From contributor C:


Maybe a large splinter in a board could catch the glove and the power feed pull your hand in the machine - definitely not good.

Canít feel the work details like you can without gloves.


Fewer splinters.

Fewer cuts and gashes working with knives and chisels.

Less vibration in the hand when sanding.

Keeps the hands slightly warmer in the winter.

More confidence when handling anything large, sharp, or rough.

Better grip on pieces on the table saw, pin router, and shapers.

From the original questioner:
Have you ever noticed how a drill bit will go right through a piece of wood but if you catch your sweater with it the sweater will start winding up on the bit before you could let go of the trigger?

Spinning saw blades and fabric work much the same way. Fabric is not rigid. It doesn't want to cut as much as it wants to wind up. If you get your hand in the way of a blade you are better off to make a clean cut of it. Much better than risking the chance of the saw blade, jointer or bandsaw pulling on the cloth and pulling your hand into the cutterhead. I'd take a sliver any day.

From contributor L:
I too have ten digits. Iíve cut myself twice on a tablesaw, once while I was guiding a 1/2" rip too close. The other with a dado head kerfing drawer sides, should have used a feather block and a more reliable form. Both are minor and unnoticeable 30 years later. In both cases, it would be safe to conclude that gloves would have made the injury worse. The 12" rule works, it excludes most power equipment immediately, and yes, I've suffered my share of bamboo splinters at the table saw and jointing rough stock hasn't changed.

From contributor C:
To the original questioner: I completely understand. Itís like drilling through carpet in a vehicle. To tell you the truth the biggest glove dangers for me are drill pressís and I rarely use them anymore it seems. Everything else I use featherboards and guards to help safeguard myself whenever possible. And I've been blessed to be able to replace some of my dangerous tools with the beam saw and CNC, which help tremendously.

From contributor Y:
In my everyday construction of cabinets I cannot think of one single thing that I do while wearing gloves that would put my hands in danger. Maybe the way I construct cabinets and my level of machinery keeps me safer than the average woodworker. I have a CNC so it does all my drilling, routing, etc. My Altendorf has all the guards in place plus it has the push stick that is located on the guard so my hands are nowhere near the blade .

Both of my SCM shapers have the reliable tooling sleds and power feeders and the way they are positioned you would have to make quite an effort to get you hand caught in one. My wide belt sander has three different air safety stops which if you just bump one of them on accident it will shut the machine off and activate the instant motor brake which only takes two seconds maximum for complete shutdown .

Tigerstop on the chop saw keeps one hand on the saw and the other well away from the blade. The Edgebander will not operate with the hoods open. I would like to hear of some samples of why anyone would have a need to get their hands that close to a blade. What are you making that forces some to get there digits in harmís way?

From contributor U:
If I couldn't wear gloves to enhance my grip, my carpal tunnel syndrome would have forced me out of the shop years ago. Of course, like so many things, you have to use common sense and have an awareness of how accidents happen. This is a basic that needs to be included in any accident prevention program. With that in mind, if I find myself taking my gloves off to get my fingers closer to a blade, then I often rethink what I am doing.

To me, the jointer is the scariest machine in my shop. Push blocks are in order for many operations here. You always have to ask yourself: what would happen if the wood suddenly went away? Everyone's points in favor of bare hands are well taken and are a great reminder on basic safety. Ill fitting gloves that project past the fingertips are an accident waiting to happen. Your brain knows where your fingertips are, but not where then end of the glove is. So the choice of glove is important!

The SawStop will work just fine. After it cuts through the glove it hits skin right? Granted, you might get a sprain though. But the dust collection is bad enough on any tablesaw that I have always had an overarm guard with suction. The rule is don't touch the guard.

From contributor A:
Then there is the philosophical position that if one works with one's hands, then the hands should be doing the work. When I first started working wood professionally 40 years ago, I was so happy to have my dream job that I stood at the tail of the planer and let loads of oak, pine, poplar, etc run through my willing hands, all day long. I was determined to handle it all. My hands toughened in no time, and I got few splinters. I learned how my hands could tell me all sorts of things about the wood, whether it was static on a bench or being machined or worked by planes, chisels and gouges. I could not afford gloves, so the discussion never came up. But I did run my hands along every board - direct contact with the material of choice.

All these years later, I still run my hands over everything, though I build almost nothing. My hands have gone soft, but my coworkers have hands so tough they rarely encounter problems - wenge being the exception. They also have learned to trust their hands to tell them what the wood is doing. Hands on means hands on. Gloves can and will isolate your hands from what you make. I do not want the disconnect that gloves mandate.