Over on the Popular Woodworking Editors’ Blog, Glen Huey has been getting torn apart for telling people that he uses gloves at the jointer.
Honestly, when I read his posting, a light went off in my head that told me gloves were the brilliant solution to a problem I have recently encountered…..Stiction.
Now, I will admit that stiction is probably only understood by Stephen Hawking and four other people (one of whom is Warren Coolidge from The White Shadow who wrote a technical white paper on Stiction as part of getting his engineering degree from The University of Phoenix….but I digress). I first heard “stiction” in a racing suspension context. One of the definitions of stiction is when two bodies stick together in what should be a frictionless environment….like inside a strut/shock absorber. You have a hardened steel rod surrounded by oil moving inside of a bushing…how could it ever stick??? Well, my belief is that it is exactly like wringing gauge blocks. (However, I am not implying I am one of the 5 people who understand stiction.) (Aside: Stephen Hawking shares a birthday with Elvis and me.)
In a metrology lab (or anywhere measurements are taken) steel gauge blocks (sometimes called Jo Blocks) can be stacked together to create a single steel body that measures a given dimension. In other words, there is not a block made for 1.163 inches. However, if you stack the 1.00 inch block with the 0.163 inch block …you get a single block 1.163 inches tall. The blocks aren’t just set on top of each other…they are put together with a wiping motion (called wringing) that forces out all air between the blocks and causes the block to literally stick together through molecular attraction…or surface tension…or magic… I believe this phenomenon is the same thing that happens with stiction.
Well, in my recent jointing of a boatload of hard maple, I have encountered stiction on my outfeed table. On those last passes, as the wood exits my Byrd Helical cutter head, it is basically perfectly flat. And as I push that across the outfeed table (even with a ton of wax on it) the perfectly smooth, planar piece of wood moving across the perfectly smooth, planar piece of cast iron causes the two bodies to almost wring together like gauge blocks, and the force required to keep the board moving begins to rise. (Also, as the board becomes flatter there is more wood being engaged by the cutters, so that force increases also.) Please note…I NEVER cut more than 1/32”, because I am not in a production shop. I don't have to worry about the time it takes. I take light passes to try to minimize the amount of force required to push the wood through.
Here’s where I’m going. Based upon what I learned from
When face jointing, I end up with both hands on the outfeed side (as soon as possible) and I pull the board across the cutters. However, with the stiction phenomenon I find that the force required to pull the wood from the outfeed side is often too much for my hands. I have also found that push blocks are no better. Even with sand paper glued to the bottom of the pushblocks, they still tend to slip (or worse teeter and roll) on top of the board rather than just pulling the wood through.
So Glen Huey’s idea of wearing TIGHT, GRIPPY gloves makes sense to me. I can have grippy gloves to improve my ability to pull the wood from the outfeed side of the jointer. Well, the main complaint people had with Glen’s post is the countless horror stories of leather gloves getting caught in the knives and pulled into the cutters causing the mauling of an entire hand as opposed to the loss of a finger tip. Glen counters that his gloves are too tight to be hanging loosely enough to get caught. So, are you ready for the best of both worlds…
You don’t get much tighter. They are latex so they are as grippy as my fat fingers on a donut. And they are not strong enough to cause “extra” damage should one ever face the horror of getting a digit into the blade. Unlike leather fibers the thin latex would easily cut or tear.
So tonight I face jointed some maple wearing surgical gloves, and they gripped the wood so well that I was able to easily pull the wood from the safety of the outfeed side. And the gloves were thin enough to counter all of the anti-glove arguments that were raised on Glen’s blog posting. Also, as for the argument that the gloves could cause problems by reducing the sense of touch/feel… all I can say is for decades surgical gloves have been good enough for use in activities that require a delicate sense of touch. You know…activities like heart transplants and brain surgery.
Perhaps surgical gloves can be an example that supports Glen Huey’s position while not being objectionable to the majority of his responders. Surgical gloves might be the key to our achieving the request of Humanitarian/Great American (Convicted Felon) Rodney King who asked, “Can’t we all just get along?”