Tool Whispering

When you are using your tools and machines, do you try to ignore the noises, try to muffle them into non-existence, overwhelm them with other distractions (such as loud music), or do you really listen to the machine in use?

That is not to say that hearing protection is not a sensible thing – you can still listen to a machine operating and protect your ears at the same time.

I find that I am always listening to the machines when in operation, and they have plenty to say.

Of course, they tend to tell you when things are not working well – the sound of a slipping belt, the terminal sound of a bearing grinding itself to dust, arcing and sparking of a shorting motor.

They also tell you about maintenance.  The dust extractor that has a different pitch when the bag is full vs when it is empty, the staccato sound of chips ricocheting around inside a machine when the dust extraction tube becomes clogged, and the shavings have no-where else to go.  (Of course, that probably means you missed the change in pitch sound of the extractor bag filling!), the smooth operating sound of a well lubricated thicknesser, vs one where the bed is gripping the workpiece a bit tightly, so it is not sliding smoothly.

The machines tell you how your work is progressing.  In particular, the planer and thicknesser.  If you listen to a board passing through, you can hear the sound changing as the board passes through, so before you even look, you have a pretty fair idea where you had a full width pass, and areas that still require further planing.

They tell you how hard they are working.  Whether you are feeding them at a decent rate, not too fast, not too slow, if if you are trying to take off too much material in a pass.  A router bit will quickly tell you if it is happy, or flexing (and therefore close to snapping).

Cutting edges will tell you if they are slicing cleanly, or are forcing a dull edge through the work.

A bandsaw will tell you if it is cutting smoothly, or if you are forcing the blade to follow a track that it isn’t comfortable with (and it screams this out!).  These are just a few short examples – there are many, many others.

The machines are constantly whispering.  Are you listening?

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