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I have kids. My oldest two have done a lot of framing with me, punched holes for electric, connected electric on dead circuits...

But also I am very apprehensive in letting them use some tools - angle grinder, nail guns, torch, circular saw (they can use the miter) along with a few others are strictly off limits right now. I want my kids to learn but not go to the emergency room.

What are some good guidelines for kids learning DIY stuff? At what age would you allow them to operate more dangerous pieces of equipment?

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How old were you when you started using power tools? Twelve seems reasonably cautious yet still scary. –  Richard Raustad Aug 29 '13 at 4:54
    
@Richard Raustad - I started using power tools at age 9 or 10. Quite frankly my dad didn't give a crap if I got hurt - times were different then. Most of the things I did as a kid included working on cars and lawn equipment not so much house stuff. –  DMoore Aug 29 '13 at 5:01
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Might be a more fitting question for Parenting. –  Tester101 Aug 29 '13 at 12:11
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about teaching children. –  Niall C. Aug 29 '13 at 14:03
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Let them find a project they want to do that requires a certain tool first, then teach them how to use it. Using a tool just for the sake of using it is boring and not likely to encourage them to find fun projects. I never touched a table bench saw until I was 25 because I never had a project that required one until then... and even at that age, I still went to my dad to learn how to use it :) –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Aug 29 '13 at 18:56

2 Answers 2

I'm young(ish) and still remember learning how to use power tools, so let me offer you a few thoughts from when I was learning:

  • I always find it helpful to hear about (or think about) what could go wrong. I.e. what's the danger that the user is trying to avoid. For example, a table saw is loud and scary, but what's really the dangerous situation you're trying to avoid? Answer: pinching the wood against the blade causing a kickback. OK, now that I know what the danger is, I'm better prepared to avoid that situation. (Just a single example; obviously a table saw has other dangers.)

  • I think the most dangerous tools are the ones that don't look scary. E.g. everybody knows that a chainsaw is a powerful and could kill you if you're not careful, but a hand-held router could actually cause some serious damage but they basically just look like a drill. Think about it: they've got powerful motors, long and sharp bits, are prone to grabbing the wood and kicking back if not careful, and can swing / fall / twist in pretty much any direction. Plus depending on how you're using it the bit may not even be visible.

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This is actually great advice. My 14 year old is a great helper but he never thinks what could go wrong. I just caught him hammering something in on top of our granite island and my first reaction was "do i really need to warn him about a hammer at 14?" –  DMoore Oct 11 '13 at 23:28

Too long for comment:

Safety goggles! My dad had a metal lathe, milling machine, table saw, radial arm saw, arc welder, bench grinder, air compressor and a slew of power/air/hand tools in the garage growing up. The only things me and my brother every wanted to use ourselves were the bench grinder and maybe a power drill. My dad bought us a "child's" scroll saw, it was ~15" square portable table model and was near surrounded with plastic safety guards, you could only cut ~1/4 boards with it; I think I was 10 and my brother 12. My dad would draw shapes on boards and we'd have to cut them out, if we messed up the shape it didn't matter too much but if we forgot safety goggles we were banned from garage/helping for the day. Then my dad would make us cut something out from the inside of the board, basically we'd have to drill a hole first and that saw we had was not friendly to that (all the plastic guards) but eventually he removed all the plastic permanently and we just kept stepping up. I think we learned about the air compressor for filling up bike and car tires, then maybe sanders. I don't remember using a circular saw at all but I do remember using a reciprocating saw. My dad used to cringe but let us use the chainsaw later to clean up tree debris (Florida hurricanes, had 2-3 trees fall a year).

I'm only 26 right now, no kids, but from my perspective the deadliest thing you can equip someone with (aside from an actual weapon) is a car. Teach them responsibility and safety early on and let them use whatever within reason (what you can do without your stomach churning) and that you would feel safe with them operating alone. It would be tougher with multiple kids spread out because they want to do what their older sibling is doing but set boundaries and make sure you are having fun being dad and teaching them and it shouldn't go wrong.

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I for one have been to lax with the safety goggles. They cut all the time with our miter with nothing on. Also I like the idea of getting starter tools and practicing. My 2 oldest are probably past that but my young ones will be there soon. –  DMoore Aug 29 '13 at 16:52

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