Safeguard Your Hobby: Old Iron Safety Tips

Taking basic safety precautions can save your health for many years of collecting.

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Antique machinery, engines, horses, people: Shows offer a potent mix of variables. Keep a safe grip on your exhibits.

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Old iron may be a leisure-time hobby for you, but that doesn't mean it isn't without its dangers. Whether you're at a show or in your shop, keep safety on your mind.

Safety isn't pretty and it ain't sexy, but it is something we all know about and know we should practice. However, many of us collectors, restorers and exhibitors forget to practice safety while we are working with these old machines.

No lectures here. Lectures hardly ever work. When my dad lectured, I listened with an open mind – what he said went in one ear and right out the other. He always made his safety lessons more clear when he showed us boys how to do our tasks safely, then practiced what he preached. None of us ever got our fingers pinched in our hand-levered tractor jack, had a finger or hand caught in a corn picker's snapping roll, got a pant leg caught in a propeller shaft or even got cut by a dull corn cutting knife. Oh, we had a few cuts and scrapes and got dust in our eyes, but for the most part we worked a little more slowly and a lot more safely than many of our neighbors. Check out these safety tips – ten things to do and ten things to never do – online.

Here are five other things to consider when working around the shop.

Eyes: One set of eyes per customer. As we get older, our eyes become weaker. We need glasses. Protect your eyes by wearing safety glasses or goggles when you are working on your bench grinder or wire wheel. Wear a full face shield when sandblasting. Wear your welder's helmet when welding.

Ears: We all suffer some hearing loss as we grow older. We need to protect what we have left. Use soft earplugs - sound protectors - when driving in a parade or working around threshing machines. Wear heavy-duty earmuffs when working near a screaming sawmill. They might look a little funny, but they shut out high-pitched noise. It is no fun to watch your favorite TV show and be unable to hear the dialogue.

Nose: Protecting your nose protects your lungs. Use surgical masks when working around dust, such as at the grinding wheel or buffer. When spray painting, use a heavy-duty respirator. Keep that over-spray out of your lungs.

Fingers: Fingers are handy things to have around. You can help keep all you still have by using the right kind of gloves. Use soft, cotton gloves for light work, even driving your tractor. Leather or leather-palmed gloves are right for heavy-duty tasks. Welder's gloves are used for welding and handling hot metal.

Toes: This is a tough call. Most people think steel-toed shoes are for shop wear only. Not true. Get a pair of comfortable, steel-toed shoes for show use. If someone drops a heavy object on your foot, you might get hurt but you won't get a mashed toe. And forget about wearing sneaker-style shoes around your shop or at a show. They provide no protection at all.

There you have it. No lecture, just a few safety tips that will go a long way toward keeping you safe and sound. Do as my dad did: Practice safety and your children and grandchildren will benefit too. When they work with you or attend shows with you, help keep 'em safe.

James N. Boblenz grew up on a farm near New Bloomington, Ohio. He now lives in Marion, Ohio, and is interested in antique farm equipment, particularly rare and lesser-known tractors and related items. E-mail him at Jboblenz@aol.com