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Canadian Woodworking

More from the anti-splinter front

Blog by Rob Brown
Valentines

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the splinters I got when working with Baltic birch to make a set of kitchen cabinets. I honestly thought the comments would be split down the middle between opposing “You’re a wimp, Rob!" and “I hate splinters, too!” camps.

Either folks took pity on me or I hit upon an agreeable stance on a subject. Either way, I’m pleased to see so many other woodworkers and DIYers get splinters. too. Well, that’s not really what I mean. It’s more that I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to pull shards of embedded hardwood out of their flesh while woodworking. If I were the only one, I’d know I was doing something wrong. When we’re all suffering, I can at least feel like I’m a part of a larger anti-splinter movement.

I received a few glove recommendations last week, via online comments and emails. I picked up a pair of Wurth Tigerflex Ergo Plus gloves and have been using them ever since. They’re a bit thinner than the Milwaukee gloves I had, so they allow for more dexterity when writing and manipulating hand tools. I still find it hard to find the end of the masking tape, but the gloves aren’t hard to remove for these sorts of tasks. I’ve since had only one tiny splinter, but that could very well have been from one of the few times I handled some material without my gloves. Putting them on isn’t quite second nature, but I’m getting there. I have a feeling I’ll continue using them for breakout and other rougher tasks around the shop, but likely not wear them while working with hand tools.

My New Gloves

These new Wurth Tigerflex gloves are what I’ve been wearing in my shop over the past week. They’re a bit thinner than most of my other gloves, which makes them great for writing and other finer shop tasks.

gloves that work

Awful oak

One of the commenters mentioned how oak was also great at poking holes in woodworkers, and I have to agree. When I used white oak for the first time a few months ago, I didn’t find it troublesome, however red oak can be one of the worst culprits for splinters. But that’s not the worst thing about red oak.

What’s the worst thing about red oak, you ask? Between its weird smell, its wild and eccentric grain, its unattractive colour, and the fact that it’s just about everywhere you turn, what’s there to love about red oak?

It’s not all bad

The only thing I enjoy about red oak is when it’s quarter cut, because its medullary rays are quite attractive. Strangely (or maybe not so strangely, considering I don’t like its natural colour), red oak is about the only wood species I apply wood stain to. I like a rich dark brown stain on red oak to cover up its natural colour. I’ve also been known to give it a white wash from time to time to cover up that reddish tint I so dislike.

Wenge

Another commenter mentioned wenge, and its propensity to puncture woodworkers. No question, it can cause lots of pain and suffering, though I don’t often work with wenge solid. I use wenge veneer in the odd project, and it gives off a splinter here and there, but solid wood is where most splinters come from. I just realized…that’s yet another benefit of using veneer over solid wood!

The worst splinters

I’m no expert when it comes to metal, but I’ve had to machine it from time to time. I’ve made some steel and brass brackets, and used sheet copper in a few projects. Brass and copper are quite soft, but steel sure isn’t. I remember getting a tiny shaving of steel embedded in my finger after drilling a few holes. That felt even worse than wood splinters.

Valentine's Day P.S.A.

Over the past three years I’ve made an initialed wooden heart for both of my kids. Each time I used a different wood and a different method of adorning it. Don’t worry, they get some chocolates too. They don’t suffer.

I’m partially adding this note so you can consider doing something similar in time for Valentine’s Day. I’m also mentioning this so I don’t forget, as I’ve got lots on the go at the moment.

Valentine’s Hearts

I made these Valentine’s Day hearts over the past three years for my kids. They’re an easy and unique way to show them they’re loved.

Valentines
Published:
Last modified: February 11, 2023

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

11 Comments

  1. I HATE OAK. At first it was because I grew up in the 80s, and it was everywhere in our houses — especially the kitchen. Now, as a woodworking teacher, my predecessors have invariably stocked a massive hoard of the stuff, and I can’t use it all up. Plus, as an allergy sufferer, the sensitizing effects are brutal, not to mention the stink of it when cutting. The splinters are just icing on the cake!

  2. Hi Ken. The $85 price tag you’re seeing is for a box of a dozen pairs. Still not cheap, and is a relatively large commitment. I’m enjoying the gloves though.

  3. Hi Tim. I’m certainly not against red oak because of where it comes from. Even if I was, I’m pretty sure most of the red oak in my area (Ontario) comes from Pennsylvania, not western Canada, but I could be wrong about that. At any rate, to imply I dislike western Canada just simply isn’t true in any way whatsoever. I’m glad you like red oak. I actually wish I liked it more, as it’s more reasonably priced that many other hardwoods! Take care.

  4. Without getting into the merits or demerits of any particular species of wood or plywood, I have found that a good pair of surgical tweezers is the best tool to have on hand to deal with splinters. Surgical tweezers are available from medical supply stores, and are the “best tool for the job” of removing splinters. (They resemble a very fine needle nose pliers). They are also very useful when chopping firewood, especially when camping and the kids get a splinter from carrying the chopped firewood.

  5. I haven’t tried putting those gloves, on, but maybe try a sprinkle of talcum powder in them before donning them.

  6. Oak, white or red, always looks better quarter sawn. I would agree that white is preferred from a colour standpoint but if you’re using a dark stain then either one will work. Looks like QSWO in the surface holding your hearts. I’ve been using all-weather golf gloves which don’t provide as much protection as the work gloves but enough to avoid most splinters with great tactile feel.

  7. Are you kidding me why in the world would you spend $85.00 for those gloves to do a little woodworking. You need to sit back down at your desk

  8. Splinters are not good from wood or metal of any kind. My worst wood splinter was from a tablesaw kickback which resulted in a pencil sized splinter a half inch long embedded in a knuckle. Surprisingly there was little blood. As for working with gloves, ask any law enforcement personnel, you get used to doing things with gloves on you wouldn’t think possible.

  9. I think your aversion to red oak is very much misplaced. White oak seems to be the choice of woodworkers East of the Manitoba-Ontario border, and therein lies the problem. Red oak has a grain that stands out and can be very complementary to a wide variety of projects. The colour is completely natural, and finishes well as is. To be prejudiced against something simply because of where it comes from could possibly be indicative of a character flaw that I will have to consider in the future. I am a Woodworker, and accept the occasional splinter as a cost of getting the pleasure I find in simply creating stuff and getting the complements I receive.

  10. Red Oak is one of my favorite woods.It could be that the oak i am using came from my parents woods.I did all my kitchen cupboard doors and frames from it.

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