If you didn’t know already, our eyes are very sensitive. Try poking yourself in the eye with your finger, and you’ll see what we mean. When it comes to woodworking, you’re exposing yourself to a bunch of eye-health hazards – airborne sawdust, flying chips, and the like – which is why it’s important that you have the proper PPE. In this case, safety glasses.
Benefits of Safety Glasses
You may be wondering, “Hey, I wear prescription glasses. Do I need special glasses for woodworking?” The answer is an equivocal YES. Their frames and lenses aren’t designed with the same durability as safety glasses, thus prone to damage.
In addition, safety glasses are large enough to fit comfortably over your regular glasses. If you need to wear prescription glasses to see the finest detail when turning or etching wood, safety glasses will protect both your eyes and your glasses from flying debris.
Thanks to advances in production technology, safety glasses are relatively inexpensive so in the case of damage due to being dropped or smashed, picking up a new pair shouldn’t ruin your personal finances.
Another benefit of wearing safety glasses is their resistance to fog and scratches. Basically, these glasses can be used in any setting, from damp basements to dry attics, without distorting vision.
Safety Glasses Buying Guide
A quick search online will yield results showing hundreds and even thousands of different safety glasses from different manufacturers. You could always go with a brand-name model, but even those may not guarantee 100% safety. When shopping for safety glasses, here are the major factors that you need to take into account.
There are several different frames to choose from. These frame types include unilens, half-frame, full-frame, and sealed. Choosing between the first three really depends on what you’re most comfortable wearing or which one looks the coolest. Full-frame glasses do offer the most durability in any instances where the glasses may fall on the ground.
In woodworking, you’ll most likely want sealed glasses. This type provides cushioning around the edges of the frame which make direct contact with your skin, preventing sawdust and other particles from getting into your eyes.
Safety Hazards at Work
Safety glasses are made to handle a wide range of different hazardous materials, including sawdust. Glasses are made to protect your eyes and prescription glasses from mechanical risks, radiation, extreme heat, and chemicals. For woodworking and maximum protection, make sure that the glasses are rated to handle flying chips and metal bits.
Wearing safety glasses for extended periods of time can be a pain in the sides of your head. This is why it’s important to pay close attention to the temples. There are three main types of temples to choose from – strap, ratchet, and interchangeable. Once again, choosing one is a matter of personal preference.
Other considerations to make while looking at the glasses’ temples are whether it comes with soft tips for increased comfort and whether it has a telescoping temple so the glasses won’t fall off your head easily.
These five types of materials used to make the lenses on safety glasses. These are polycarbonate, trivex, acrylic, and optical glass. We’ll cover the pros and cons of each of these materials.
Polycarbonate lenses are perhaps one of the more popular choices due to their inexpensive cost. They’re not just cheaper, but they’re also extremely resistant to impact and scratches. The downside is that polycarbonate doesn’t provide as much clarity as trivex or optical glass.
Trivex lenses are perhaps the Rolls Royce of lenses. They’re extremely durable, weigh the least, and provide the best optical clarity known to man. Of course, premium quality means spending quite a bit of money.
Acrylic lenses cost the least, are rather lightweight, and work great in environments where chemical spills are a common occurrence. This, however, means that it’s not entirely designed to help against airborne sawdust and chips. Also, they’re not very durable and have pretty bad clarity. Avoid using this type of lens in the woodshop.
Optical glass, like trivex, offers excellent clarity without any distortion. It’s also resistant to scratches so it can definitely be used in your woodshop. However, they weigh the most, are quite expensive (but generally cheaper than trivex), and can shatter quite easily.
Working in damp conditions can fog up your regular glasses quite easily. This is not only ruining your vision but also increases downtime since 1) you’ll need to wipe the lens every so often, and 2) you’re not working when you’re wiping. If you plan on working in basements, unfinished buildings, or in the middle of the forest during summer to chop logs, make sure that the lenses are rated fog-resistant.
Tint or Clear
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the glasses’ lenses play the largest role in both safety and vision. Other than clarity and durability, you’ll also want to look out for whether the lenses are tinted or not.
Depending on where you do most of your work, you’ll need to choose between lenses with tints or super-clear lenses. Tinted lenses are mainly for outdoor use since they’ll deal with bright sunrays better than clear lenses, and clear lenses are better suited for indoor use.
If you’re getting tinted lenses, you’ll also want to choose the right color. The most popular colors are amber, blue, and gray.
Amber lenses absorb UV rays and blue light better than the other types, making it easier to focus while providing the best levels of clarity in damp or poorly lit places.
Blue, or blue mirror, reduces the most amount of light that passes through the lens. This effectively gets rid of glare, improves color perception, and works best in hot places. If you’re doing work outdoors, this is the best tint color to get.
Gray is the least popular lens color. Although it reduces light and glare, it’ll cost you color perception by dimming everything around you. Gray lenses can be used both indoors and out.
Safety glasses are one of the most important pieces of PPE you can wear in the woodshop. They protect your eyes by preventing dust, chips, and flying pieces of broken metal bits from damaging your cornea. They can even be worn over your regular prescription glasses. After reading this article, you should be equipped with the proper knowledge in finding the right safety glasses that suit your every need. Remember: the lenses are the heart of the glasses, so spend some time learning all about them before making your ultimate purchase decision.