Burning Down the House – Not!

IMG_0088Each year around the time areas of the country switch back and forth the time of day – still don’t get this happening – we’re told to change the batteries in our smoke detectors. Being the second week in December, and with many households putting up Christmas trees, I’ll bet you’ve heard the reminders about fire safety and a dried-out tree. Plus, each year The Woodwhisperer (and all) do a great job with Woodworking Safety Day (or week, depending on when you got on board). I don’t mind getting these timely reminders, but there is one reminder that disturbs me every time I see it.

The opening photo is not a poor attempt at art – it shows what happens when you do not properly dispose of oil-laden rags. I’ve seen this too many times. I’ve also had a similar experience myself. Please don’t simply shake your head, make sure everyone you know that dabbles in woodworking (and anyone else, for that matter) knows about this. Here’s the story this time.

IMG_0087A guy is finishing his tables using a coat of mixed up finish – 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 spar varnish and 1/3 turpentine or mineral spirits. Tables look great and it’s late in the evening, so he tosses the dirty rags into a box then goes upstairs from his garage. Later, just to see the tables again before turning in for the night, he walks down the stairs where he smells smoke. Nosing around, he finds the smoldering rags, smoke rising from the pile. Immediately he grabs the cardboard box and runs outside where he dumps the rags on his driveway then douses them with water. Close call! I told him to thank his lucky stars. (These photos were taken the next morning.)

His comment back was that he knew the rags were combustible, but he didn’t realize they would simply catch fire – he thought the rags would burn more easily when incinerated.

How would you handle this? I use a couple of different methods. If I’m working in my shop, which has concrete floors, I lay the rags out on the floor to allow them to dry – your driveway is a good choice. Another method is to place the rags in an can full of water. If you have a different method for disposing of oil rags, share it in the comments below. Too many choices is not a bad thing.

Build Something Great!

— Glen


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3 thoughts on “Burning Down the House – Not!

  1. I know a guy right here in the SW Ohio Region that lost his garage and two cars because he wasn’t careful with oil soaked rags. He knew but just has a brain fart that night.

  2. I used to lay out rags till they dried, and kept running our of space.

    Finally, I bought a Justrite foot operated oily waste can (not cheap!), and have never regretted it. Haven’t had a sleepless night since.

  3. Hang ’em out on the clothesline (40-50 feet from the house), and leave ’em ’til they’re crisp.

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