by: Chris Cambell

For most of us the word “safety” has a deeply personal meaning. For some, a “safety” is a way our favorite football team can get 2 points. For others of us still living in the Eighties, “Safety Dance” is a song that brings a wave of nostalgia. However, for new and veteran customizers alike, safety mean keeping all of your body parts where they belong and unharmed.

A customizer’s most effective tool is awareness. Be aware of your limitations and the limitations of the supplies and tools that you utilize. Below you will find a few “safety” tips for the kinds of supplies and tools that you will commonly use…


  • Safety glasses
  • Rubber gloves
  • Leather gloves
  • Sturdy work table
  • Dust mask/Respirator
  • Bandages

X-acto knives, pins, needles, razor blades, scissors, craft saws:

These items are typically very sharp and some are not very sturdy. When using x-acto knives, razor blades, or craft saws remember that the force that you exert on the tool HAS to go somewhere. Blades, handles, and the plastic items we cut all break and that usually means a sudden release of that force…right into a hand or thigh. Heavy work gloves are not great for delicate work, but are recommended for any cutting involving major muscles…whether that means inserting pins and needles or cutting heavy plastic. Work gloves are not a replacement for being aware of the limitations of your tools and yourself.

Hand tools: Pliers, hammers, screwdrivers…

We use them for a variety of tasks from cracking open torsos to taking apart vehicles for customizing. Just like the sharp instruments listed above, we often exert massive amount of force upon these tools to achieve our desired results. Hammers smash fingers and damage other more solid objects. Screwdrivers can slip and stick into you…just ask a prison inmate. Pliers, both the regular and needle nose varieties, can pinch the living daylights out of your skin. Use caution when exerting force on any hand tool. Exercise awareness and control.

Epoxies and resins:

Most, if not all, two-part epoxies and resins “heat up” chemically in order to “cure” into their hardened state. This can burn you severely…and it sticks to you like stink on a hog. Always follow the safety recommendations on all resin and epoxy packages regarding ventilation, contact with skin, and emergency procedures for ingestion. Also, these substances will bond with just about anything including tables, floors, tools, and your favorite customs… Be Careful!

Dremels, drills, and other rotary tools:

I cannot say enough about being safe and aware when using any type of power tool…regardless of relative horsepower or rpm. They can cause horrible damage to your body when misused. Always make sure of the surface upon which you are working…a stable worktable is a necessity. Do not drill through an item unless you are sure of what is on the other side. Wear protective goggles or glasses while dremeling or sanding as dust and larger particles can enter your eyes and cause much pain and damage. Make sure you store and use your tools according to manufacturer’s recommendations.

Paints, thinners, acetone:

Most of us use waterbase acrylics and thin with water. Basically you just have to be careful not to get any on your clothes. However, there are many types of paints and thinners that are flammable and can be toxic when ingested. Hazardous fumes are also often associated with certain types of paint, especially spray paints, making the indoor use of them not recommended. Acetone is a chemical that dissolves…so treat it with respect and clean up any spills immediately and carefully. All of these substances have recommended manners in which to store and use them. Just be aware of what they are and follow them.

Super and other glues:

Super glue, regardless of brand name, is indeed just that…super. It will solidly glue your flesh to any number of surfaces including your own flesh. In many cases, the only recourse is the Emergency Room and a scalpel. Ouch! Be aware of how much glue is necessary for your bonding needs…and how much comes out of the tube when you squeeze! Often the nozzles get blocked with dried glue…DO NOT attempt to squeeze the blockage out!! You will have yourself, work area, tools, and custom covered in an almost impossible to remove substance. Use a toothpick or needle to remove the blockage carefully. Store the glue tubes in a spill-proof container between uses just in case. (Shawn Kelley adds:) One product you may want to buy is CA Debonder. This product dissolves cured CA glue. That’s right, it takes the “super” out of superglue. It’s like Kryptonite, but is a lot easier to find and actually exists.

The bottom line is this: “The more time you spend recuperating from a customizing injury, the less time you have to customize.” You can’t customize as well with all of your fingers bandaged up…it’s a fact. Be careful and happy customizing!!