Article - May 22, 2012
Every year during Safety Week, I receive lots of stories from woodworkers about close calls as well as major and minor injuries. This year, I actually requested your stories for a little sponsored giveaway. The stories below were selected partly because they teach a significant safety lesson, but also because they have a gross picture associated with them. Yeah, I’m not ashamed to admit it. So if you have a weak stomach, you might not want to scroll any lower. MicroJig is giving each of these folks one of their MJ Splitter Steel Pro units. No doubt some of these accidents could have been avoided with the use of a good splitter. So I hope we can all learn something from stories and images like these. They serve as painful reminders for not only the people in the stories, but us as well!
I was working with a piece of pegboard 96″ long and about 20″ wide, and was cutting about 18″ off one end of the board. My saw is a large 10″ contractor saw mounted on its own portable frame. At the time I was not using the riving knife because the mount had slipped out of adjustment and tended to bind piece of wood between it and the rip fence. My blade was set about 1/4″ above the wood. After pushing this long, flexible piece of wood through the saw, I left the saw running with the 18″x20″ piece between the blade and rip fence. While i stepped back with the 78″ piece (at the time i was more worried about letting that piece flop onto the floor), the piece between the blade and fence shifted enough to bite into the back of the blade, and the thing shot out like a spinning pegboard of death. At this point i was walking back to the saw and about 4 feet from it when the pegboard ninja star was making its way towards me. For whatever reason I had my hands down in front and the piece caught me on the wrist of my right hand, as opposed to more important appendages front and center. I was shocked and couldn’t feel my hand for 2 hours. My wrist swelled probably an inch or so. I could move it, so it wasn’t broken, but it took several months before I regained full motion in it. You can see the pictured taken right after the accident, and a picture from today almost 6 months later. You can still see the scar at the base of my hand.
So why did it happen? Because I’m an IDIOT! Rather than take the 5 minutes to fix the alignment problem with my riving knife, I just took it out and went about my merry way. I probably should have had the blade higher as well.
How did I fix it? I DID NOT go ballistic and buy a saw stop. It wasn’t the saws fault, it was mine for being in a hurry. First I didn’t go back in the shop for a month. Once I got the nerves to go back in, I fixed the riving knife alignment and its now standard policy to never run the saw without it for through cuts, as well as use the anti kickback pawls and saw guard when possible. I’ve also purchased a pair of GRR-IPPERS from Microjig and use them on all of my power tools.
It could have been a lot worse, but this was as close a call as I hope to ever have for the rest of my woodworking career.
Russell’s Kickback and Chisel Slip
Well I think I can definitely contribute to the goal of keeping safety at the forethought of every fellow woodworker out there. I am unfortunate enough to have had not one, but two separate incidents in the shops. My first was in my senior year of high school working on a solid oak firewood storage bin for my parents home. My dad has a nice production shop setup building butcher blocks that I could work in. I had built some 5inch square “feet” for the box that would raise it off the ground by about 2-3 inches. This provided us the ability to move it around easier. Upon final construction, of course, one foot was a little too thick making the box rock back and forth… just annoying is you ask me. So, in the heat of the moment (combined with jamming to some tunes in my headset) I fired up the jointer and made a pass using just my hand pressing the short piece to the table. In hindsight, I cannot believe I was even able to accomplish this one with no real excitement. I tested the foot and of course found that it needed one more pass. Well (you can see where this was going) on this pass the front end of the foot tilted forward right as touched the blades. This shot the piece right out from under my hand and my right index finger dropped into the blades. This incident ended up shattering my finger and I lost about 1/4 – 1/2 inch of bone and all. Luckily they were able to reconstruct the nail bed and after a year or go I regained all motion in it. Obviously most woodworkers should know the two mistakes I made (too small of a piece on that machine and not using some paddles). To those not extreamly familiar with a jointer just know that they recommend a certain length piece for a reason. Just take your time and really think about what you are doing. Oh and the foot was catapulted across the room a good 12-15 feet and put a really good dent in some wood cabinets my father and I had set up.
Now, a few year later, I have finished college and started my career. This has given me the distinct pleasure to setup my own shop in my townhome’s one-car garage. To start with, I did everything by hand (now I have a table saw and miter saw that make things sooo much easier) but still managed to make a crucial second mistake without these big tools. I was making a set of drawers for a cabinet I was constructing for all my tools and was working on paring out some dovetails with a simple handsaw and a set of good, sharp chisels. I made the simplest of split second mistakes by putting my other hand down the workpiece in front of the cutting edge to support the material when I saw it moving a little under my clamps. In hindsight, I should have just tightened the clamps… duh. But no. Once I put more pressure on the paring stroke, the chisel slipped and landed right into the thumb of my left hand. Needless to say it took the entire side of my thumb off in a split second. This one has not healed so nice and I have lost some of my movement in this finger. The main reason I bring this up is that people forget how dangerous even the simplest of hand tools can be when you forget the basic safety rules you are taught as a child. Just be careful, slow down, and take the time to enjoy this wonderful hobby.
I have attached a few pics of the healed injuries just as further enforcement to keeping safety as the number one item on your mind when woodworking.
Thanks for letting me share this. Hope it at least helps someone out.
John’s Saw Blade Kiss
Hey Marc! I hope you and your family are well bro! Since its safety week, I thought I’d share what happened to me on Sunday 4/29. Feel free to post to your site… Just don’t make TOO much fun- lol… Love what you do bro…
I did something foolish, and I knew better, but I had done it several times before, so hey, what’s one more time….. riiiiiiiight… My “luck” finally caught up with me. I was guiding a piece of stock with my left hand and using a push stick between the blade and fence with my right hand. Big deal- that’s how it’s done (SOMEtimes). But, That isn’t the issue here (big eyes- lol)… I was cutting a small piece of 1 1/2″ stock (8-10″ long) on my table saw as a “test piece” for my project, ripping it in half. When the piece went through the blade, at the end of the cut, the blade grabbed the stock, on the FRONT of the blade and pulled my finger in TO the blade!
At first, it didn’t hurt. Kind of felt like a paper cut. I looked at my finger and said, “why is it bleeding so much”? I walked in the house and ran my finger under cold water and said, “oh my! That is NOT a paper cut! That is cut off!!”
Scared my wife a little, and, I was a little in shock too…
I said all of that to say this- don’t be stupid; I was. I knew better. I don’t care how “good you are”, that table saw will win E V E R Y time… makes me wish I had a SawStop, but SawStop can’t fix foolish…
Never reach into the Soffet.
One Saturday morning I was working on a building I am constructing. The chore for the day was to install the soffits. I was working on a ladder installing one of the panels for the soffit. Being on a ladder I reached inside the soffit to steady myself while nailing the soffit panel. Well, guess what. Not realizing (not thinking) I pressed the trigger on the nail gun and instantly knew I had done something wrong. I must have projected this error with my look because my wife, standing below me asked, Did you just get your finger? There I was, nailed to the building with nowhere to go. I tried to pull my finger off the nail, but the ridged nail shank was not cooperating. Luckily, a neighbor was home. I did not know he could run so fast. My wife had barely hung up the phone and he was there. I was able to pull back the Hardy Plank panel in order to expose the head of the nail. Using lineman pliers we were able to cut the head off the nail and then pry the nail through the OSB. Now that I was free from the building, to the emergency room we went. Luckily the nail missed the bone. after a few needles full of anesthetic, the doc pulled the nail and sent my on my way. I was back to work the next day.