The Eyes Have It

My woodworking hobby stated – as many do – as a home improvement urge. My wife and I moved into our home back in 1997, and the previous owner…….Well, as my mom taught me, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Some of the things I saw still leave me puzzled.

For example, ceiling fan in the master bedroom. Rather than install the silly thing in a way that would 1- ensure the sucker would stay on the ceiling and 2- not cause a house fire, she did things her own way. The electrical wire was just run through a hole punched in the ceiling. The connection between the fan and the wire was made only with electrical tape – and it wasn’t inside a junction box. The fan itself was hanging from a vaulted ceiling socket that was screwed into a joist until the screw heads stripped out. Since neither screw was tightly mounted to the joist, the fan had this nasty tendency to wobble like crazy.

I had faced this, and dozens of other ‘issues’ just like it, for the past decade.

As I was doing this work, I began to develop a reputation as a handy man. One my co-workers and friends found out about quickly. And, I was often offered deals to ‘help’ friends and neighbors fix their issues. I recall one Saturday when I was at a co-worker’s house, doing a few odd jobs (to earn some tool money, of course). While I was cutting an aluminum screen door jam to size with a jig saw, I was amazed at the amount of metal fragments that were flying away from the cut.

Of course, I was not wearing safety glasses. I didn’t have them on me. Needless to say, a piece of aluminum jumped up from the saw and hit me right in the eye. I could see it flying up to get me. The piece stuck. I ran to the bathroom and rinsed the eye out, and, fortunately, the piece came out. But, my eye hurt. BADLY. It was tearing up something awful.

I told my friend that I had to get to a hospital, and – quite foolishly – drove myself to the ER. Two hours, $100 and several exams later, I found that the injury was only a scratch on the cornea. Some prescription eye drops and time was all I needed to recover.

But, I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Your eyesight is one of the most precious things you have. I don’t care how careful you are, there really is no excuse for not wearing safety glasses. In fact, after my trip to the hospital and the pharmacy, I went to the local home improvement store and bought several pairs of safety glasses. One pair went into each portable tool’s case in my collection. One pair went into my toolbox. Others are stationed around the shop in strategic, easy to find locations. I even bought a really cool looking pair of safety glasses and one of those eyeglass retainers, so all I have to do is let them hang when I don’t need them. That way, I can find them without searching around the shop.

Now my rule is, “nothing gets cut unless the glasses are on,” and that goes for guests as well as the woodworker. Hopefully, you will see the wisdom of this decision without having to lose your sight.

7 thoughts on “The Eyes Have It”

  1. <p>Tom, this is a great article. I have safety glasses everywhere. Just a tip for the woman woodworker – I order youth size glasses and they fit perfect, stay close to my face and protect my eyes nicely.</p>

  2. Over the past few years I wear eyeglasses and have used the rubber safety goggles. At first I hated them due to the narrowing of your field of vision. Now, I feel naked if I don’t wear them and I think they offer more protection than regular safety glasses. I don’t care for the face shields due to the sawdust that constantly sticks all over them from static electricity.

    It’s just not flying chunks of wood or a table saw detonating in your face that you have to worry about. What about plain old sawdust. It can come from anywhere! Most recently, sawdust found its way into my eye from my hair when I was removing my safety glasses goggles. Go figure!

  3. Another thing to consider: if ever you need an MRI, be sure to tell the docs ahead of time that you’re a handyman-type. This is especially true if you work with metal often and/or don’t wear the proper eye protection all the time.

    Before the MRI, they should x-ray your head to be sure you don’t have tiny metal slivers embedded in your eyes from sparks as those would be pulled back out quite rapidly by the MRI machine! Needless to say this would be pretty uncomfortable.

    That never occurred to me before I had an MRI a few years back. Fortunately, my eyes are still free of metals (the head x-ray proved so).

  4. scott… I had never thought of that… Scairy! I have not in the past been very careful with this but then again I was young and foolish and never wore glasses or contacts and hated the feel of them on my face (sunglasses as well.) One thing that really got me useing eye protection (aside from safety) was in the past I just framed and the cuts did not have to be hyper accurate… these days I have traded in the circular saw and sawzall for a jig saw/mitre saw/table saw and I started getting really comfortable wearing eye protection as my eye has to stay open… closer to the blade to make sure I am cutting accurately. Now that I am in the habit there will be no turning back.


  5. Hey Tom,

    Well said buddy. Nowadays, I use safety glasses not just for safety, but because all my safety glasses have bifocal lenses in them, and I can’t see without them!


  6. Well, Tom, After my latest eye checkup, I think I’m not much longer before I have to start looking for those safety ‘cheaters’ too…

    This getting old thing is the PITS! 😀

  7. Good story on the aluminum chip, Tom. My dad, an opthalmologist, kept a little box of microscope slides, a “rogues’ gallery” of steel, iron, and aluminum chips he had removed from people’s eyes over 40 years of practice. He consulted with the industrial plants around Corpus Christi, Texas, and persuaded them (in the 1940s) that everybody on the plant grounds – including the office workers – must wear safety glasses. It worked, and cut down on the eye injuries dramatically.
    I have a rule similar to the eyeglasses rule – don’t take your eye off a cutting edge while it’s under power.
    One more comment – I wear continuous-vision eyeglasses outside the shop, but I have found that quality safety glasses with 1.5 diopter bifocals work great (your mileage may vary), and are ridiculously inexpensive ($7 or so).

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