A time to stop and think

My neighbor has this great story he likes to tell.  He worked as a plant manager (read:  Custodian) at a local elementary school.  He was refitting a bathroom in a teacher’s lounge and had done a pretty decent job.

The principal, however, wasn’t as impressed.  “My husband is a MASTER CRAFTSMAN, he will come in and build this piece.”

Well, when the principal’s  husband finally came to the school to do the work, my neighbor noticed that he was missing a finger.  Ouch.  Turns out that he had lost the finger in a woodworking accident – a mishap on a table saw.

Woodworkers Safety WeekI always take time to stop and think when I hear stories like this.  Right now, I’m working on a sweet Krenov-style cabinet, and it’s coming along nicely.  But, what would happen to my progress if I was hurt in a similar accident?

Granted, none of my woodshop accidents has been too severe.  I can remember taking a sliver of aluminum in my left eye while cutting a screen door jamb.  Then, I can remember slicing a chunk of skin off my left thumb when a spokeshave I was working with slipped and did its damage.  I can remember being out of the shop for about a week each time I recuperated.

I also had a few close calls.  The time I had a kickback when working with a powerful Unisaw that almost took off some fingers (Apparently, I had cleared the blade by a matter of an inch – or less).  Or the time a 1/4″ straight cutting router bit snapped and embedded in a wall across the shop from me.  Those could have been very serious injuries.

To help remind all woodworkers about the need for safety, the member blogs of The Wood Whisperer Network are taking the time to call attention to safety during Woodworker’s Safety Week – May 5 – 9.

Each day that week, I’ll focus on a specific area of safety concern – not a finger-wagging admonition, but  some simple common-sense reminders that might help keep you out of the ER and in the shop.   The slate for the week looks like this:

  • Monday – 5/5 – Power Tool Safety
  • Tuesday – 5/6 – Hand Tool Safety
  • Wednesday – 5/7 – Eye and face protection
  • Thursday – 5/8 – Protect your hearing and lungs
  • Friday – 5/9 – Finish safety/Dangerous Chemical safety

So,  take some time with us this week to think about your shop safety practices.  Who knows, if some of this stuff sinks in, we may have more future ‘master craftsmen’ who can count to ten without having to take off their shoes.

2 thoughts on “A time to stop and think”

  1. Thank God, so far all I’ve had are minor accident and “close calls”. Just last week, I was not paying close enough attention and a 4 inch piece of 3/4 inch plywood went flying by me into a box. Last year I was routing and had a bit explode when I hit a nail that I hadn’t removed. After I changed the bit and my britches, I scanned the rest of the wood to find any remaining metal!

  2. On my very first project I cut my left forearm with a wood chisel requiring $8K of work by the emergency room doctor and my orthopedic surgeon, I still wonder why I was holding the board with my left hand braced against my diaphragm when the chisel let go of the board and sailed with all my strength into the underside of my left arm. I saw the depth of the cut, the blood spray over my project and garage floor, clamped my hand onto the wound and by the grace of God, my wife and daughter were home so I had almost immediate transport to the ER.
    Of all the power tools, band saw, table saw, circular saw, reciprocation saw, jig saw: I cut myself severely with a tool that sounds and should be benign.
    I have continued to use all my tools with confidence, (not with much artistry or skill) and am acutely aware of what hazards await the careless and unprepared. Next projects include a third Adirondack chair, a trestle table; bathroom vanity and counter top.

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