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I was a little hesitant to write this post, not because of the content, or because it’s a rant of any kind, but because of the photo I plan on attaching. Yesterday afternoon I had a table saw accident, probably the worst woodworking accident of my career. Fortunately the injury is nothing serious and doesn’t even rank in my top fifty personal injuries list. But it could have been much worse. Before I scare any women and children with a picture of me shirtless, I want you all to reserve judgement for just this once. Please keep in mind that this photo isn’t of the 25 year-old, 180lb version of myself who lifted weights and played sports and rode a bike everyday. This photo is the nearly 40 year-old, 197lb version of me who has a bad back and hasn’t lifted weights in ten years. But in an effort to be honest and show what happened I figure the photograph is somewhat of a requirement.
I’ve written several posts about the dangers of a table saw. I’ve worked on heavy machinery and electrical equipment and have used power tools for my entire adult life, I’m no prude and I accept those dangers willingly. The table saw is no exception to that list. That, for no other reason, is why I supported Sawstop Legislation. Even though flesh-detection technology wouldn’t have helped me much yesterday, the way I look at it table saws can use all of the safety measures we can get on them. Yesterday afternoon I was doing everything correctly for the most part. The saw blade was a hair too high probably. I was sawing a piece of 1/4″ thick plywood. The blade was sticking out of the table probably around 1 1/4″. I generally follow the rule of having the blade extend above the piece being sawed so the gullets of the blade are just higher than the board. I did not have the guard on. I was using the rip fence and a push stick, more to keep the thin stock from rising rather than pushing it through the cut. The blade is razor sharp, actually brand new and just installed, I was wearing safety glasses and my body was to the right of the blade, not behind it. I fed the board through at a normal rate of feed when I hit a knot in the plywood which also must have had a void in it because the piece exploded off of the sheet and literally flung sideways into my stomach. Had it hit me in the ribs, and had it been a heavier/thicker board my injury would have been much worse. With that being said, I don’t think a heavier board would have “exploded” the way it did. My conclusion is that it was simply a junk piece of plywood. If anything that was my biggest mistake, the terrible sheet of plywood I was using.
When it happened I cursed a little, checked myself to make sure everything was still there, and got back to work. All in all I like to call it an accident. Accidents happen, all the time. It can be just as dangerous to walk down the street, or get into a car, or play a game of pickup basketball than it can be woodworking. And that is why I still take so much offense to those who feel the need to call people stupid when they’ve had serious table saw injuries. I would bet that there are woodworking injuries that are nothing more than the result of carelessness, and I would also bet that some woodworking injuries are just dumb luck. So to make a general statement that if you get hurt woodworking you must be stupid is just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and shows a lack of experience in any type of machinery use. The worst thing about it is that I’ve seen more than my fair share of woodworking writers make that same statement, although they managed to say it without directly saying it. Not to get pissy, but if you want to call me stupid, wait til we’re face to face before you do it. And I don’t mean anybody who subscribes to this blog, that comment has a specific audience in mind.
So last night, roughly 10 hours after the accident happened, I took a photo of it. The photo doesn’t give you the whole experience but you at least get an idea. The bruise widened and is now several different, but lovely colors. So here it is. I don’t want to hide behind my mistakes, or accidents, so I think it’s best to just show them and learn from them. If anything else, I hope it makes people aware of just how careful you need to be when operating a table saw.