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Before I get into the topic of this post, I would like to preface it by saying that I have been working with and around machinery for most of my adult life. That list includes construction equipment, printing presses, pipe benders, wire pulling machines, fork lifts and earth movers. Of course this list also includes power tools for woodworking. All of the equipment I listed could and can seriously injure or even kill.
Lately, while woodworking, I have been exclusively using hand tools. This has not been a philosophical decision. The projects I have been working on are generally small, and because my daughter has been with me ( I will not use a power tool with her in the vicinity), and because I could just as easily crosscut a few boards by hand, I have been avoiding the table saw. But over the past weekend I broke out the table saw for the first time in quite a while, and truth be told it may be a long while before I break it out again.
Last year my father-in-law brought me some hickory and ash logs from his property in upstate Pennsylvania, so I split them into smaller pieces and set them aside to dry. When inspecting them on Saturday I deemed them dry enough to use, so I decided to further prep the wood (namely the hickory) into smaller billets to be used as handle stock for some antique farm and logging tools that I have been attempting to restore. This prep work consisted of a lot of sawing and hatchet work, and I don’t recommend it if you are working under any kind of time frame because it is a long and arduous process despite what anybody will tell you. Regardless. I ended up with four “sticks” roughly 2 ½ feet long and 2 or so inches square. I planed them down mainly to get a flat reference face (this wood will be shaped into contoured handles, so there is no need to start off with a perfectly square board), and rather than spending another hour rip sawing and cross cutting, I decided to use the table saw to get all of the wood to uniform size. That is when things got weird.
The first thing I wanted to do was cross cut the boards to uniform width. I have an Osborne EB-3 miter gauge, which I feel is a top of the line product, and it has never given me any real trouble. It is accurate, and safe, and I feel comfortable using it. The blade on the saw is new and sharp. So I set the blade height, and decided on an off-cut of around 2 inches just to be sure to remove any funky end wood. So I began a process I have completed thousands of times…My first off cut shot across my garage like a rifle shot. I turned off the saw, checked the blade height-which was right where it is supposed to be-and got back to work. The second off cut, which was the other side of the same board, did not shoot across the garage again, but it wanted to. Instead, it seemed to “tug” the board into the blade slightly, and I believe the only thing that kept the board from being pulled laterally any further was the fact that my miter gauge is lined with 60 grit sand paper just for the purpose of keeping the wood from shifting. At this point, I unplug the saw and check the blade-it is tight and sharp; I check the miter gauge and it is 90 degrees to the blade (not that it should have mattered in the least but I checked anyway) I even checked the voltage at the receptacle that the saw is plugged into-121 volts. So I chalked up the missile launches to the dense hickory board and began again.
The next 3 boards yielded generally the same results: flying wood, pulling boards, and overall chaos. After the boards were sawn to length I was planning on ripping them to width as well, but by then I was becoming worried. I have always had a very healthy respect for all machinery and I am always very cautious when using it, because I’ve witnessed several gory incidents as well as surviving a few near-misses myself. But this was the first time that I can ever recall being afraid to use a table saw.
At this point I decided on some more detective work. I went back to the blade, which is a brand new 40t combination blade, a Diablo from the Depot. While I don’t consider the Diablo blades anything special, I have used them in the past many times without incident. Nevertheless I doublechecked it, and found no wobble, the teeth were nice and sharp, and as I said before, the height was set where I always set it, with the gullets approximately 1/8 of an inch above the cut. Hickory is a hard wood, very hard, so I decided to cross cut a piece of scrap pine to see the results, and while it did not shoot across the room or bog, something definitely did not feel quite right. So I re-checked the Hickory; there were no wild grain patterns or large checks, and while the boards likely have more moisture content than a kiln dried board you may find in a lumber yard or home center, they were definitely not openly wet or even damp.
However, one area of concern did crop up, and that was the throat plate on my table saw. The plate is wider than it should be, and perhaps an offcut just a few inches long will dip, even slightly, due to lack of support, causing it to touch the revolving blade, possibly shooting it back? I have always wanted to make or purchase a zero clearance throat plate, but because I use the table saw so little I haven’t considered it much lately. So to test this theory out I cross cut a scrap board so that much of the off-cut would be supported by the table and the results were improved, though I still seemed to feel a slight tug that I had honestly never noticed before until that day.
Here’s the thing, not too long ago I came to the conclusion that I am probably going to sell my table saw. I don’t use it much, but more importantly it takes up a lot of space. At the same time a table saw can be a useful tool to have around. I know that I can work without it, but I also know that there are times it will be greatly missed, in particular on those days when I need to cut a few dozen dados. I’m not sold on the notion of “all handwork, all the time.” Once again, I have nothing against it, I just don’t have the free time for it; I woodwork for fun, not as a crusade. Yet, I haven’t really used the table saw in earnest this entire year, and we are heading into September. Either way, for the first time in my life I did not feel comfortable using a familiar tool. It’s worth the $25 investment to add a zero-clearance throat plate, but that may not be the issue, and that issue may be a problem with the saw that I cannot necessarily identify without a true expert checking it out for me.
If I add a new throat plate and I still don’t notice a difference I can only see two options: sell the saw and put the money toward a band-saw, or sell the saw and put the money towards a Sawstop Saw. For the record, this is not a commercial for Sawstop. I’ve used a Sawstop saw a handful of times and I think highly of them. I don’t know if they do any more to stop kickback on crosscuts than any other saw will, but I do know that if that kick back causes my hand to slip, or jerk, or what have you, and my hand happens to touch the blade in doing so, I have a far better chance of not sustaining a serious injury. Yet, even if I sell my saw and get top dollar for it, the money raised would still be less than half of what I need. I can get a nice bandsaw for half the cost of a Sawstop, and bandsaws, in my opinion, are a far safer option, perhaps the safest option of all when it comes to sawing wood with a motor.
When it comes down to it, I’m not a kid anymore, and I’m not a professional woodworker. Maybe my months long lay-off from the table saw has me somewhat gun shy. Maybe my reflexes aren’t what they used to be, and I have definitely had some issues with my hands and fingers, so maybe that is the problem. Whatever the case may be, I was honestly rattled this past weekend, and that is no way to woodwork, and until I figure it out, the power switch to that table saw is remaining in the “off” position.
Just as I was about to shut down the computer, I came across what I believe is an interesting article involving Sawstop saws and the failed legislation. It seems, according to the article, that power tool manufacturers got together and shot down the proposed safety features because they felt it was just too expensive and would force cheaply made saws off the market; I think the legal term for that is collusion, but I could be wrong; I’m not a lawyer. Funny, because I’ve been saying the same thing for two years.
They even created “The Power Tool Institute”, a front organization that presented a lot of really impressive facts and figures to back up their safety claims. As you might have guessed if you have any fucking brains, the PTI came to the conclusion that flesh detecting technology is not necessary on table saws. To me, it sure looks like these corporations weren’t out for the best interests of their customers and woodworkers in general. I find it really funny that several prominent woodworking “journalists” were the first to back the “Power Tool Institute” and it’s laundry list of bullshit facts. Oh, and the “The Power Tool Institute” also claimed that they had a “joint venture” safety device that was much better than Sawstop technology and the manufacturers in the group were preparing to install it on their equipment. For the record, that was more than five years ago and I haven’t seen a single saw with this magical safety device installed.
So, if MY research and the facts I concluded from it are correct, power tool manufacturers ignored the technology and also did their best to discredit it because it just so happens that it would cut into their profit margins and force them to make higher quality equipment. Yeah, I’ve been saying this for two years and yeah, I’m absolutely correct. The shit heads at certain woodworking magazines were protecting their own candy asses by feeding their readers a complete line of bullshit. Yeah, I said it. I was right, because I wasn’t stupid enough to trust a corporation and rather put my trust in what I thought was the right thing. Amazing how that works, because there were and are people out there just like me who have nothing to gain from this, and like me, those were the same people vilified on the forums and in the magazines. All the little sheep woodworkers out there bought all the bullshit that they were presented because the corporations used some of the oldest reverse psychology in the book: The Government is out to get you.
How sad. How many people out there did no research on their own? How many woodworkers just bought the amateurish editorials they read in every woodworking magazine that takes advertising and decided to let the guy who wrote it do the thinking for them? How many of these freaking idiots think to this day that this legislation is some form of Communism??? And for the record, if you are going to use the word ‘Communism’ when you really should be using ‘Socialism’ you should learn the definition of both words first before you start running your mouth.
Anyway, if you were one of those people out there that let some buffoon that writes for a woodworking magazine do the thinking for you, I say ‘Congrats!’ You got what you wanted. You saved some tool companies a lot of money and assured that there will never be good, mass-market power tools ever made again. Have a nice night.
…Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez echoed the condolences, adding that Americans understood the difficulties of mine rescues – and the grief of victims’ families.
“Tragedies like this remind us once again of the need to ensure that all workers return home safely at the end of their shifts,” he said in a statement. “No one, anywhere in the world, should have to risk his or her life to earn a living.”
For the past few days I’ve been reading reports of a horrific mining disaster which occurred in the country of Turkey near the town of Soma. For those of you that may be unaware of the situation, just two days ago an explosion in a coal mine and an ensuing fire trapped hundreds of miners underground. There have been hundreds of fatalities, and many more are expected. I will be the first to admit that I know little about the history and culture of Turkey, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot sympathize with those workers and their families.
Mining accidents are not unheard of in my part of the country, though thankfully they have become an extremely rare occurrence. There was a time when they were much more commonplace, and they usually resulted from lack of safety equipment, and more importantly, the complete disregard of safety regulations. More often than not, the technology and safety equipment already existed to do much in preventing mining accidents, or at the least to help better protect the miners in the event of an unpreventable disaster. Yet, that wasn’t usually the case as the safety measures were never implemented because mine owners circumvented or just plain ignored the safety rules, and worse, they rarely provided their workers with proper safety equipment to begin with, not because it didn’t exist, but because it they felt that it cost too much. But perhaps the most despicable aspects of these disasters were not only the result of carelessness on the part of the mining companies, but the carelessness of the Federal Government.
“Regulation” is often considered a bad word. Some people in the woodworking community hear the word and they automatically think that the Government is out to get them. Corporations fight tooth and nail to this day to have regulations lessened or even removed completely. The destruction of these regulations is always proposed in the name of profit, and job growth. The funny thing is that much of the time the first regulations these corporations want to remove are safety regulations. It seems that safety is expensive.
Anybody that has ever been in the military, or worked as a tradesman, or in a mill or factory among other places, has probably encountered a situation where the working conditions in terms of safety were lax. They may have even been threatened with losing their jobs when pointing out the indiscretions. There are even times when companies have threatened to close rather than comply with proposed regulations, or even regulations that have already been legislated and are considered law. There are people out there that applaud certain corporations for it, for sticking it to the Government. But in the end, it’s always the people working the jobs that pay the cost.
When the “Sawstop Legislation” was first proposed I was all for it, and I still am. The fact that it didn’t pass doesn’t bother me in the least, though maybe it should. What did bother me about it was what was said on the forums, and what really bothered me was what was written in the editorial sections of several major woodworking magazines. You know why? Because it’s my personal opinion that every one of those “editorials” were written not for the benefit of woodworkers, but to protect the advertising profitability of the magazines. In other words, safety, or the proposal of it, was once again compromised in the name of profit.
Before I go on, I will admit that I didn’t like how Sawstop corporation handled the situation. Some would say that they were trying to force their technology on other manufacturers, and to a big extent they would be correct. Yet, recent history has basically proven that safety features that cost any money nearly always have to be regulated or they will never make it into the market-Seat Belts, Air Bags, Safety Harnesses for high work, GFCI and Arc Fault Protection to name just a few examples. If you happen to believe that the free market will force safer products onto the mass market you are sadly mistaken. Free market correction has been nearly non-existent for more than a generation, de-regulation has seen to that. Mass market products, including tools, will continue to be made more and more cheaply until they are forced to change by law, because if the free market actually worked the way everybody seems to think it does, we would already have noticed a real improvement.
All of my opinions could be way off base, I admit that, but here is something I do know; every person that uses a Sawstop saw, whether at home or as a professional, has a far less chance of being severely injured by the piece of equipment they are using. And if the “Sawstop Legislation” had passed, as of January 1st, 2015, all new table saws sold in California, and possibly across the nation, would have had flesh detection technology as mandatory installed safety equipment, and every woodworker, carpenter, furniture maker, and factory worker that used a newly installed table saw from then on would have a hell of a better chance of going to bed every night after work with their digits and hands intact. Across the country, table saws would be safer, home wood workers would be safer, jobsites would be safer, and going to work would be safer for thousands of people. That’s enough for me.
So yet again, we have another instance where safety regulations were apparently compromised and hundreds of people paid for it with their lives. If Sawstop legislation was as evil as quite a few people made it out to be, I would ask the same people to talk to the parents, wives, and children of those miners that will never come home again, and tell them that safety costs a little too much and that it really isn’t the business of the Government to regulate it. I would have them explain to those families that although things could be made safer, it would cut into profits. I would love to see them present some facts and figures to those families, and show them the dollar value saved comparatively to the life it cost. Because the woodworking magazine editors sure as hell liked to use a lot of facts and figures explaining how much the Sawstop safety technology cost, and how losing a finger really wouldn’t affect your life all that much, and that it would just cost too much to produce a much safer saw. Most of those figures were completely unfounded, so while they were at it I would ask them to also put a price on what they think a finger, or a hand, or even a human life was worth. Why not? It’s all conjecture isn’t it?
Before I go, rest assured I am not comparing this horrible tragedy unfolding in Turkey to Sawstop Legislation, but I am saying that the same line of thinking is present. I know it’s been nearly two years since Sawstop legislation has been a hot topic in the world of woodworking, but that doesn’t make what some woodworking magazines printed in their pages regarding the legislation any less disgusting. Here’s what they said: Safety costs too much. Here’s why: They didn’t want to piss off their advertisers. That’s it. They told woodworkers that they really didn’t need a safer table saw, even though there are still thousands of table saw injuries every year. Why? Because they didn’t want to piss off their advertisers. They even made claims that a table saw with flesh detecting safety technology will make woodworkers careless. Why? Because they didn’t want to piss off their advertisers. Maybe that’s smart thinking, or just plain old good business, but I’m not willing to put a dollar value on my hand, or arm, or life. Yet, a lot of woodworking magazines were willing to do just that.
I read a comment on a woodworking forum last night stating: “I wouldn’t take a Sawstop table saw if you gave me one for free!” Or at least that’s what it said in paraphrase. That got me to thinking. If Sawstop offered to give you a free table saw would you take it? No strings attached, no cost, nothing, just a free saw out of the goodness of the company’s heart.
Or lets say you really love your current table saw and wouldn’t want to give it up, so Sawstop came up with a free adder to retrofit your current saw with their safety technology; let me stress free of charge. Would you take that offer?
I’m curious to find out the answers here, because there is a lot of backlash against Sawstop and many claim that price has nothing to do with it. So please feel free to comment and let me know what your reasoning is either way. Thanks.
This one is for all you new people out there. By now you’ve gotten your tool set together; you’ve subscribed to a woodworking magazine or two; you’ve read a few woodworking books, and you may even have some nice completed projects under your belt…so what’s the problem? The problem is that you are not a ‘cool woodworker’, and the real problem is that you don’t really know how to become a ‘cool woodworker’; well that’s why I’m here.
I can’t claim to be a cool woodworker, and I’ve probably offended too many cool woodworkers to be ever be invited into the club, but after nearly five years of woodworking and 18 months of blogging I’ve managed to compile together my research and I believe I’ve finally discovered at least some of the secrets to becoming a cool woodworker. While this list may not be perfect, I do believe it is a good start on the path to woodworking coolness.
Cool Woodworker Rule #1: Always refer to woodworking as “The Craft”
This one is fairly easy to accomplish, though it may cause some slight embarrassment and self-loathing. All you need to do is substitute the word ‘woodworking’ with “the craft” and you will be fine. For example, a normal woodworker may say: “I’ve been woodworking for three years.” Sounds fine, right? But in order to be a cool woodworker you have to say something along the lines of: “I’ve been practicing the craft for three years.” That simple phrase is the first step into the cool woodworking club.
Cool Woodworker Rule #2: Never admit the cost of your tool set.
A cool woodworker will generally have a tool set that costs at least $5000. But somehow, a cool woodworker obtains this large and expensive set of tools for very little money, usually under $100. Three hundred dollar Lie Nielsen jack plane? A cool woodworker got it for five bucks at a yard sale. Set of chisels? A cool woodworker found them under a floor board in an old barn. Delta Unisaw? A cool woodworker finds his in a basement and fully restores it himself. So if you are forced to actually purchase most of your tools the same way the vast majority of uncool woodworkers usually do, never admit that you paid any real money for them.
Note: A cool woodworker can also inherit his tool set, but it is much easier to get in the club if that set was “earned” and not inherited.
Cool Woodworker Rule #3: Your workbench top must be really thick.
This one is subjective, but you should shoot for a bench top at least 8 inches thick. While this doesn’t sound difficult to accomplish in theory, don’t be fooled, it is. Firstly, finding a board at least 8 inches thick is easier said than done. Secondly, if you do so happen to find that board , it is going to cost you some big money, and that’s a real problem, because like a cool woodworker tool set, a cool woodworker bench top must be obtained at a minimal or no cost. Ideally, a cool woodworker finds his massive bench top…somewhere. If he doesn’t happen to find that magical board in passing, a family friend of a cool woodworker who happens to own a farm should happen to come across it while cleaning out an old barn and then think of the aforementioned cool woodworker upon the miraculous discovery.
Cool Woodworker Rule #4: If you do purchase your tools, you must modify them heavily.
Even cool woodworkers are at times forced to purchase their tools and not discover them in an ancient shipwreck. If you do happen to purchase your woodworking tools new, and you still want to be a cool woodworker, you must make modifications to your newly purchased tools in order to prove that you know something that professional tool manufacturers do not. The modifications to be made are limitless, from changing the handle of a plane or saw to completely rebuilding the purchased tool. Remember, the goal here is to showcase your knowledge of the inner workings of woodworking tools, as well as letting the cool woodworkers guild know that though you purchased a new tool, you did in fact make it your own. In this instance you are only limited by your imagination and your propensity for being supercilious.
Note: This rule also applies to store bought hardware.
Cool Woodworker Rule #5: You must befriend a blacksmith.
This one is the toughest on the list and I’ll tell you why. While purchasing hardware from a blacksmith isn’t necessarily easy, it isn’t all that difficult either if you have one within driving distance. But in order to be a cool woodworker, that blacksmith should really be a close friend. Actually, to be a really cool woodworker, said blacksmith should be a person you’ve known most of, if not all of your life. Not only that, the blacksmith should not, under any circumstances whatsoever, be taking any actual orders. A really cool woodworker has a blacksmith friend who makes custom hardware for him only because they are so very close. Admittedly this is one is a tough nut to crack, and really separates the boys from the cool woodworkers. The only advice I can offer here is: Good Luck.
While I cannot guarantee that following these rules will make you a cool woodworker, I do believe that any woodworker who manages to meet this criteria is certainly heading in the right direction. If you do manage to become a cool woodworker, and I somehow helped you achieve that lofty goal, please let me know what it’s like up there. Though it’s too late for me, I can still dream; can’t I?
Fans of science fiction are probably well aware of the Grandfather Paradox, which states that if a time traveler went back to the past and killed his grandfather, he would never have been born, therefore making it impossible to time travel and kill his grandfather in the first place. Let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and not worry about why somebody would want to kill his own grandfather, I enjoy science fiction as much as the average person I suppose. But the sort-of real world application of this sci-fi fantasy kind of hit me this morning as I was finishing up my hand plane project. Last night I did some final cleaning up of the plane and gave it a light sanding. I took a few more light passes of the sole with my jointer plane and then ran it over some 220 grit sandpaper affixed to my table saw wing. I’ll be the first to admit that the sole is not perfectly flat; there are some very slight hollows, but I really couldn’t care in the least. Sole flatness, while important, isn’t the end all be all of hand plane happiness, especially a wooden plane. But what did occur to me is the fact that I could not have made this hand plane without my Stanley jointer plane. Well, I could have, but it wouldn’t have been very flat. This really got me to wondering why in the world would I make a tool in which the building process required me to own a manufactured version (which is a very well made tool by the way) of the very same tool I was making? Is this a paradox or am I reaching?
Of course the real reasons I made the plane aren’t all that complicated: it was an experiment; I like wooden planes; it was fun to make etc…But I’m not talking about me as a hobbyist; I’m talking about the guy who made planes because he needed them for his job. What did he do? I probably should have read up on this whole process more but I frankly don’t have the time at the moment; I’m currently in the middle of reading two books to begin with, but I really would like to know how the old time plane makers got the soles of their wooden planes flat, if they did at all. For my part, I had a surface planer, a jointer plane, and a reference surface that was machined flat, and the operation still wasn’t all that easy. Still, even with my inquisitive mind still left wondering, I managed to finish the plane last night and I can report that it actually works quite well.
The only thing I really want to touch on here is the iron. I purchased a Hock iron and chip breaker set specifically designed for using in a wood hand plane. I own several Hock Tool products and they are all of high quality. This set is no exception but there was one issue I did have, and that was honing the iron. Just getting the grinding marks off of the bevel took me a good 45 minutes. I’ll say this, I sharpen by hand with Norton water stones. It is possible that my 1000 grit stone, which I use for initial grinding, isn’t up to par. At that, I used it the other day to sharpen a chisel and I had no issue. But you can imagine that after 45 minutes, my arms and shoulders were a bit sore. To put that in perspective, the Hock block plane iron and the shoulder plane irons I had flattened and sharp in less than 5 minutes. Obviously this iron, at 1 3/4″ wide, is larger than those, but I still felt that it took longer than it should have to sharpen. Still, the iron is very well made, looks great, and is now razor sharp. I was able to take full width shavings on pine and poplar.
For the finish on the plane I used two coats of boiled linseed oil, one applied on Friday night, and the other applied today around eleven AM. The finish turned out nicely and the plane looks pretty good. The “frog” is dirty from the iron, and not as refined as I would like, but it is flat and sawn true, and the iron sits nicely in it. For the wedge I used a piece of flatsawn oak, which I cut out with a back saw, and then a coping saw. I didn’t do anything fancy to it, just rounding the front and back edges. I sanded it by hand from 60 to 220 grit and applied several coats of linseed oil to it as well.
There is one final thing I would like to add. This plane is not as easy to adjust as I would like. I have no trouble getting it to take a consistent shaving, but I can’t seem to get it to take a very fine shaving. I don’t own a micrometer, so I can’t actually measure the thickness of the shavings, but they are just a hair thicker than I would like them to be. I may be trying to do something with the tool that it really isn’t meant to do, and that is turn a nineteen inch long fore plane into a smoother. I also may be rushing things a bit. This plane is technically just a few hours old. I haven’t had the time to use it and get used to its little nuances as of yet. Without a handle, it isn’t as easy to push through a board as my jointer. The weight on it is just fine, I’m guessing around 4 lbs. If this plane were my only jointer/fore plane I think it would work for me just fine and my woodworking wouldn’t skip a beat, so I can definitely call this experiment a success. But I guess the real question is will I, and would I, ever make another hand plane?
I don’t know to be honest. I have a perfectly flat piece of laminated oak that I would love to make a little smoothing plane with, and from what I gather, laminated wood works well in hand planes. The actual project didn’t really take all that long; 25% of the time was probably spent honing the plane iron. Knowing what I know now, I could probably assemble a smoothing plane from scratch in about three hours, if I use the same iron. That alone makes another plane project a real possibility. The other day I priced out quartersawn oak for an Arts and Crafts sideboard plan I downloaded and the material cost almost made me quit woodworking and take up model making. If I were to make a smoothing plane, my cash layout would probably only be around $10. I already have the iron, the wood for the body, and the finish. So possibly for the next month or so I may be referring to myself as a hobbyist plane maker. Maybe, with a little practice, I might even be good at it.
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.