Monday, March 30, 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Woodworkers Safety Week isn't for another few weeks, but it's never too early to talk about shop mishaps.

You know how it is when you buy a new tool—you want to try it out right away.

Such was the case with the antique handsaw I bought from Tom Law and the sloyd knife I bought from Del Stubbs.

My jeans took the hit from the knife and saved my thigh from what surely would have been a cavernous gash in my leg requiring a freakishly huge number of stitches.  And the poor little 5 board stool that I absconded from the house to use as a sawbench bravely endured the cold bite from the wickedly sharp crosscut saw.

Friends, tragic events like this can be avoided.  Before you use your new tool, inhale 10 deep breaths, play an Air Supply CD, maybe take a candlelit bath with rose-scented bath salts and loofah.  

Do whatever is necessary to quell your I-just-bought-a-new-tool-and-have-to-try-it-out-NOW! hysteria.


will said...


Ill skip the loofah and rose scented bath salts ...

But by posting this one you are in for an array of gash and cut stories... the almost cut it off stories and the skin of my teeth stories.

Did I ever tell you about the time I was working late, rushing and then it happened ...

Bob Tinsley said...


I always say that a sharp tool is like a jealous woman: She demands 100% of your attention, or she bites!


Anonymous said...

That's why we can't have nice things!!!

Kari Hultman said...

Bill, I'm hoping that others will share their stories. I even had a mishap in art school and lost the end of a finger! It grew back. Sweet.

Bob--I laughed out loud at that! Must remember that one.

Anon, I hope you aren't suggesting that we should stop buying new tools????

Shazza said...

Air Supply? Noooooooooooo

Woodbloke said...

Kari - a far greater sin and even worse than your close've used an iron on those jeans!!!! - Rob

Kari Hultman said...

Shazza, I know. I'd rather pluck my eyebrows with a chainsaw than listen to Air Supply.

Rob, you're right!! :o)

will said...

Ok... I've been to the ER lots of times due to woodworking. But after 30 years of work I still have all my fingers and toes.

The worst was when I ground away several fingernails as my hand was caught by a belt sander. Oh, that really hurt. I wrapped my fingers and hand in a white bath towel (all I could find). By the time the ER docs saw me the white towel looked like a red boxing glove. Thankfully a hand specialist happened to be in the ER and he managed to save enough of the fingernails so they could grow back.

Lets' see - there were several bandsaw mishaps, a dropped chisel slicing open my leg, a broken nose from a poorly clamped piece on a drill press. Lots of bruises from dropped bar clamps (also broke a toe from a dropped bar clamp), more than a few times I've turned too quickly into the corner of the work bench and was rewarded with pain and purple.

The biggest scare was when a table saw carbide blade decided to throw teeth - they were like bullets going by my head.

Then there was the surgery to remove bone spurs in my shoulder - those were from the repetitive motion of using a mallet or hammer.

The most inspiring 'almost accident' was when I was in a school's workshop and I short young woman was using a table saw to cut a sheet of plywood. I was about 20 feet away and was looking her way when she simply let go of the plywood in the middle of the cut. The plywood sailed over her head and crashed into the wall. If she had been taller the ply would have done some horrible damage. She nonchalantly left the saw running and simply walked out the door ... and never returned. We assumed she had a change of heart about woodworking while making that cut.

Gary Roberts said...


I am happy to say that I have all ten fingers, complete with fingertips. My worst accident occurred while cutting a carrot in the kitchen, cutting deep into the ball of my thumb. But then... having worked for many years as a rehabilitation counselor, I have developed a healthy respect for what cars, motorcycles, machinery and sharp tools can do to the flesh.

Kari Hultman said...

Bill, I'm not sure whether I would call you lucky or unlucky! The freaky one is the table saw throwing teeth at you. I have never ever heard of that happening. How on earth did they come loose?

Gary, developing a healthy respect for tools, hand or power, is the best advice anyone can give.

Teresa Jones said...

I had my new saws from Mike Wenzloff all of five minutes before I cut the third knuckle of the left hand index finger.

The only power tool accident so far is reaching under the bandsaw table before the blade stopped.

I broke my hand installing a Bret Guard on my table saw when the drill bit hung and my hand continued to rotate. No attempt at safety goes unpunished!!

Anonymous said...

I've had many saw blades loose teeth, but never heard any zinging by me. its fairly common among construction skil saw blades

I was cutting a 1/4 chunk of plywood for a drawer bottom. I'm not sure what happens but it caught on the blade and came flying back hit me on the side of the hip. spun back hit the saw shut off switch. (Turning it off) it then proceed to hit teh wall about 15 feet behind me. In the second or two it took to look at my leg i had a 3 by 8 inch bruise.

Presbyfruit's History Bits said...

what stool did you abscond from the house?

will said...

Considering my years building things, all the things I've made and all the seminars I taught ... and the fact that all my accidents were relatively minor (nothing was ever lopped off) - I'd say I'm very lucky.

There was one constant, I think, in all the cuts and ER repaired injuries - they happened after hours of work - usually in the last hour or so - when I was both tired and pushing myself to finish something.

Regarding the flying carbide ... the kerf knife assembly on the back side of the blade had loosened enough that the internal base holding assembly moved just enough for the teeth to hit.

Peter Galbert said...

Don't make me tell you the story of cutting my wrist open in front of a crowd at the NWA showcase last weekend!!

Anonymous said...

I showed my wife this post - when she got to the bath, candles etc she started to gag, looked at me, laughed a bit, gagged again, and left the room shaking her head while guffawing in a most unpleasant way! Hours later an extra box of band aids showed up on my bench...

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks everyone for sharing your stories. It's always good to be reminded to think before we try anything in the shop.

Peter, oh no! I bet that was painful....and [worse, perhaps] embarrassing!

Vinny, sounds like your wife's not planning to share her bath salts with you. : (

Anonymous said...

With most hand tools one has at least a chance -usually- to limit the damage. Power tools are much gorier. People assure me that because of that they are more careful - I know too many people who have lost fingers.
With the exception of chisels and -small- draw knives I have a great respect for long knives - anything longer than the blade of chip carving knife. I have the scars to prove it.


Anonymous said...


There are a serious set of essential arteries in the thigh – you don’t need me to tell you about those!

On the subject of spoon making, I met an old-school professional spoon-maker some years ago in the West of England, named Bertie Somme.
He had evolved a hand technique for excavating the bowls of spoons. It involved a holding stance that uses the opening and clenching of the knife hand to provide the cutting power – with this approach it was it virtually impossible to cut the fingers or heel of the hand.
More importantly, he did all the small work in his lap and had a thick leather apron to absorb any potential accidents. It’s the type of apron used by farriers and welders.

I hope this helps avoid any blood in your spotless workshop!

All best


Kari Hultman said...

Howard, a leather apron is an excellent idea--thanks! I've been trying different holding techniques with the bent knives. Takes a little getting used to and I'm thinking about taking a class.

AKnox said...

I am taking a guitar making class at a woodcraft, and not five minutes after buying a sorby and using it as a scraper on some molding I poked myself in the palm.

Not very hard mind you, but puncture wounds heal slowly.

so, for everyone wondering. Sorby knives come very sharp (and stay that way).

Did you get one because of the schwarz' favorite knife article?

I should really have a special credit card that is just tied to his blog. I'm pretty sure woodcraft has a schwarz section at their store.

Kari Hultman said...

AK, a "Schwarz" section at Woodcraft would significantly cut down on shopping time. Great idea!

Anonymous said...

Kari, some afterthoughts on spoons:

There is a tradition of intricate wooden spoon carving in Wales that goes back centuries. They were often exchanged as tokens of affection. Antique ones are museum pieces worth thousands, while a few people are selling their modern spoons on the web – Google ‘Welsh Love spoons’

I mentioned Bertie Somme. There are a few vids on You Tube where he demonstrates the holding method and safe tool techniques in spoon carving that I mentioned.
He is also a turner – there are a couple of other vids on You Tube where he turns a 3 m (yes, 10 feet) pillar in one, on a lathe. Worth a watch.

Finally, spoons of another, more idiomatic kind. Italy recently gained the ‘Wooden Spoon’ trophy in the Six Nations Rugby tournament. They lost every game.
This has become a tradition in the past few years for the heavy-weight, but unskilled Italian team. Needless to say, the trophy exists only in the reputation that they will bring to the tournament next year! The Irish took the trophy and the Grand Slam from the Welsh this year, and well done to them.

All best


Kari Hultman said...

Howard, I found Bertie's videos on youtube--thanks!
I'm familiar with Welsh Love Spoons but had never heard of the "Wooden Spoon" trophy. I guess that's not the kind of spoon you'd want to display. ; )