After much internal deliberation I have decided to share that I have joined those included in table saw injury statistics. I do so hoping that perhaps my misfortune might help one or more in the Lumberjocks community, even if it is just a wake up call. Furthermore, without getting into a debate on the topic, I want to say that I believe my injury would not have occurred if I was using a Sawstop table saw. I will say a bit more on that later.
On Sunday August 12, 2012 I finished making a cut using my home made crosscut sled and turned off the saw. I had the desired piece in my hand. I looked down, saw the remaining stock lying next to the blade and decided to retrieve it. I can neither rationalize nor explain why I then reached across and into the still spinning blade. Oh how I wish I could have those mere seconds back, but that is not to be.
All four fingers of my left (dominant) hand were cut. The pinky and ring fingers sustained deep tissue and bone lacerations, the other fingers, essentially superficial cuts. The injuries are to the back side (not the palm) of my hand. My wedding band was cut open and sent flying into a shop wall. I can still hear it hitting the wall and thinking it was something other than a ring. On the day of injury I underwent surgery (stitching) in the emergency room. I had an appointment with a hand surgeon two days later (tues.) and she performed more extensive surgery on Thursday. The surgery included placement of a pin in my pinky, wiring of the middle knuckle of the ring finger and additional stitching. Since tendons were severed, range of motion may be permanently limited. Now three weeks post-surgery, the stitches and pin have been removed and I have started therapy.
I am of the belief that the most positive thing is that I could have, but did not, sever any digits. Prospects are good for return of a good amount of functionality to all fingers.
Let me move on to shop safety issues. Several months ago I made a crosscut sled that some on LJ call a super sled. Here is a photo of it:
If you use a crosscut sled and do not have a Plexiglas shield over the blade from front to back, I highly recommend that you add one. There are many versions on LJ. Here is a sample photo:
LJs say they included this feature to keep dust and chips from coming up into their face but since it is installed directly above the blade it also serves as hand protection. If mine had one I would not have been able, or at least not inclined, to reach across the blade as I did. Here is a photo of me re-enacting how I reached for the piece of stock:
And here is a photo of my wedding band:
I mentioned the Sawstop. Assuming the technology works, and I believe it does, my injury would have been a mere scratch on my hand. I bought my table saw, a 5 hp Powermatic (PM), in 2009. It came down to the PM or the Sawstop for me. At the time I resolved that the jury was still out on the Sawstop. Would it have false triggers? Is it a quality machine comparable to a PM or a Delta? Will it really work? There are other machines in the shop as dangerous, or more dangerous, than the table saw. Will the flesh detection technology ultimately be available for all table saws via a retrofit? About a year after my purchase, I retired and was often home alone in my shop. I resolved it was time to get the Sawstop. I procrastinated and here we are two years hence. My point here is, everyone has their opinion on the Sawstop, especially given the results of the high profile lawsuit cases. If you are of the mind that you believe in it and want it, do all you can to get one. At some point in the past few weeks I told my wife I didn’t know if I could go back to woodworking. That concern is behind me. I know I will. My wife’s response was, “You’ll go back, but not without the Sawstop.” I want to mention one more thing about the Sawstop. My injury occurred after I turned off the saw. It got me wondering if the Sawstop flesh detection feature only works when the saw is in the on position. I called the company and was informed that it does continue to work until the blade comes to a complete stop.
One last thing about shop safety. If you don’t already do so, be sure to have a phone with you in your shop. I was able to use my cell phone to call 911. Best wishes to all and be safe!
-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI