How I learned to be safer

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Blog entry by JPBatts posted 04-10-2009 09:23 PM 1152 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a story about how my woodworking hobby was put on hold for a few weeks after my first injury. I was injured by my very first woodworking machine and it happened even before I had a piece of wood in the shop. But to go public with the story is daunting because I am a CEO for an association and part of my job includes running a workers’ compensation program. I review the biggest claims and I have often murmured, “How can these people be so dumb?” These days I don’t say that anymore since I got a first hand lesson. Pun intended.

The injury doesn’t show so much anymore. My pinky is a lot thinner than most and the scar doesn’t show so much.

I brought home my first large tool, a Jet 10 inch cabinet saw that was to become the centerpiece of the garage turned woodworking shop. I was able to manhandle it out of the low trailer and drag it into the garage. It did occur to me that I should wait until one of my neighbors got home from work to help but I was excited and had visions of all the cool projects this saw would help me make. I decided to see how far I had to take the unpacking process working alone.

The saw was double packed with thick cardboard boxes stapled into the pallet it was bolted to. After removing the cardboard I peeled back the plastic sheet that covered the thick grease on the table. At first I used a plastic scraper to remove the thickest of the grease and then I used a solvent to remove the rest.

I made it this far so I tipped the saw over onto its side to remove the bolts. I made a small nod to safety and stacked some timbers next to the saw so I could lay it down and avoid having it slam onto the concrete floor.

Hey, this was going pretty easy. So I removed the bolts and then arranged myself to lift the saw upright.

Trouble started.

I grasped the saw table and checked to see if I could just lift it up the same way I laid it down. It looked okay so I started to lift with my legs. Then the table started moving. No, wait a minute, the table wasn’t moving, it was my hand! A small glob of grease was left on the underside of the table and I had my hand right in the middle of it. My brain sensed that the hand was slipping so it told my feet to get out of the way. In doing so, they knocked down the stack of timber that the saw rested on. My brain also told my hands to let go of the table, but I willed they stay.

WHang! It was the sound of solid steel hitting the floor. I noticed that there was a little thump before the whang, kinda of a thump-WHANG but it happened so fast I would have been the only person to notice it.

My brain got my feet out of the way along with nine of my fingers. I would later notice that my finger did preserve the saw from being damaged in the fall but there was a pretty substantial price to pay for that. I could have replaced the saw for what the emergency room was going to cost. But I get ahead of myself.

So here I was with my finger pinned to the concrete floor. I tried to pull my finger free but I feared leaving behind half of my finger. I crossed my right hand over my left and tried to get a grip on the saw using the small gap created by my finger.

I could hear my neighbors playing basketball a few houses down the street but I was not going to humiliate myself by crying for help. I considered what my wife was doing but she freaks out every time I come into the house blooding.

Several times I tried different ways to lift the saw but couldn’t. Then I heard a voice, “Pat are you okay?” Oh good it was my other neighbor and I was going to get the help I needed without embarrassing myself.

My neighbor fashioned a fulcrum and lifted the saw off my finger and it didn’t hurt until that exact moment. Blood flowed out of the tear in my finger and about that time my wife walked into the garage.

Now here is what I say about men bleeding. All woodworkers bleed a bit from time to time. Most of the time it is little stuff and the greatest damage is the blood on that wood just prepared for finishing. Sometimes we come into the house streaming a little blood but no trip to the ER is necessary. There are other times…like when one pins his finger under a table saw that even we decide we need to see a doctor.

My wife drove me to the ER and I had a comedian for a doctor. He lifted my hand and whistled, “Man, I bet that really hurts!” The cure was a good cleaning, no stitches and a thick bandage. He said something about marrow needing to weep out of the wound.

The nurse came in and asked who my employer was and how the injury occurred. I explained that it wasn’t a workers’ comp claim and I asked her if they had a category for injuries for “just being stupid.” She said “Yes, most of them.”

I work a lot safer now.

-- If she asks please tell my wife that I can sell my tools for what I paid, okay?

11 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3816 days

#1 posted 04-10-2009 09:41 PM

I hate to hear stories like this but, like you, a lot of us are “stubborn” enough to try and do things on our own rather than waiting or asking for help. We just get impatient or simply do not want to bother someone else. Just last night I had to install a pedestal on the washer and dryer, which went just fine but rather than calling a neighbor or one of my sons to help me get the washer back on its feet I was determined to do it anyway. It started sliding when I was lifting it and I thought I was going to lose it, But fortunately it caught the garage wall before I dropped it and I was just able to get it back upright. I hesitate to think of the “lecture” I would have gotten if I had dropped HER washer.

I am glad your injury wasn’t any worse and you did save the saw. But I agree with the implicit idea that at times we must swallow our impatience and/or pride and simply ask for help rather than “going it alone”.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3642 days

#2 posted 04-10-2009 10:33 PM


thanks for sharing though… we can all benefit from such misfortune experiences in the future.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View dalec's profile


612 posts in 3882 days

#3 posted 04-10-2009 10:34 PM

I think it is a combination of a male thing about doing something without help and not wanting to inconvenience others by asking for help. Of course none of these reasons make much sense to anyone other than another male.

I just assembled my new saw, but for fear of dropping it when trying to right it, I used common sense for once and had my son help. I am grateful to have my saw standing upright, no scratches and no personal injury.

Madcow, I hope you a speedy recovery, so you can use your new saw.


View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 3674 days

#4 posted 04-10-2009 10:37 PM

There’s lots of points that could be brought up, and might, if not by me.

First, Kharma… People rarely hurt themselves on purpose, so why question how someone can be so dumb? I won’t go into the idea of workman’s comp and how people use the system. But if it’s a legitimate injury, then one shouldn’t question how someone can be so dumb. Kharma came back, for that.

Second, sometimes people should swallow their pride and ask for help. People are more inclined to humiliate and bring up something over and over, if a person doesn’t ask for help, than if they do. If people are worried about what people would think about “crying for help” then people need to check their ego and pride.

This isn’t meant to be an attack on you, just a general statement, that people are in too big a hurry anymore and don’t bother to ask for help when they probably know that they should, and just jump in to anything, because they can’t wait.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View tsmith's profile


28 posts in 3449 days

#5 posted 04-10-2009 11:00 PM

And even though we have all read the message and the repiles. Somone will STILL not heed the warnings and do the hard jobs alone and risk an injury.

I was in a risky situation just last evening.

Even when we have thought our way through the process and possibilities. Sometimes Murphy jumps in to get his due.

-- tsmith - Garland, TX.

View TraumaJacques's profile


433 posts in 3494 days

#6 posted 04-10-2009 11:12 PM

Thank god the saw is OK…:-) just kidding,that is why I say keep it real people this things just occurs. Thanks for posting.

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3520 days

#7 posted 04-10-2009 11:49 PM

Good story! No, great story and something to remember the next time we try something that possibly we should do safer. Another thought, why is it that we have to always learn the hard way?

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View dusty2's profile


323 posts in 3423 days

#8 posted 04-11-2009 01:30 AM

I real thought provoking dissertation. I have had a few of those myself but then I was younger and recovered from the physical injuries as fast as I did from the psychological ones. These days I don’t heal so fast as I once did – especially from the psychological ones.

Good luck throughout your recovery period and then some.

BTW – you probably lost a lot more time in the ER than you would have had you waited for help. We’ll not talk about the medical costs – at least not now.

-- Making Sawdust Safely

View HallTree's profile


5664 posts in 3761 days

#9 posted 04-11-2009 02:02 AM

Thanks for sharing. It makes all of us stop and think.

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3238 posts in 3706 days

#10 posted 04-11-2009 07:01 AM

Madcow, Thank you for the reminder. We hope this will be your only woodworking accident.

Dalec, You can’t claim it as a man-thing either. We women do the same things, not wanting to bother our husbands for help. I’ve been cleaning up some used equipment I purchased recently and haven’t always waited for the help I need. I hung the air filter system (which was a little heavy for me) from the ceiling without help (and without incident PTL!). Sometimes we sense that someone else’s time is too valuable to waste in helping us, but then we “waste” it in the stress it causes them for what happens to us! And often we are just in too big of a hurry. Being a wimp, I must often delay a project to get my husband’s help.

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View BlueStingrayBoots's profile


852 posts in 3996 days

#11 posted 06-03-2009 06:48 PM

Wow, wish I couldof been there to help you lift that saw before it happened. I have hydraulic strength, it surprises even me. God it feels great!

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