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.
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?