Shop Safety #1: Do not become complacent, power tools are unforgiving **WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES**

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Blog entry by McPheel posted 12-27-2016 03:27 PM 1378 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I wanted to start this blog on shop safety as this is a very important aspect of any work you do. As woodworkers, we are exposed to hazards every time we go into the shop, whether it is a table saw that could remove a few fingers, a sharp chisel or even just going up a ladder to grab some boards from your lumber rack. It is shocking how quickly and easily we can injure ourselves which can be either simply counter productive possibly forcing you to sand some blood stains off of your piece or even detrimental to your work and the hobby all together.

I’m going to kick it off with a personal and recent story. I have always had a respect for my tools and spend a large amount of time setting up so I can safely perform tasks in the shop rather than setting up to quickly perform them. As woodworkers it is important that we understand and respect our tools and know how the forces being exerted by them could be released.

This past summer I experienced a somewhat serious incident while building my raised wicking beds (click here for project). I was doing the work right after finally coming home from the Fort McMurray fires. I was working north of the city when the fire broke out and was part of the evacuation efforts to house people trapped north of the city in camps and fly them out to safety in Edmonton or Calgary (details on the fire). Needless to say, with the thought of the city i spent so much time in potentially being burnt to the ground, and the pain of so many people that were now homeless resonating so close to me, my mind was not 100% focused on the work i was doing.

The day I had the incident, it was 26 degrees Celsius all day and extremely dry. We had been working all day on the wicking bed I was running on fumes and looking forward to the beer can chicken we had cooking on the BBQ. I just had to finish drilling a few holes to join my wicking bed reservoirs then i was going to crack a beer and relax while we finished up dinner. On the second hole I was using a 1” hole saw with an 18 volt Dewalt drill and due to the location and angle of the hole i was sitting on the edge of the bed and leaning back with the drill below my center of gravity, supporting my weight with my other hand. Everything was going fine as i started drilling until the hole saw hit a knot in the wood and kicked on me. The rotational direction of the hole saw caused it to track up the board i was drilling in an upwards motion to the left (directly towards my other hand that was supporting me). My reflexes caused me to let go and try to balance myself but as i did that the rouge hole saw decided to end it’s kick back by powering down into my left hand.

I didn’t notice it at first until i saw all the blood and quietly cursed thinking it was just a minor cut. My immediate reaction was to try to hide it form my wife who was working on another part of the yard. I quietly got up and tried walking back to the house to run it under the sink and wrap it up before she could see the stupid mistake i had made. I got 3/4 of the way to the house and began to black out from blood loss and likely exhaustion with a touch of dehydration. She noticed me staggering back to the house swaying back and forth then quickly saw the blood pouring down my hand and pooling under me on our patio.. Clearly she was panicked and I tried to calm her but seemed to be in a drunken state, no matter how much a tried everything around me kept fading in and out. I sat down on the ground and put pressure on it and eventually began getting more clarity as our dogs were licking my face like crazy and i was to weak to stop them. My wife helped me inside, grabbed the first aid kit and wrapped it up tightly with some sterile gauze and a tensor. Growing up in the trades and working in high risk environments, I have significant first aid and safety training and my wife has heard endured me explain these concepts on many of our hikes and adventures so she knew exactly what to do.

At this point and after drinking a lot of water, i was not sure i could drive to the hospital but felt much better, I made the stupid decision of waiting until the morning to go to the hospital because i was hungry, tired and was really looking forward to the dinner we were making. Bad mistake, the next day the doctor gave me a lecture about how stupid i was to wait. I quickly understood why as he had to reopen the wound to clean it (this was far from a pleasant feeling).

I ultimately ended up with 5 big fat stitches that were placed deep into my hand since the skin was to shredded up to hold a stitch shallowly. a week in while i was back at work it got infected and i had to run a course of antibiotics and as it healed i noticed that i had way less mobility with my thumb. I ended up having damage to a tendon that reduced how much i could move my thumb. This is slowly getting better but may never be the same. A good lesson to learn and to stop me from becoming complacent again. Now i have a good reminder right on my hand that i can see every time i grab a tool that immediately makes me stop and think, “ok what can go wrong and how bad could it be”; “what can i do to make this as safe as possible”

-- Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing - Nick Offerman

4 comments so far

View johnstoneb's profile


2816 posts in 2103 days

#1 posted 12-27-2016 03:32 PM

Thanks for the post. I had an incident with a hole saw and drill press that require stitches. Not as bad as yours. Hole saw can move very rapidly.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View lew's profile


11982 posts in 3686 days

#2 posted 12-27-2016 05:17 PM

OUCH! Bad enough but glad it wasn’t any worse.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Redoak49's profile


3126 posts in 1919 days

#3 posted 12-27-2016 09:44 PM

Thanks for the post and reminder….glad you are doing Ok.

View ChuckV's profile


3101 posts in 3458 days

#4 posted 12-27-2016 10:07 PM

I am sorry about your accident. I hope that you heal quickly and well.

This is a good reminder that it’s not just the big stationary machines that need our full attention. The only time I ever needed stitches was as a result of a chisel cut in my finger.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

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