From wood butchery to wood workery #2: Fortunate Accidents | getting things done

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Blog entry by Woodbutchery posted 04-11-2010 04:13 AM 1636 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Learning how to learn in wood Part 2 of From wood butchery to wood workery series Part 3: Getting closer without doing as much - that measure twice cut once stuff works! »

I am not a wood professional. I don’t aspire to be one. Woodworking is more creative release than handyman ability, or craft. While I hope to learn how to craft wood, I do not stay up nights pining for the day I can make the perfect hand cut dovetail joinery, but that’s the game I play and my involvement with this so far. I remember once upon a time where I just wanted to have a decent tone on the flute and would worry about the ornamentation and “other” stuff later. So now I’m worrying about the “other stuff”, and may someday pine over that self-same hand cut dovetail joinery.

All that being said, I have been fortunate to have some accidents early enough in this undertaking that involves sharp blades of death whirring at inappropriate speeds around my anatomy. The fortunate part of these accidents was that my injury was minimal and non-invasive.

Protective Eyewear

I had just purchased a circular saw, having mastered the art of brandishing a hand-held drill. Because there are enough diy-type shows that admonish the viewer to always wear protective eye gear, I bought some.

So I put the glasses on, put some gloves on, and lay down my first 2×4 to cut. Blade is tight, blade-path is clear, chord is tucked away so it won’t get cut. I bring the plate to the wood, pull the trigger, the saw blade spins, and I move forward at a slow feed rate, when I hit a splinter that breaks from the wood, bounces off the blade, and heads straight for the center of the pupil of my right eye before it bounces off the protective glasses. It happens so fast that I just release the trigger to stop the blade as the splinter is falling back to the ground. It was a sizeable splinter, about an inch long, quarter inch at the thickest, and a point that narrowed down to pupil-mutilating sharpness.

I set the saw down for a moment to get over the split-second incident. If I hadn’t been wearing the glasses, I might be up for a patch or a glass eye now. As it is, I seen fine, thank you. I now wish I had kept that sliver.

I would have framed it with a sign, “Protective glasses keeps this out of your eyes.” It was the best lesson in that it was personal and caused no injury nor damage to any machinery.

I ALWAYS wear some type of protective eye wear.

Push Sticks and Sharp Blades.

And other things that keep one’s digits away from the speedily-spinning whirling sharpness.

After I bought my table saw one of the first things I did was buy the push-stick/pads package. The first jig I made, a cross-cut sled. I’ve since made another cross-cut sled that better suits my needs and doesn’t invite me to put my hand near the place where the blade may come through the back.

I’m currently working on back-porch benches for my wife (I’ll sit on them too, but she’s the one that wants ‘em. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it), and was ripping 2×4s down to 3” wide. I noticed that the cuts were actually putting some strain on the motor of my Jet 10 JSL (something-or-other) contractor saw, a good sign that I needed to get a new blade while I had the old one sharpened, but I figured it would be good for at least a few more rips. I was at the end of the last rip on the first side of all the bench wood, using a push-stick and push-pad and when something joggled where it shouldn’t have. The push-stick swerved into the blade, got caught by it, and was immediately cut/tore in two by the saw blade. The push pad got caught in the mess and had a slight blade score on the rubber pad.

Like the splinter, this happened fast. There was an instant where I heard something wrong, then the hand holding the pad was jerked toward me while the hand holding the stick struck the table. I first turned off the saw, then looked at my hands to see if the gloves had been ripped through. All digits accounted for. I took the gloves off for a more thorough inspection. Not even a bruise.

The push stick? In pieces. I figure I moved the wood too fast through the dull blade, there was some vibration, then the wood started to twist or bind, at which time all other things went wonky, possibly being thrown by the blade, which caused the stick and pad to do their dance. In any case, all digits were intact and useable, no injury involved. I shut down until I had a sharper blade, and put together another push stick (I couldn’t think of push-pad for my life, so while writing this blog I googled it, and found a design for a simple push shoe, which I am inclined to put together very soon now).

Two accidents; incidents that could have caused grave injury, if I hadn’t been using the safety equipment that we all hear about using all the time. While the dull saw blade was my stupidity, it was another thing everyone here will read about time and again when we talk about safety. For me they’ve served as reinforcement that these safety tips, pieces of information that are shared here, and throughout the wood-working industry, really work.

Getting Things Done

I’ve been working on a design for a set of benches for our covered back porch. I’m using yellow pine 2×4s for all the construction, ripping the seat slats from 2×4s as well. We’ll stain it with a golden oak stain and a couple of coats of spar varnish. It’s nothing fancy and not supposed to be, but we’ve got a prototype that’s been out for over a year and is doing fine, without the varnish (so I may not varnish. Who knows?). The design is simple enough that even with the tools I have (table saw, router, bad saw. drill, fingers) it’s a weekend project for the build, another day or two for the finish. Glued up the legs and they turned out fine. I am constantly amazed at the power of glue and wood together!

After I glued up the legs I put together a half-dozen zero-tolerance plates for the table saw. This is a project I’ve been meaning to do for some time, just never took the time to do it. Leftover 1/2” maple plywood, ripped down to plate size, then a quick round off at the band saw before using a guided finishing bit on the router table.

After the above incident I bought a set of blades from Home Depot. They’re Dewalt thin-kerf blades, a 24 tooth and a 60 tooth, 10” each. I mounted the 24 tooth this morning to continue ripping the 2×4s down to spec and it made a load of difference in the feed and the cut. The motor hardly seemed to notice the wood the blade was cutting. They were about $35+ at HD for the pair, and while they may not be the best blades on the market, they certainly seemed to cut just fine.

If you’ve got to this point, thanks for reading, and I hope your accidents are as fortunate as mine.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

3 comments so far

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3737 days

#1 posted 04-11-2010 04:42 AM

Interesting stories, I am glad you suffered no injury. Protective eye wear is incredibly cheap and your experience illustrates just how expensive not using them could have been!

I’ve never been a fan of wearing gloves whilst woodworking especially with power tools. I guess I figure that is one more thing to get caught in some whirling sharp metal thing…

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Walt M.'s profile

Walt M.

245 posts in 3035 days

#2 posted 04-11-2010 03:45 PM

Spliters, sharp blades, push sticks good ideas, gloves not so good. Glad your ok though

View Woodbutchery's profile


395 posts in 3610 days

#3 posted 04-11-2010 08:48 PM

Yah on the gloves, but I have psoriasis and I don’t callus as much as my skin splits apart. Sometimes squeezing lemons or limes is an adventure.

I use finger cots at work – they’re form fitting and latex. I’ll try them in the workshop.

Thanks for the tip.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

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