My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #504: Some Mistakes are Just Plain Stupid

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 10-27-2011 12:59 PM 6095 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 503: New Ornaments! Part 504 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 505: Backups and Maintenance Today »

We have all done things that we know we shouldn’t do. I’m not talking about kicking a cat or mugging someone’s grandma or anything as drastic as that. I am referring to stuff we do in our shops or in our daily lives while in the process of making things or doing a chore in order to cut the corners just a bit and get us to the finish line faster. Sometimes we get away with it, but many times it turns into a mini-disaster and can ruin a project or even become downright dangerous. When this happens, we find ourselves saying “Will I ever learn?”

I received an email from my friend Leldon yesterday. Many of you have heard me talk about Leldon before. Although he is young, I met him over ten years ago when he was just 16 and already had been doing woodworking and scroll sawing for several years. He is an excellent cutter and he not only cuts, but also designs his own patterns.

The subject of the email read “Always drill your hole before scrolling!” and before I even opened it, I knew it wasn’t going to be a fun story. Indeed, it was not. After spending over two hours cutting out a clock, Leldong realized that he forgot to drill the large hole to accommodate the clock insert for the piece. He knew better, but he went over to his drill press and tried to drill for the insert after cutting the surrounding edge and the following occurred:

Now Leldon and I have been friends for a long, long time. We have the kind of relationship where we are able to kid each other and tease a little bit without the other getting upset. After reading that he was OK, and the only casualties were the horses, I was talking to him and told him that I was going to put it in my blog here. I was only joking, as I didn’t want to embarrass him, but in discussing it, he said that I should talk about it so that I can alert other people to the dangers of cutting corners and doing things that we know are stupid, but try anyway.

Leldon told me the worst part of his mishap was that he knew better. He said he couldn’t even swear about it because he knew he was wrong when he tried it and did it anyway. It brought to mind some times when I did things like that myself and had equally disastrous results.

Lately, I have a favorite screw up that I do (unintentionally) that one day may post a serious danger to myself. So far I have dodged the bullet, but it will be only a matter of time before I get hurt by my own carelessness. I don’t know if it is because I am distracted, or if I am thinking in too many directions or if I am just hurrying through the process too much, but I can tell you that I have allowed it to happen at least three times in the past few months and I don’t like it.

What I have been doing is leaving the metal chuck in the drill press when changing the bit and forgetting it and then turning on the drill press. Now I know that I am really being stupid and I feel like an idiot when it happens. Of course the drill press in motion launches the chuck key immediately like a frisbee. Several times I (of course) have my head kind of close, as I am looking right at the drill bit to drill when I turn the button on. I am fortunate that I still have both my eyes and all my teeth and although it has never hit me directly (yet) it has bounced off the nearby scroll saw and wall with enough force to set me shaking.

Dumb, dumb, DUMB!

What really scares me is not only the potential danger that I put myself in, but also the fact that I have done this stupid thing more than once. I don’t think it has anything to do with laziness. I think it is more related to distractions and my head not being into what is in front of me like it should be. I know I have to remind myself to slow down and concentrate more at the task at hand when I am working with tools such as these.

Fortunately. the last couple of times I was working at the saw and drill press I DID remember to take out the chuck before turning it on. I actually consciously thought about removing the key before hitting the switch. Now that’s progress!

So why did Leldon and I decided to share our follies with you all? It isn’t because we are particularly proud of our collective stupidity. It is because we realize that many others do similar things and we want to remind you of the potential danger in taking short cuts (either intentional or not intentional) when you work. We thought we should tell our stories as kind of a public service message to remind you to ‘do as we say and not as we do’ and take the time and care necessary when building a project or working with your power tools.

Leldon said he learned his lesson. And I am well on the way to learning mine. It is easy to become so familiar with what we are doing in our shops that we sometimes forego some of the basic safety practices that are so important to us, no matter how experienced we are.

So consider today’s post as a kind of reminder to play safe while in your shop. Whether you see a little bit of yourself in reading our stories or have some stories of your own to share, I think it is important that we all take the time to think about what we are doing and give our tools the respect they deserve. That way we can all have fun doing what we love to do.

Have a great day and remember to take care in what you are doing.

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

17 comments so far

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6860 posts in 4033 days

#1 posted 10-27-2011 01:08 PM

Hi Sheila;

Yup, those stupid mistakes we all make can really do some damage. I get very irritated with myself when I do them. Sometimes, I won’t talk to me for weeks!

Regarding that chuck… why isn’t the key spring loaded so you can’t leave it in the chuck? I though they all were now. Mine is both spring loaded and is attached to a small chain, so if it were to get launched, it could only go about 16”. (hopefully not far enough to hit anyone).

Stay safe.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2974 days

#2 posted 10-27-2011 01:16 PM

Hi, Lee:
I replaced the chuck for the drill press last year and this key is kind of difficult to get in. You really have to push and kind of jiggle it around to get it seated. As a result, it kind of gets stuck in there and again it has to be pulled kind of hard sometimes to remove. I should really look into getting a new one or yes – attaching it with a chain or cord. It has been on my ‘to do’ list and then I forget about it until next time. I should be yelling at myself for neglecting to do this and I think I will get my butt over to the store today and see if I can find another one.

It is hard to admit these errors sometimes, but now that I have come clean, I know I will have to do something about it. After hearing about Leldon’s mistake and talking to him, we both feel that by talking about these things, we can help others avoid some potential disasters. (I invite you all to share your ‘safety nightmare’ story with us, but only if you promise to rectify it after confessing it!)

Thanks Lee for your suggestion. I know you are right and I will get it resolved TODAY! :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View KnotCurser's profile


2026 posts in 3122 days

#3 posted 10-27-2011 01:17 PM

As long as we are all admitting stupid mistakes, here’s a good one:

Late last year I rolled my air compressor into the back yard so I could easily drain the condensate from the bottom of the tank. There are stickers on the machine that state “remove pressure from this tank prior to opening bottom valve”. Of course, I usually ignore this because all it takes is two seconds and all the water squirts quickly out of the bottom.

This time nothing came out. STUPIDLY, I took a small screwdriver and shoved it in the hole. This dislodged the piece of rust blocking the hole and shot hundreds of little pieces of rust at high speed into my thumb and palm. I still have over a dozen pieces embedded into the back of my thumb – they are just specks, but they now remind me that I could have done much worse to myself!

Those stickers are there for a reason!

I have a strange feeling that this blog will have MANY comments. ;-)

Stay well all.


-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: /

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2974 days

#4 posted 10-27-2011 01:24 PM

The other title I was going to put here was “What Was I Thinking??” It is true that no matter how experienced we are and how much we know, we ALL do stupid and unsafe things from time to time. I am glad you weren’t hurt Bob and didn’t get rust shot into your eye or anything like that. Yes, some of those stickers seem to state the obvious, but as long as humans are around they are apparently needed! We have all been there, I am afraid!


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3357 days

#5 posted 10-27-2011 01:37 PM

i was really sorry to see leldons project all tore up, i know that had to really hurt to see his hard work go down the drain, and yea sheila, you better quit that messing around with that drill chuck key……PLEASE ATTEND TO THAT TODAY…....naughty girl… cookies for you until you fix it…lol… day i forgot to change my datto blade out from the table saw, and had to make a cut, i thought it would be ok to just do it with it in, well the piece of wood was a bit smaller and i fed it to fast into the wider set of blades, well it caught it and sent it flying back at me and into my stomach area…good thing it was wide , as it could have impaled me…it shook me up and i swore i would never take that short cut again…..good blog this morning on a important subject….SAFETY….always good to be safe…...have a great and safe day everyone… let the saw dust fly…......

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2896 days

#6 posted 10-27-2011 02:12 PM

I have gotten into a clock project and done this exact thing before. Ok, since we’re in confesional here, I’ve done it more than once. The safest way to correct it is to drill a tiny hole and cut it out with the scroll saw. Of course this will leave an open back where the clock goes, but it is the only safe way I have found to fix my screwup without just going on and throwing it in the garbage and starting over.
I, too, have left the chuck key in the drill press before. I wasn’t so lucky. I chipped a tooth the last time I done it. No, the chuck key didn’t hit me. As it was flying at me though, I was more worried about getting out of it’s way than watching where my head was going. I hit my mouth right on the edge of the body of the drill press and chipped a tooth.


View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2974 days

#7 posted 10-27-2011 02:24 PM

I am sorry to hear about your tooth, William. It is really scary when it goes flying. When I told Keith about Leldon’s mishap, the first thing he said was “why didn’t he just cut it with the scroll saw?” I asked Leldon that and he said he knew too, but he just thought he would try the other way. I suppose that is the point of this post. We know better. Thanks for sharing your story too. I think all of us sharing our tales of woe will help others avoid disasters.


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View huntter2022's profile


275 posts in 2669 days

#8 posted 10-27-2011 03:51 PM

We all do things that are not safe anyone that say they don’t is lieing . I remember work on a job with a harness on high elevations , and sometimes I would climb out and not hook to the safety line. because I was only going to take a minute to garb something . Well I slipped and luckly I caught hold of a steel beam or I would of fell like 60 some feet on to a concrete slab. scared the heck out of me . After that I was very careful about hooking up some people said I was being a wimp but I’m still here so call me what ya want,

My grandfather , use to tell me it is good to be afraid of tools , because then you are more careful and respectful of them . When I was younger it was ya right , but as you get older it makes alot of sense

-- David ; "BE SAFE BE HAPPY" Brockport , NY

View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 2822 days

#9 posted 10-27-2011 03:52 PM

I cut the very tip of my index finger off on the table saw when I was a teen. An old dried out barn board split while I was ripping it without using a push stick. Since then I’ve been pretty safe conscious in the shop, especially with saws and routers. I’ve witnessed some pretty serious mistakes by others. I’ve seen the table saw launch a board that went through a wall. In High School wood shop I saw a boy who was punched in the stomach by a kicked back board. His stomach turned every color you can imagine over several weeks. Every morning at the beginning of class he had to stand up front and show us his stomach. That lesson stuck with me!

I admit I’ve taken some short cuts using the drill press. I was drilling a hole in a piece of steel with out clamping it down, just holding it with one hand. The bit caught and the steel hit me, then the chuck came flying of the drill press bouncing across the shop floor. Scared me pretty good and broke the bit of in the steel. Since then I’ve had a couple of C-Clamps and a couple of Quick Grips hanging right next to my drill press.

-- Dan - Valparaiso, Indiana, "A smart man changes his mind, a fool never does."

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2974 days

#10 posted 10-27-2011 04:01 PM

I believe one of the biggest problems we have is complacency. We get so used to doing things that it becomes routine and we aren’t as careful or alert as when we just started out. Fear of tools is a smart thing. We should fear them and respect.

Dan – your story reminded me of myself doing the same thing. I was drilling a hole with a larger Forstner bit and I was just holding the piece. I kind of lost my grip on the piece and it caught on the bit and was spinning like a helicopter blade at me. The first instinct was to kind of grab it. Luckily I didn’t get hurt much. I just cut my thumb pretty bad because the wood sliced into it. Clamping down is the way to go – especially with smaller pieces. It takes more time but it is the only safe way to do it.


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3090 days

#11 posted 10-27-2011 05:56 PM

The one who doesn’t make mistakes doesn’t learn anything or make anything come to that.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3072 days

#12 posted 10-27-2011 08:28 PM

Here is a little tip, I put a large magnet on my drill press and put the chuck wrench there each and every time I use it so I ALWAYS know where it is. It is much safer than leaving it on the drill press table. You can also put hex wrenches on it that applies to the machine. I have several of them on each machine so they are always at hand.

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View BilltheDiver's profile


257 posts in 2939 days

#13 posted 10-27-2011 08:56 PM

Sheila, I have a retractable cord magnetically mounted on my drill press for the chuck key. It would be easy to arrange it on the press so the cord went across the on button forcing you to realize that the key was not in its home. That might resolve the problem for you.

-- "Measure twice, cut once, count fingers"

View spunwood's profile


1202 posts in 2890 days

#14 posted 10-27-2011 11:00 PM!/media/set/?set=a.158141757614970.34634.100002574398522&type=1

So glad you posted this.

Last Thursday…talk about careless, I was taking the cut-offs from my table saw while still running (NO-NO) and tossing them directly over the blade into a metal garbage bin…well, on the last toss I hope to ever take like that, my hand met Mr. Freud! I still regret it every time I try to button my shirt for school or do just about anything, such as hit the space bar.

But I am truly thankful to have my thumb still…thankful also to the neighbor who called an ambulance, as I couldn’t find my phone. Another no-no.

When did I start acting like the complacent maestro of a table-saw?

-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2974 days

#15 posted 10-27-2011 11:30 PM

I have the magnet on mine Erwin – I just forget to take the chuck out before starting the motor. I do think the tether is a good idea, as seeing it will surely remind me that it is still in place and I need to remove it.

So sorry to see your pictures, Spunwood. You ARE very lucky that you have your thumb yet! Thanks for sharing the pictures with us and showing us all so we are all reminded of what complacency can do to us. I didn’t start out to teach such a lesson this morning, but I think I am certainly learning a new on myself. :)

Thanks, Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics