Router safety

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Forum topic by daved posted 09-06-2008 05:49 AM 1863 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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24 posts in 3786 days

09-06-2008 05:49 AM

Topic tags/keywords: router milling tip

Last year I had the most serious accident I have ever had in 30 years of woodworking. I only share this so someone else does not make the same mistake. I have made hundreds of raised panels for cabinet doors with 100% success. I wanted to make a piece of molding using the raised panel bit. I was milling a board that was narrower than normal and was going to cut my piece of molding off the board using the table saw. I figured the bit was well below the surface of the board and my fingers were safe. I had the fence set flush with the bearing , and as I ran the board through, my fingers ended up right on top of where the bit was located. With no mass to keep the board flat on the table ,the board tilted down into the bit and it proceeded to eat its way through to the top surface in about 2 microseconds taking about 3/4” of an inch off my left index finger.
I saved the piece of wood and nailed it to the top of my router table fence as a reminder.

-- Dave Dahlke

11 replies so far

View tooldad's profile


660 posts in 3951 days

#1 posted 09-06-2008 06:00 AM

Thanks for the post. Do you mind if I print it and share it with the kids at the shop when we talk about router safety next week?

I had a similar but less severe accident on the shaper with the raised panel bit. I was making about 30 panels for a kitchen. After completing a panel, I turned my head to pickup the next panel with one hand while the other hand went to removed the completed panel from the shaper. I was watching the wrong hand, my middle left finger barely got the shaper cutter, took about 1/4” out the the corner. Enough to need surgery. I have a photo of the injury before surgery and the kids think it is gross, but it really adds to their shivers when they realize that photo on the safety powerpoint is my finger.

View daved's profile


24 posts in 3786 days

#2 posted 09-06-2008 03:47 PM

I do not mind at all. The doctor in the ER did a good job of sewing up the damage. It took 6 weeks of occupational therapy to get it bending somewhat like it used to. It is interesting that most of my fellow patients during therapy were severe hand injuries from machinery. The guy next to me was a thumb amputation from a table saw and another man had a horrific injury from a onion sorting machine. The router was a 3.5HP variable speed and turned down to 12,000 rpm . You absolutely must be focused and thinking “how can I get hurt” on each operation performed in the shop. I also read recently about a man who tried to cut fishing line on his table saw with the piece of line wrapped around both hands. That is a case of no brain engaged at all.

-- Dave Dahlke

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2141 posts in 4035 days

#3 posted 09-06-2008 03:54 PM


-- making sawdust....

View EEngineer's profile


1119 posts in 3850 days

#4 posted 09-06-2008 04:12 PM

Odd this should come up right now! I was just routing some rabbets in cherry this morning. The cherry was only about 1” wide so it left my fingers really close to the bit. I couldn’t find my pushstick so I did the first one by hand. Then, in a rare moment of sanity, I shut the router down, took the time to locate the pushstick and finished the other three. On the last one, the wood slipped at the end of the cut, the router bit grabbed my pushstick and chewed a 3/4” circular notch out of it. That could have been my finger/hand!

I am going shopping today for another pushstick and a coupla push blocks with handles. They gotta be cheaper than a trip to the ER!

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View rshep55's profile


70 posts in 3670 days

#5 posted 01-20-2009 10:35 PM

Until recently about the only saftey precaution I took in my shop was to wear saftey glasses and I sometimes used push sticks when working close to the blades of my tools but not where I had a good distance between my hand and the blade. A couple of months ago while cutting a blank for a cutting board on my bandsaw, I pushed the tip of my thumb directly into a 3/4 inch 3 tooth per inch resaw blade. This happened about 5 seconds after the thought ” you really should use a push stick” passed through my mind. I was lucky, I pulled back quickly and missed the bone. If my thumb was angled to the side I would have cut the tip off at about mid thumb nail. I had to get four stiches to close it and lost one night of sleep due to the throbbing pain. My thumb tip is now numb and I hope feeling will return soon.
Lesson learned…

-- Ron,R.A.Shepard Woodworking,Massachusetts

View PurpLev's profile


8548 posts in 3885 days

#6 posted 01-20-2009 11:18 PM

please please please people who read this – use push-sticks push-blocks when working with machinery (router, jointer, table-saw, shaper…etc) stop saying “if only I had thought about it earlier…” – THINK ABOUT IT EARLIER!

thanks for sharing.

I see too many (“how-to”) videos online – YES – EVEN HERE ON LJ! of people jointing and routing pieces and pushing the boards with their hands, and it gives me the shivers…. I keep mumbling “you’ve gotta be kidding me….” as I see those videos. not only is this stupid, dangerous, and unthoughtful in essence of practice – it is giving all the people watching that video the misleading sense of safety, and reduces the importance of working safely in the shop ….. this is BAD education, even if you didn’t mean to.

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

View dustygirl's profile


862 posts in 3965 days

#7 posted 01-21-2009 04:42 PM

Thanks for sharing these injuries.It makes us all think safety first.

-- Dustygirl..Hastings,Ontario.. How much wood can 1 gal chuck if 1 gal can't cut wood?

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4111 days

#8 posted 01-21-2009 05:02 PM

I like the three inch rule. Never get your fingers within three inches of the cutter (saw blade, router bit, whatever), even if that three inches is directly through solid wood. I’ve had near misses that would not have been misses if I wasn’t following this rule.

-- -- --

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3949 days

#9 posted 01-21-2009 05:37 PM

Push sticks and similar are so easy to make and are often just from scrap that there is no reason not to make and USE them and in several different shape. same for feather boards. I think the big push to magnet’s has make us forget that we been making these things for years and not spending $35.00 each, and if you need to buy there are plenty of more reasonable types available.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View Tom Landon's profile

Tom Landon

69 posts in 3988 days

#10 posted 01-29-2009 06:45 PM

One day it the shop, some years ago, I was trying to get a particular edge profile on something (can’t even remember what now) and I didn’t have the correct bit to do the job. I can usually work around most problems so I looked for an alternative solution.

I did find a half inch shaper bit that would be perfect but it wasn’t much good without the shaper. What I did was to take a half inch stainless bolt and see how it would fit in the router chuck. It worked well and was a tight fit so I figured that would be my solution to using the shaper bit.

I extended the threads further towards the head of the bolt to allow the nylon lock nut come up tight against the cutter and lock it in place against the head. I then chucked it up in the router real tight and adjusted it for height. Then ,when I thought all was well with the world, I flipped the switch on and off as a test. I thought I felt some vibration but a visual didn’t reveal any thing out of the ordinary so on the switch went.

It was only a moment until I could hardly hold onto the thing and metal seemed to be flying everywhere. I didn’t dare try for the switch again since in the position I was holding it I would have had to turn loose of the handle to reach it. I moved away from the receptacle and jerked the cord loose, thank goodness I wasn’t hooked to a 50 ft cord. The only bright spot was from then on I could use a panel raising bit through that base plate.

From that day on, there was a big “THINK” sign in the shop and this photo was there as a constant reminder of that day.

To often we forget that fact and try to blame some instructor, or magazine article, or video for our own shortsightedness. Been working with wood and tools for over fifty years now. Have had a few accidents but nothing serious and still have all my fingers. I can credit this accomplishment with a few facts I’d like to pass on: Become one with your tools; avoid distractions and pay attention to what you’re doing; know how your tools work and work with them to your advantage; make sure they working right; don’t put thinks you don’t want cut in front of the blade; and NEVER take your eyes off the blade. The list could be endless but the most important thing to remember above all is : Machines don’t have brains. You have to do the thinking.

This is the picture of the bit when I didn’t use all my brain.

-- Tom Landon, Lakeland, Fl. When you're through learning, you're through.

View rcsec's profile


4 posts in 3656 days

#11 posted 02-12-2009 07:51 PM

This is great advice, especially for someone new to woodworking like myself. I’m adding to my collection of tools and at the top of the list is Push Sticks. I’ve found plans online and I’ll make one or two this weekend. But, what is the proper way to use them? My table saw manual shows one in use, I see pictures of feather boards on router tables & table saws and I see other types in articles. What is the correct way to use the different push sticks? Looking over a table saw video this morning the guy was cross -cutting and the loose piece was between the blade & rip fence. Isn’t that another accident waiting to happen.
Thanks for sharing your experiences – very sobering.

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