Norm on PBS

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Forum topic by 8iowa posted 02-15-2009 07:07 PM 2023 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View 8iowa's profile


1586 posts in 3936 days

02-15-2009 07:07 PM

I watched Norm briefly on Saturday as he was making a doughbox out of reclaimed pine.

Frankly, I thought that some of his table saw working methods were a little scary. He doesn’t use a guard, and sometimes it looked as if his hands were rather close to the blade. He squared off one end of a board on a sled, and then removed the sled, turned the board around, and used the narrow edge that he had just sawn against the fence, to cut off and square the other end, feeding it by hand. With the slightest bind, the wood could be caught on the back of unguarded blade and be thrown off into space – or worse.

Norm also cut a “dutchman” repair patch using a hand held router and templates. That was OK. However, he then freed the patch friom the wide board by running it edgewise, in a manner similar to resawing on the table saw, with the blade extending about 3” above the table. No feather guard was used, and the blade was trapped in the board. Personally, I would have used the bandsaw – much safer!

Perhaps I just have a lower comfort level than Norm, but I’m not sure that he is setting a good example, especially to those new to woodworking

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

10 replies so far

View lew's profile


12382 posts in 3930 days

#1 posted 02-15-2009 08:29 PM

His shows used to start with a disclaimer crawler about the guards being removed for visual clarity.

Don’t remember when they dropped that practice.

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

View EEngineer's profile


1115 posts in 3788 days

#2 posted 02-15-2009 09:31 PM

As for guards on the tablesaw, I’ve always thought that they were a tradeoff between keeping me out of the machinery and actually being able to see what happens at the business end of the saw. I opt for none. But I work (and work real hard) to keep my hands as far away from the spinning blade as possible.

Odd that you mention squaring a piece right up against the fence. Watching Norm years ago, I picked up the technique of using a 3/4” board on the fence, well away from the blade, to keep the piece from “cocking” against the fence and binding against the saw blade. I even have specific plywood scraps that are exactly 3/4” that I keep by the tablesaw because it makes calculating the offset easy.

I agree with you about Norm’s techniques for freeing his dutchman patches; he’s used that technique a number of times on his show and I always cringe when I see it.

Look at it this way: the most important safety tool in the shop is right between your ears. Your observations show that you have trained yourself to look for potential problems and eliminate them before you start cutting. That makes it all the more unlikely that you will be contributing any injury photos to LJ’s.

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

View pitchnsplinters's profile


262 posts in 3612 days

#3 posted 02-15-2009 11:07 PM

Last I saw, Norm has all his digits. Either he’s wicked lucky or plenty experienced. I suppose its a little of each. He get’s paid plenty … I’m sure he’ll install a cyborg hand if he cuts off his own.

-- Just 'cause a cat has kittens in the oven, it don't make 'em biscuits.

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3616 days

#4 posted 02-17-2009 03:43 AM

enjoy his shows but yeah he makes me cringe at times, engineers right “engage brain before touching the on switch” as for norms cyborg hand ,sometimes I think he is a cyborg, does the guy ever take a break!

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3979 days

#5 posted 02-17-2009 04:19 AM

You would need to see the “behind the scenes” activity on the set when Norm’s shows are being filmed to really understand how some of what we see on TV really happens. I have seen “miscues” that magically disappear after a commercial break.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3655 days

#6 posted 03-12-2009 12:03 AM

I agree with all. I have seen him take some chances. I always hold my breath when he does dados and holds the board down right over the blade. I dont like to have my fingers anywhere close to the blade. I always hold the board down from a few inches away instead and if the board doesnt fit flat on the table like some thin plywoods do, I use a stick in one hand to hold it down. I personally dont like to use the blade guard because I think it obstructs my vision. I did find out a few months ago however, that a riving knife is a must after getting hit in the chest and stomach with a flying board during a kickback. I still have the red line on my stomach and chest from that.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 3854 days

#7 posted 03-12-2009 12:19 AM

Norm likes to tell you to be careful, but sometimes he doesn’t engage in very safe techniques, I’ve never seen him or many people on TV roll up their sleeve when wearing a long sleeve shirt as I was told years ago by my Grandfather and Uncle taught me to do. But I do see sometimes that “Pro’s” will tell people on the fix up shows to not wear long sleeves when cutting. Semi-hypocritical at times, practice what you preach should be the way they tape these shows. Yes his work looks great in the end, but how many things went wrong during the taping of a show?

One that is really crazy (on PBS Create Channel) is American Woodshop (I think is the name), he’s not that great and not very professional quality at times but obviously the budget is much less than anything that the This Old House Crews’ produce.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View Rob 's profile


216 posts in 3842 days

#8 posted 03-12-2009 03:28 AM

I was thinking the same about Norm recently when I watched an old 1990 episode on making a medicine cabinet. He made tenons on the TS without a jig by just holding the stock with his hand to the fence very close to the blade; yikes!

View HallTree's profile


5664 posts in 3942 days

#9 posted 03-12-2009 04:29 AM

It would be interesting to see a video of the parts of his show that did not make it into the final take. He could call it ‘Norm’s Flub’s’. I am sure he has some.

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View HenryH's profile


139 posts in 3579 days

#10 posted 03-12-2009 04:29 PM

I just posted a blog with pics of a woodworker in China.
It might change your perspective of saftey.

-- HenryH - PA

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