Table saws are so dangerous

In the past 4 months I’ve had 2 (two!) kickback incidents with my table saw. Now, most people who read this are going to have the reaction of “well, you aren’t using proper technique, duh.”  Yeah, you’re right.  In those two incidents, I wasn’t.  Both times, I was changing from a dado stack to a rip blade for the nth time that day, and didn’t bother spending the extra 3 minutes to put the splitter back in place (because I was going to have to switch back to the dado stack a few cuts later).

Now, i’m SUPER paranoid about the table saw, so I never-ever stand behind the blade, and am very careful about where my fingers are; in both instances the piece of wood flew across the room and that was that.  My garage door wasn’t very happy.

However, this is a recipe for getting really hurt. I was lucky both times something serious didn’t happen.  This isn’t about HOW to use a table saw safely, it’s about ALWAYS using it safely.  And how are you going to always use it 100% safe, every time? Reminds me of this scene from the wire:


Anyways, recognizing my own faults, I’ve decided to at least take a step to make it much more likely that I’ll always put that splitter back in place.  I ordered a “snap in spreader” from Biesemeyer.  Now, instead of dealing with bolts and wrenches, this thing literally drops in place in a matter of seconds.  It’s no riving knife, but I don’t have the money for a new saw right now. It seems pretty expensive for what it is, but I’ve got no excuse for not always running it now, with it literally taking 5 seconds to put in. Laziness is taken out of the question.

And before you start pointing fingers, find a survey on how many people run their table saws with no safety equipment at all. Before riving knives became mandatory, many woodworkers simply removed the splitter and guard when they got home, and never looked at them again. I’m not alone here. So, this is a worthy investment in your safety if you’ve got an older saw that doesn’t have a riving knife.



Be safe!  And I swear I’m not TOO accident prone, despite the name of this blog.

– Matt

Hand Tools are still Dangerous

In my last post, I had broken (smashed), two fingertips.  Now that really cramped my style for a few weeks. The biggest problem was that I was supposed to be delivering a blanket chest to my wife’s best friend as a wedding present.  With just a week and a half until the nuptials, I felt good enough to hold a hammer and get to dovetailing.

Before I could do that though, I need some nice, flat boards. Now, I had a dying walnut tree milled into boards a year or so ago, and had some nice 10” and 12” 4/4 stock on hand. But, I’ve got an 8” jointer.  I needed 20” wide panels, so I wasn’t about to take a nice, two board glue up and turn that into a 3 board one just so i could fit the boards on my jointer. Well, after much flattening by hand, I ended up with some pretty flat panels.

One or two were still cupped a little, but as long as you pull it flat when you mark your pins, everything will work out in the end. Mainly, I realized what the hell is the point of a 15” planer if I’ve got a 8” jointer? I’ve since read some tips on flattening boards wider than your jointer by removing the guard and blah blah blah. I just need a 12” jointer, end of story.

I guess it was because I cut 48 dovetails in two days, but I think I’ve got the hang of it at this point. AND seven out of 8 of the corners went together right from the saw cuts. I’ve discovered there are really only three things you’ve got to get right. First, you must saw straight across when cutting your tails. Exactly straight across.  I use a marking knife, so I find if I let the saw fall right into that line, it works pretty well. Secondly, mark your pins accurately. That means don’t let the board shift, don’t reset it while you’re marking them, don’t screw up. I don’t do the “140 trick”, but it would probably help. Go ahead and search for that on google if you want to know what it is.

Thirdly, cut your pins to the line, and cut EXACTLY straight down. Just start on the waste side of the line, and your saw will drop right on to that mark, and you’ll be good. I use a little square to help make sure I’m cutting straight down. Some would consider that cheating. Whatever.

Eventually, you’ll end up with some nice tight dovetails like so:

Now that I had the base and the carcass together (is it called a carcass on a blanket chest? I dunno), it was time to whip up some internal structure to support the drawer. I’m copying the Thos. Moser blanket chest, if you’re wondering what this thing is supposed to look like. So, I was squaring up the mortises in the drawer framing, and disaster struck. First, a picture of everything a few days later after I got it all together.

Anyways, I was squaring up the mortises with freshly sharpened 1/4 mortise chisel, and it got stuck. Now, remember, I was rushing to get this thing done. I had been working about 6 hours straight on this, and was pretty tired. One indicator of that was that I had been too lazy to clamp down the board that I was smacking my chisel into. So, that’s a bad move. Secure your work appropriately, folks. The second thing to remember is to NEVER have any part of your body in front of the sharp part of your hand tool. And never have any part of your body anywhere where your sharp, pointy hand tool might travel.

So, the chisel was stuck. I placed my right hand on the board to hold it down (with two broken fingers, I might add). And grabbed the chisel with my left, and gave a mighty heave, as if pulling the sword from the stone. Predictably, that chisel popped right out, and in an effort to keep from smacking myself square in the nose with the handle, I brought that extra sharp mortise chisel right down into my forearm. I let out a deep sigh, and walked over to my lovely wife, who happened to be in the basement with me. I asked her if she thought I needed stitches, and she said something about “sub-cue” tissue, so yes.  Half and hour or so later, here I was.

Twenty minutes later, I had these:

Awesome! So, that blanket chest didn’t get finished in time. The real lesson here though, is that just because something isn’t plugged in doesn’t meant it doesn’t require care and safe practices. Mainly, keep the sharp, pointy things heading away from you. And keep that rule in mind ALL THE TIME.  

February was definitely a “learn the hard way” month. I’m hoping that I can apply those lessons for a long time, and keep myself out of the hospital for at least, like, 6 weeks.

Next up: attaching the top of the Roubo, the tail vise, bench dogs, and more! I took very few pictures, so really I’m just going to gloss over all that stuff. But stay tuned!

Roubo Part 5. Slow down to speed up.

Or, slow down so you don’t hurt yourself.  I spoke in an earlier post about my lack of patience. Well, it caught up to me in a big way in February, twice. For me, taking my time to make sure things are done correctly, and safely, is as much of a learning process as anything else. Have I chamfered that edge to prevent spelching when planing across the grain? Am I taking a heavier cut with the handplane when it could result in some nasty tearout?  Is that piece of wood secured appropriately? And on and on.  

First though, let’s take a look at where we were in this bench story.  The leg vise is on!

Oh man, that thing is nice.  Such sweet, sweet action.

Anyways, what’s next?  Well, laminating the top together obviously.  I glued the rear section together first (didn’t take any pictures of the glue drying, sorry), and once everything was nice and dry I just had to run it through the planer.

Now, here is where the first disaster struck. Again, I was rushing like usual, and not listening to the little voice in the back of my head.  In this case, the voice was telling me that maybe, just maybe, the rollers I set up in front and behind my planer weren’t up to the task of holding a massive slab of ash. I was acting pretty retarded when I think about it. I sat one end of the slab on the roller (a stupid move in and of itself), and when I went to pick the other end up, the roller just tipped over forward. I’m not sure how it all happend, but I guess the other end of the slab fell about two feet, but I was only holding my end a few inches off the ground. When the other end hit the ground, I was able to get eight of ten fingers out of the way (it makes me feel better when I think about it that way), but I guess the force sort of whipped my end of the board down, and caught the tips of my middle and ring finger underneath.

Now, we don’t have to go into details, but I will anyways. Let’s just say that when my wife was driving me to the hospital, I fully though that I was going to be coming home with three fingers and two stubs on my right hand.  Both tips were broken into 3-4 pieces, and one finger had burst like a grape (the doctors description, not mine), so I got 3 stitches in that one.  Picture time!

And here is the xray.  Looks pretty awesome.

So, that really hurt quite badly. Luckily I avoided crushing a knuckle, so the hand specialist said that I would be back to normal in about 6 weeks.  I would lose the fingernails of course, but he said other than that there wouldn’t be any long term effects. So, how long did that keep me out of my workshop? A few days.  I ran that damn top through the planer less than a week later.

Next up: My inability to hold a mallet delayed me from working on a blanket chest with a lot of dovetails.  Rushing to finish that a few weeks later landed me in the hospital again. Horray!

– Matt