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A new face steps onto the woodworking stage

Negotiations are in the works to secure a sponsor and produce a new woodworking show on PBS affiliate WGBH in Boston.

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Laurie Donnelly, the station's executive producer of lifestyle programming, says the station is close to securing a show sponsor and a new host is needed since Norm Abram retired last fall from a 21-season run with "The New Yankee Workshop" show.

The new host has been found. He's Thomas MacDonald of Cranston, Mass., who was featured in the July 2007 issue of Woodshop News. Injured in a construction accident in 1999, he took up formal training and put his skills into furniture making. He has all of the attributes of a television host. Relentless in nature, he is a witty and charming people-person. Most importantly, he is an extremely talented woodworker who builds immaculate reproduction pieces.

The as-yet-unnamed show will feature how-to projects for all skill levels, shop visits with professional woodworkers and museum tours. Tom says that in no way will he be filling Abram's work boots, just riding on his plaid coattails. He is in his own unique realm with a different set of talents. He will, however, deliver quite an impact to the woodworking industry, particularly because it's thought he will appeal to younger viewers with his optimism about the trade.

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For those of you who have strong opinions about our feverishly litigious society, I'd like to open the floor to a discussion on a recent lawsuit regarding a table saw injury. More than likely, the precedent set regarding the safety of machines means two things for machinery manufacturers: more lawsuits and more rigorous regulation.

In March, $1.5 million was awarded to a Massachusetts woodworker who severely injured his fingers while using a table saw.

The situation involves a table saw manufactured by Ryobi and its parent company One World Technologies of Anderson, S.C. - both parties were defendants. Arguments were made in a federal court in Boston that the injury could have been prevented or greatly reduced if the saw were equipped with a patented blade-braking technology similar to ones found on SawStop table saws.

Ultimately, the premise of the case was that all manufacturers have an obligation to make their products as safe as possible. The repercussions from this outcome are huge. Similar lawsuits are already in the works. And, as the result of increased litigation and necessary product redesigns, the costs of buying saws could increase significantly. We can hear you now: Why should we have to pay for other people's injuries, whether caused by accident or careless mistake?

The law can't force manufacturers to implement expensive safety equipment on low-end saws, but the cabinet saws and sliders found in your shops may soon qualify. Whether you're for or against mandated safety features, now is the time to be heard. Keep abreast of the story and make contact with those who have an influence. The letters page of Woodshop News is a good place to start.

This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue.

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