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Without warning

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I recently finished a feature on table saw safety for the February 2008 issue of Woodshop News (“Building a safer saw,” page 38). It reminded me that there are a lot of things that can hurt you in the shop - a few really badly, a couple that will maim you for life, and one or two that could kill you.

Fortunately, most of us can identify dangerous acts without even thinking. And, as such, we mete out fearful respect to our tools in an appropriate manner. But then there are the dangers that can sneak up on you without warning.

After many years of discussing it, I finally refinished all of our bedroom furniture – nightstands, dressers, chest-on-chest, etc. My wife and I had been discussing it for years, but eager for a new look I agreed to get the job done (and let her think it was her prodding that got me to do it). This soft, pine furniture had seen more than two decades of use in four homes, suffered through mistreatment of at least as many cats, and even some gnawing by my daughter during her toddler years. As a result, it not only needed to be stripped, but the wood needed a good sanding to bring it back to fresh condition.

It was while sanding the sides of the dresser that a tool rarely considered dangerous decided to smack me in the face with the reminder that all tools carry an inherent danger when we’re not paying attention. The tool in question was a random orbit sander. It’s method of smacking me in the face to remind me was to, well, smack me in the face.

Holding a random orbit sander against a vertical face unbalances the tool a bit. Holding it lightly to avoid digging in compounds the off-balance nature. Bending over to do the sanding throws your body balance off. Not paying attention does the rest. I let my wrist tilt slightly, allowing the pad to dig in on one side. The combination of all of this kicked the sander back in my direction where it hit me on the side of my face. The reminder worked perfectly, and the sanding pad only put a small scrape on the skin of my cheek.

So, I’m just as handsome as before, but more than a little wiser.

Till next time,


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