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It’s not that I hate exaggeration; I don’t. Exaggeration is the root of most humor and satire, and I’m a big fan of both. I’ve enjoyed exaggeration millions of times. But when exaggeration incorporates misinformation –- or, more accurately, incomplete information – it conveys a misleading or even false impression. And that can be dangerous.

Take for example your old TV. By now you’ve seen the warnings about the upcoming switch from analog to digital broadcasting. “When the switch happens, your analog TV will stop working!” they scream. Some of these ads show TV screens going dark; or sad, hopeless viewers staring at dead TVs.

It’s not true. Your analog TV won’t stop working; in fact, it’ll work just as well as it always did. If you currently use an analog TV to receive shows broadcast over the air via antenna, when they become digital you won’t receive those shows anymore. But your TV will still work.

Now, you’re thinking that I’m nitpicking, and maybe I am, but those commercials stress the non-fact that “your TV will stop working.” Most don’t mention that if your TV is hooked up to cable you won’t notice a thing when the switch happens. The ads use an alarming tone about your TV not working for one reason: To get you to go buy something, either a converter box or – their real hope – a big, new, expensive TV. OK, nothing dangerous there. Just the old spend-money-you-don’t-have-to ploy we should be used to by now. But when the same exaggeration is applied to woodworking machinery, that’s where the danger comes in.

The SawStop is an ingenious, wonderful invention. Riving knives being added (finally!) to new saws is an incredible thing. I wish I had one or both in my shop. But there’s more than a little exaggeration in some of the promotion of both, and not just by the manufacturers. I’m hearing a lot of exaggeration from the companies, from woodworking publications, and from woodworkers themselves on the various online forums. Both innovations are good; no, they’re excellent at what they do but each device addresses a single safety issue. I’m concerned that some woodworkers will rely on one to manage the rest of their safety practices for them, and neither will do that.

Use a table saw incorrectly or unsafely, and a SawStop device or a riving knife won’t matter, because your table saw – just like your old TV – will work the same as it always did: It Will Hurt You.

And that’s no exaggeration.

Till next time,


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