Great expectations - Woodshop News

Great expectations

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I’ve talked about odd shop accidents before. Well, I’m going to talk about them again. Don’t worry, I’m OK. But I am limping a bit.

I had something go wrong in the shop yesterday and while I don’t relate the tale with pride as I would with an accomplishment, I nonetheless want you to know about it. Again, it was one of those odd accidents; a mishap unrelated to cutting, blades, kickback or rapidly spinning sharp edges.

By “odd,” I mean the accidents you don’t expect. We talk so much about kickback and cuts caused by blades that, while we don’t exactly expect them to eventually happen, when they do we’re not surprised. He cut himself? Well, sure, he uses sharp blades so what do you expect? That seems like a natural shop accident.

I had one kickback accident in my life, but it wasn’t on the table saw where you’d expect it. It was while using an orbital sander in a vertical orientation. It was an awkward position and, combined with gravity, the sander dug in unexpectedly and kicked right at me. I’ve had one router accident, which I described here several months ago. The router wasn’t even plugged in, but I dropped it on my head when aligning a cut on the edge of a table (I was kneeling on the floor). Never expected that, either.

Yesterday I was preparing to rip a 3’-long, 10”-wide piece of 8/4 oak. I was doing what I needed to do to prepare for the cut – raising the blade, setting the fence, getting my push stick, that sort of thing. Got my piece of oak and set it on the saw extension, turned to plug in the saw, and that oak tumbled to the floor. I hadn’t noticed that I had set it down on the edge just a hair past the board’s center of gravity. When I let go and turned for the plug, gravity took over. It was all one fast, single motion: Set the board down, let go, turn to the plug, the board tilted down, fell, and the end hit squarely on the instep of my right foot. Total time, maybe two seconds.

And, yeah, that’s gotta hurt. I yelled a few choice words to make my foot feel better, finished the cut, and went about my other shop tasks. This morning, although there’s no lasting damage my foot, is dark purple and hurts like the devil. I’ll be limping for several days.

My point is that because we work with dangerous stuff, we all prepare and take precautions for expected shop accidents. We use blade guards and splitters, wear eye/ear protection, unplug tools before making adjustments, stand clear of the blade, watch hand positions, and on and on. We don’t – we can’t – plan for unexpected accidents.

The only thing you really can do is expect the unexpected.

Till next time,

A.J.

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