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Healthy fear

I’ve worked with some machines for decades, and while I’ve grown confident in their use, I’ve never grown comfortable with some of them.

Every tool in the shop is potentially dangerous, and I mean every single one. Something as simple as a compass has a pointy part that will happily make you bleed if misused. Tools with spinning things and sharp edges, of course, are even more dangerous. But the key to safe performance is a thorough understanding of their functions and all safety procedures necessary for their bloodless use.

But that understanding doesn’t mean you can be less vigilant. To the contrary, you need to be more so, because when non-vigilance leads to complacent comfort, that’s when the worst happens. I’ve gotten comfortable with some tools (which is why I’ve stuck my finger with a compass more times than I care to admit), but a few of them I haven’t. Beyond that, I still have a healthy fear of them. Sure, I’m comfortable in my knowledge of their operation, but not in the machines themselves. And, frankly, I think that’s a good thing.

Table saws, miter saws, recip saws – anything ending in “saw” – demand a fearful respect from me, but no tool frightens me more than the router. I’ve been using my router table a lot lately, in case you’re wondering why I bring all this up.

Unlike a saw, where you at least have the possibility to repair an injury, the router affords no such luxury. Get a saw injury and there’s always the chance of reattachment and a more-or-less normal life later. But there is no reattachment with a router accident: There’s nothing left to reattach.

As a result, I’m probably more careful when using a router than any other tool, and that’s a direct result of the respectful fear I have for that machine. I don’t’ avoid using a router and, in fact, love their versatility and the amazing work you can produce with one. But I have to admit that I’m always glad when that work is done, and I can turn the machine off.

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