Hit me with your best shot

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I got hit on the table saw this weekend by a sort-of kickback thing. Nothing at all serious, but it certainly got my attention.

Kickback injuries are among the most insidious because unless you do a particular table saw no-no guaranteed to create potential kickback – like trapping stuff between fence and blade, not using a splitter, etc. – you almost never expect them.

There was a small knot on a piece of Western red cedar I was ripping. It wasn’t in-line with the blade (in fact, I was ripping the piece to eliminate the knot), and it wasn’t even a loose knot. It was just something unsightly I wanted to trim out of the workpiece. But what I missed was that even though it was well to the left of the cut line, it was sharply angled and the portion of the knot on the underside of the board did in fact encounter the blade.

You’re probably way ahead of me here. I fed the board through, it hit that knot, and sent a piece of it flying back like a piece of shrapnel. No, not like a piece of shrapnel – it was a piece of shrapnel. Didn’t hit me in the face and spoil my handsome countenance, and my eyes were fine because I always remember that there is no more important safety rule than to wear these (tap-tap) safety glasses.

But I was wearing a short-sleeve shirt, and the projectile bulleted into my arm where it stuck like one of those blowgun darts the natives always shoot at Indiana Jones. It wasn’t deep, didn’t leave anything behind, and pulled out easier than most splinters. It bled for a while and now, four days later, there’s just a tiny scab where it was.

The lesson here is not “expect the unexpected,” which is a really stupid thing to even say, by the way. No the lesson here is that sometimes, cleaning it up for publication, “shrapnel happens.”

Of course, thoroughly examining that knot on both sides of the board might have revealed the potential danger. The shrapnel may still have happened, but I certainly could have been better prepared.

A.J.

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