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Stop, look and think

Nothing kicks your brain into safety mode in the woodshop like a blood stain.

We get minor cuts and scratches all the time while working in the shop, but if you’re like me you probably ignore them and just keep on working. Did it a couple days ago; just a tiny scratch on the heel of my hand from the corner of a freshly table-sawn piece of 1/2" plywood. I looked at it, shrugged, wiped the tiny bit of blood on my jeans and headed to my band saw to cut a pattern out of the ply.

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Being a fresh scratch, a single wipe on my pants didn’t take care of it, and as I rested my hand on the saw table to guide the workpiece I smeared a bit of blood on the cast iron. Didn’t even realize it till I was done cutting the pattern. Already dry, I figured I come back and clean it off later. Of course, I forgot. But a half hour later when I used the band saw again, there it was.

I’ve used a band saw longer than any other piece of shop equipment and have gotten so comfortable with it I tend not to think a lot about safety when I use it. But that tiny bit of dried blood brought me up short, and while the saw had nothing to do with it, I nonetheless found myself suddenly more respectful of my comfortable tool. Did exactly the same thing a few minutes later. And, then, several times the next day.

As you can see from the above photo, that dried blood is wearing off on its own, but being mostly water it’s created some dark spots on the cast iron a bit. I’ve since cleaned it off, but the saw table still has those dark marks.

I clean and wax cast-iron tables around my shop regularly, but I think I’m going to leave those marks on the iron. Always good to have safety reminder, especially when you’re so comfortable with a tool that safety isn’t always the first thing on your mind.

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