Admitting our dangerous (and dumb) mistakes might help others.

Jack King
1,017 posts and 27 followers
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When I decided to start this wonderful hobby, I bought on my first trip shopping the following: a table saw, planer, a scroll saw and a drill press. Having no idea how they worked, I unpacked, set them up and plugged them in. I was of course depending on my superior intelligence, so there was really no need to read very much from the instruction manuals. (Yeah right). I yelled for the wife to come down to the basement and see all this wonderful stuff. With her standing beside me, I turned the table saw on to make a cut on a wood scrap. As I pushed the wood, it began to drift a little. Not knowing what was happening, I pushed, the fence moved because I fail to lock it and I cut the end of my left thumb off. OUCH! The blade threw a piece of flesh, bone or nail back and hit her on the cheek. She screamed, I said a couple of really bad words and we headed for the emergency room. Moral of the story is if you are a newbie or been at it all your life most people get in a hurry and get a little careless on occasion. I have heard it said your machines will lay in wait for years just waiting for you to get careless. Be careful my friends. Now, who else will fess up?


You just never know, do you? I was working on my tablesaw one day, fully protected, dust extractor howling pointlessly outside my ear defenders, chips falling harmlessly against the face shield and respirator I wore. All good.
I finished the cut and wondered slightly, even abstractly, why there was so much dust hitting the face shield. Since the saw had stopped I removed the armour and looked around.
There up in a corner in the clear plastic tubes that carry the dust was a small party of shavings mixing it up at an elbow. I took the board I was cutting and knocked it gently.
The elbow came apart and I was covered in shavings, dust and probably spiders. One of the shavings found it’s way into my right eye and I had to wear a patch (just like a pirate, much to Rabbit’s dismay) for a few days.
Yarr, Billy, these be dangerous beasts, don’t cha know, even when they seem ta be sleepin’!

-- Alec (Friends call me Wolf, no idea why)

I thought I was the only one with superior intelligence…

Now you’ve spoiled it.

I learned that one should not hold the band saw blade guard while the saw is running to reach for a piece that fell on the floor. I got out of this with a little scratch :)

After that scare, I have been extremely careful.

Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

great topic! Basically every project I’ve done has my blood on it; usually just small stuff like cutting myself on a chisel or pinching a finger between boards or sanding a bit of a finger off on the belt sander. Only trip to the ER so far was for drilling a hole above my head for electrical wires and sawdust got in my eye… thanksfully so far I’ve avoided serious injuries and stitches…

Rob, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Wanting to save some wood and use scrape i used a too short of a plywood to make a jig to cut 45 degrees chevron. the last unsupported broke and hit me in the tammy. could have been worst. Got lucky again.

Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

I discovered that you should never get in a hurry in the shop. I was finishing up a project and had some 2" circles cut from 1/2" stock that I wanted to round over. With the router mounted in a table, thought it would be easy to do. Managed a couple before disaster struck. Was holding the piece down with a forefinger and turning the piece with the other hand. Of course, the wood flew out from under my finger and it went into the bit. I jerked back thinking geez that was close until I noticed the spray of blood on the wall. So an expensive trip the the ER and a finger with the nerves cut and a bit of bone missing. Didn’t make it back to the shop for a couple of days and then didn’t want to approach the router but still had a job to finish. Seeing dried blood and even a piece of my hide on the table sure didn’t make it easy to go back to work. Took a 1" dowel and put in 2 finish nails that I then ground to a point and used that to hold the circles and my hand was 12" away and worked great. Just goes to prove that you should think before you act.
They did tell me that in about 20 yrs I might get some feeling back in the tip of my finger.

I think, if I can carry on the pirate thingy, that “here there be dragons”.

Think first, imagine the cuts…is there something you can do to avoid them?

Well then do that…

-- Alec (Friends call me Wolf, no idea why)

I was using my bandsaw (you know, the safest saw in the shop!!) and as I was getting to the end of the cut, I said to myself… “you’re gonna cut your thumb”… just as it happened. Now I use a push stick that’s made especially for short, thin cuts (made it myself with a bandaged thumb!). The rest of the story, as they say, is that I had a nice gash on my thumb but didn’t want to stop want I was doing for a trip to the hospital. Now by trade I am a nurse practitioner so I know that I have approximately 8 hours to get it sutured in the ER. I went into the house, cleaned it up and did my usual bang up job of bandaging it… and finished my project. Not a bit of blood on the wood ;-)
When I got to the ER, they were none too happy with me… to say the least! But it was within the prescribed time limit!
Moral of the Story: the safest saw is the one that is unplugged.


I have hurt myself on only one machine in my shop in the last 18 years. Yep, you guessed it, the bandsaw. And not only once, but three times (I’m a slow learner). Twice to the ER and the last time just some skin rubbed off, all finger damage, but luckily nothing permanent. The first two accidents occurred not long after I started woodworking mostly due to ignorance, but the last one was about 1 month ago and mostly caused by stupidity, but to be nice I’ll just call it carelessness. To be more specific, I was resawing some lumber and when I got to the last cut the blade was pretty close to the outside where I was holding the workpiece against the fence. I didn’t feel the need for a push stick (although I normally use one anyway) as my bandsaw usually cuts very straight, but I didn’t know that one of the guides was loose from vibration allowing the blade to wander and come out the side of the workpiece onto my fingers. The result was finishing up 5 Christmas baskets with a lot of pain from my thumb and forefinger for a couple of weeks on my right hand, which is the one I mostly use.

I have to admit that I find this pretty embarrassing as I pride myself on working safe even though I’m not a safety nut and I believe that safety is in the brain and not the equipment, but I hope it will prevent others from making the same dumb mistake. Otherwise, I do nick myself often while working with edge tools, but a lot less after I got a decent workbench.

Mike, an American living in Norway

Are all mistakes stupid? Seems like it. Mine was, real – real stupid. I was cutting a small piece for a project for my wife. The problem was – I was thinking about what I was going to do next, not about what I was doing. I now have a new shape to my thumb. It’s been three years and I’m able to feel with it again, for the most part. Still some area with no feeling. It’s on my left hand so, when I am holding a piece of wood on the saw, that thumb is a reminder in full view.

I'm the one with the beard

We’re not encouraging the new folks, are we? Remember…one day, you took a hunk of wood and turned it into a beautiful, elegant and much loved table. Remember that and keep your fingers far from the whirling knives.

-- Alec (Friends call me Wolf, no idea why)