Sunday, June 9, 2019

"Let's Be Careful Out There"

Though nicely healing up, there is a cautionary tale to be told

While this may horribly date me, that was the famous catchphrase of Sgt Phil Esterhaus from Hill Street Blues.

While it was meant to be advice for law enforcement officers that were going on duty, it is also very good advice of those of us that use tools that are powered and very sharp, often at the same time.

I've been using power saws and other such devices since I was a young teenager and I always treated those tools with a great deal of respect.

For many years (decades even) about the only injury that I ever got was the occasional sliver.

But all that good karma with power tools can be for naught if you are only distracted for a second when one of these things are running.

Such was the case for me last fall.

It was a pretty typical sunny Sunday afternoon and I was doing what I typically do on such a fine day, I was out in the backyard with my table saw, ripping some lengths of 2X4 spruce for a couple of garden ornaments that I was building.

Something that I had literally done thousands of times before.

Things were going well until the plank that I was cutting suddenly kicked back and I felt a sudden tug at the end of one of the fingers on my right hand. I initially didn't think much of it - I didn't really feel any pain - that is until I noticed that I seem to be leaking a lot of the red stuff from my right hand.

Needless to say, 5 hours in the emergency room, 5 stitches and an x-ray later I was back home again.

Thankfully I got away with only a really bad cut, though I will have a nice reminder of this day for the rest of my life since I also no longer have any feeling at the tip of that finger.  This has proved to be a bit of an inconvenience since I need to pound a keyboard in my day job and it feels a bit weird typing without feeling the keys.

The main lesson here is that kickbacks can happen very suddenly and without any real warning. In my situation, I suspect that a slight twisting of the board while I was feeding it through the saw, was what triggered the kickback.

Once a kickback happens, there is no real way to control it and anything attached to the board, including your hands, is just along for the ride.

A little while ago I came across this video that probably best illustrates what happened. I shuddered when I saw how close this fellow's hand came to the blade when the kickback happened.

The key lesson here is that you really need to have the guards in place on your power tools. I know that some may consider them to be a pain and find that it's easier to just leave them off.

I was one of those my self and as the man in the video says, I was a real idiot.

Well, at least I still have my fingers, and I'm a little wiser.

Let's be careful out there.

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