This is a dangerous business

Hearing about bizarre accidents always makes me start thinking about shop safety. Actually I am always thinking about it, but hearing these horror stories makes me really aware of just how dangerous this line of work can be. The most recent one involves a guy who had his arm severed when the blade came off his chop saw. The guy apparently died.

I don’t have all of the facts and I’m still thinking that it sounds pretty farfetched but the teller swears it’s true. There is an obituary in the guy’s local hometown paper but it does not contain any details about the cause of death. According to the story, the guy was distracted while replacing the blade and forgot to install the washer and blade bolt. Then, when he tried to use the saw, the blade was turned into some sort of giant shuriken. There is no mention of how the accident actually happened but evidently, it did. Assuming that this is indeed fact and not someone’s twisted idea of a “good story” it is, without a doubt, one of the all-time top ten most unpleasant woodworking stories I have ever heard.

I don’t want to offer up a litany of horror stories but here is a “close call” story that I know to be true. Some years back I had a friend who worked in a mill running a sticker (molding machine). During one run, he heard a strange “thunk” come from the machine and he could have sworn he felt something brush past his head. But everything seemed OK, so he finished the run. It was only when he went to break the setup down that he saw the neat little slot in the steel shroud and realized that one knife was missing from one of the cutterheads. Then he noticed another neat little slot in the Sheetrock behind the machine. The siding on the outside of the wall was torn up and he did not find the knife. But he realized that he had been standing right in between the slot in the shroud and the one in the wall. So that “whatever it was” he felt brush past his head was not a bug but a steel molding knife just missing him.



  • michael says:

    i always hate hearing those kind of stories, but they have always served as a reminder never to take our machines or actions too lightly.

    i’ve seen everything from a framer trying to bust out a misplaced stud with a half-jack only to have it bounce off the green lumber and fracture is leg, to furniture maker die when a poorly maintained wide belt sander spit the wood back into his chest.

    accidents happen, but most can be avoided by thinking clearly and by properly maintaining our machines.

    along the lines of too far out to believe is this one told to me when i first started making furniture about the guy who cut off a finger on one of the table saws. when he finally returned to work he was trying to show another builder what he had done and during the demonstration promptly removed himself of another digit.

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