WT233 – Recovering From Close Calls & Injuries

On today’s Wood Talk “Weekend Edition”, we are talking about how to get back in the shop after an injury.


We received an email from Eric that said:

I was wondering if you all have had a scare in the shop that had you questioning if you really know what you are doing or not. I have felt this way on a few occasions, mostly after bowls exploding at the lathe and its difficult to get back in there for a bit but after a while calms down. I have been turning a while, nearly all self taught aside from a pen class that was my entry into this rabbit hole. Then the other day I get a nasty catch and the spinning hunk of wood just likes to suck in your hand like a vacuum. Barely a scrape on my hand but I question whether I should continue. Do you guys have any of these experiences or suggestions for shaking it off?

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14 replies on “WT233 – Recovering From Close Calls & Injuries”

Hey Guys!
Great show as usual – I listen to this podcast when I commute to work, and makes the experience a lot less painful 🙂
I’ve also had my share of close calls and scary moments. The worse was while cutting glass (we were using it a substitute for card scrapers – if you do it right, you get a clean and very sharp edge that you can just discard afterwards), and while applying the right technique (which is very safe) in the wrong way, I had a flap of skin coming out of thumb. About 12 stitches later, I was fine. I don’t remember fearing going back to work – just being more aware of using the proper technique in the future.
Last but not least – I listen to “Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project” podcast (the guy from Mythbusters). In one of the podcasts episodes he makes reference that he measures how bad an accident is on how bad he think his wife is going to react – like getting a call from the ER versus just appearing with a bloody hand.

Thanks and keep the good work!


Well… speaking of kickback. I have been working with power tools for more than 30 years and have become comfortable with them. I have had a particular Ridgid planer for nearly 10 years. In the process of making an end grain cutting board… yes, should have made researched online before trying but did not do so until afterward… the entire board accelerated to the rear and to the side. I happened to be standing out of the line of the board but apparently not far enough.

The height of the planed stand works out to a couple hand below my waist which corresponds to the address of some good friends of mine. Fortunately it was a glancing blow for my buddies but a direct hit to my upper thigh. It was a serious blow and left me is some serious pain and sitting around getting personal with a bag of ice for a couple of hours while my wife chastised me with her eyes every few minute. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized how large and deep my thigh was bruised. It could have been much worse.

My advice, research BEFORE you try something. Thankfully it was nothing more than a bruise and the planer did not erupt or sling blades.

My scariest ever incident involved my daughter (then 10y) who needed a piece of wood cut for a school project. She wanted to supervise so we went off to the shop. Daughter stood a safe distance away and I cut the wood on the table saw without blade guard. Made the cut, turned off the motor, then saw in the corner of my eye her reaching over the still moving saw blade towards the work piece. Had visions of torn tenons/brachial artery. Anyhow, just managed to intercept her hand within an inch of the blade. I said a short prayer and we left the shop for the day.

My worse injury came at the begging of this horrible journey I have begun. I was holding a small spline against a disc sander when it did a Copperfield on me. With the price now in some other world my fingers were next to meet the spinning 80 grit wheel. It didn’t care. I’m still amazed how space and time stand still for just a bit while the brain processes what the body did. That was three years ago. They have healed but you can see the tips are rubbed off and they are very sensitive to the cold. I learned at least 2 things. Use a old time wood clamp to hold small pieces, not your fingers and never take medical advice from a Hospice nurse.

I just recently suffered my first (and hopefully last) power tool related injury. My tablesaw sucks. It’s a cheap bench top model with a terrible fence and no safety features. I really don’t have any business using it. While ripping a piece of curly maple at 11/16 with a push stick, but reflexes caused me to try to stop the piece with my left hand. I’m lucky I didn’t lose it and my wife is an ER PA with lots of stitching experience. And a suture kit with a numbing agent. Anyway my two take aways: dull tools are dangerous. My blade needed to be cleaned. I had to push harder than I should have to get the piece through. It could also use a sharpening. Second, with my underpowered saw I might invest in a thin kerf blade. Weak tools that you have to compensate for by pushing hard are dangerous. To get back in I needed to get into the shop quickly or it would have been harder and harder. Take breaks during long sessions. Quit when you’re tired. Great show guys

What a great but painful topic! And I’ve been fortunate that my only woodshop injury so far is a couple of splinters. However, in my younger metal working days I had a near amputation of a middle digit, a crushed foot, hot tool steel shrapnel embedded in my neck from a heat treating accident (“You f^@&!*% idiot! O-1 is quenched in oil, not water!”), a metal shaving surgically removed from my right eye, and countless cuts, smashed fingers and a nasty case dermatitis from handling acetone soaked rags without protective gloves (only doctors and scientist wore those things in the 80’s). Needless to say the local ER staff knew me on a first name basis for a while. And after each mishap I was back in the shop as soon as possible. There were thing to be done an money to be made that could not wait.

Wishing everyone safe days in the shop!

Hi all.. another enjoyable show again, I enjoyed the conversation greatly. I just wanted to feed back about getting back in the saddle.. apart from the Router table accidents that sounded very similar to Marc’s.
As an apprentice Joiner (31 years ago) I was asked to router a channel in a length of Mahogany, the was my first attempt and I was a bit green and worried, anyway as I was making the cut the router bit in and flew into the air causing me to jump forward to try and catch the unruly power tool.. I moved forward in my best goal keeping pose to try and get control of the bouncing router (which was still running) as I got near the bit once again propelled the router up in the air and of the edge of the table missing both my hands.. as it fell it hit the top corner of the router and spun it towards my shin which it hit.. cutting open a boiler suit, a pair of British Army lightweights and my track suit trousers (its was January in Scotland).. and stopped due to the cable being pulled from the plug.. 11 stiches and a nice gouge out of my shin. Upon return from the Hospital, my first job was to put a plug on the router and complete the work Willie (my gaffer) had gave me.
when I finished the work, Willie came over, gave me a cup of tea and said with chuckle… “Welcome to Woodworking”.

Lesson Learned

Thank you for answering questions like this- This particular episode is great as I educate students with varied experience. The come in scared, gore their confidence and then if something happens they are forever shy about it. This is approaching it from the educational standpoint! Thanks!

My first table saw was a Jet contractor saw that I bought at a woodworking show 14 years ago it was the demo machine and did not have a guard or splitter and never heard of a push stick. I was cutting a small piece of walnut and hit a knot “KICK BACK” The knot impaled my stomach and hurt like hell, blood everywhere. Then I looked at my finger and saw it was filleted like a shrimp I called 911 and went off the emergency room it still bothers me to this day. I sold all the tools and it took me about 2 years to come back into woodworking. The nurse that worked on me was a woodworker and did the same thing to her finger she told me that hurt more than having her first child.

Several years ago, my table saw grabbed a board and threw it at me. It missed me, but the board did go through the wall behind me… it was very scary. I scolded the table saw, then found it a new home. I warned the owner about the angry little machine because it was missing the splitter.

The revised shop is all hand tools. When one of my man-powered tools bites me, it not as severe or scary. And that’s how I got over the table saw attack.

I haven’t been woodworking all that long, but listening to your Close Calls show reminded me of one of my earlier moments of idiocy. A couple of years ago, I got a small, bench top Delta Drill Press. I decided to make an extended table for it, so I could better support and hold down larger pieces. It turned out beautifully, but I decided to make a circular insert for the table, which could be rotated as it got torn up from the drilling process. I needed to make a couple of 6″ diameter circles out of 3/4″ ply, but lacked a bandsaw. So I cut them roughly out of ply with my jigsaw, and then took them to my router table.

Keep in mind, my router table (even today) is just a sheet of plywood with the router mounted to it, set on some saw horses.) So I measured, and drilled a hole in the plywood 3″ from the straight bit mounted in the router. I used a 1/4″ bolt mounted through the table to hold the circle in place, and turned on the router. Then I held the rough circle on the bolt tightly to the table, and slowly turned it into the bit so that it was conventional cutting (not climb cutting). However, one of the discs got loose from me towards the end, and started spinning into the bit at high speed until the bolt slid out and the disc was launched out of the open garage door, into the street about 20′ away. Luckily, I had backed off, and no one had been walking by at the time.

It worked out in the end, and I got 4 or 5 perfectly fitting circles for my table. But it was clearly idiotic, and I was lucky it got thrown into the street, and not into me, or someone walking by. I would certainly never try that again.

I’ve just listened to this podcast & was glad this topic came up. As a woodshop & construction teacher of 18 years, I feel I have a healthy respect for my tools & have remained injury free, generally, at work. I’ve had a few kick-back events with the table-saw but have never been hit by the timber, thankfully.

I recently sent you a pic of my home made contractor saw, the “damo2000”, which Matt stated looked a bit scary. I also think so but it has been so handy at home that I love it. During our January holidays, while I was doing home renovations, my saw decided that my left index finger looked quite tasty. I was ripping up some plywood strips & was wearing fitted work gloves to avoid splinters. All was going well & I had cut quite a few pieces safely. As I was also timelapse recording the process for my YouTube I thought I should also demonstrate using the pushstick. As I lifted my hand to reach for the pushstick, the blade caught the glove, throwing my hand into the blade. I felt the pain, saw the blood, but couldn’t tell the extent of the damage due to the glove being on, yet ripped. I thought to turn off the saw before running inside to see what I’d done & to render myself some first aid.
The saw took a good bite, removed half the nail & left a few other gashes. I went to hospital to get an xray as I was concerned I may have hit the bone. I got the all clear & was told it missed the nail root, so my nail would grow back. I went home relieved. My biggest concern now was that the weather was fine & I was losing renovation time. I returned to working 2 days later & took a bit more care with the saw – it’s still too handy to not use.

In retrospect, had I continued the cut & not reached for the pushstick, my hand would have been fine.

I’ve used the incident as an example to my students to always remain focused & avoid becoming complacent with tools we use often. As I use, & teach others how to use, power tools & machines on a daily basis, I can’t afford to become afraid to use them. I choose to learn from mistakes if they happen & do things differently next time. Complacency usually occurs at home instead of at work.

When this show started I was considering sending you the before & after photos, especially as it has healed so well that you wouldn’t know the accident had happened. But then you said “please don’t send photos”.

Love the show.

I love this podcast. I often listen while i an on the road.
About 4 years ago I had a real scare. I was operating a bench top jointer without a push pad on a small part thinking to myself, “this is dangerous you should(****” when I cut of the tip of the middle finger of my left hand. Fortunately it is not as severe as it sounds. I just got a sliver of bone and still have my nail. My fingertip is just “indented”. I fortunately had a good surgeon working in ER that night. I never turned on that tool again and later gave it away. It took a while to go back in the shop, maybe a month after my hand healed. But shortly after that i discovered the RWW website, then I joined the Hand Tool School and found this great show. I made a conscious decision to reduce my time on power tools because of the accident.

The enthusiasm each of you demonstrate for the craft is amazing. I learn something with each show.

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