Fair Woodworking

March 7, 2012

The project that changed my world

EDITORS NOTE *** This post is experiencing 3rd party photo hosting “issues”, that will be addressed as time allows. ***


If you have ever seen my avatar, you may have thought I was just trying to be cute. Well I do think I’m cute, but there is a story behind the smiley face.


I wasn’t always one of those hand tool types.
There was a time when I looked forward to Saturday as an excuse to go to Home Depot and drool over tools made of yellow, blue, and red plastic. Comparing RPM and 1/2 horse vs. 3/4 horse really got my juices going.

I was working as a trim carpenter at the time, and had gotten to know some of the guys. One day news got around that one of the other guys had a pretty serious accident. While ripping a full sheet of MDF, he lost control and ended up cutting off a couple of fingers and his thumb. Shortly after that another friend lost fingers using his chop saw. In both cases serious bodily harm resulted from them not respecting a dangerous tool, and did dumb things with them.

For a several years I didn’t go near a saw of any kind without thinking about those two, and during that time, good old fashion fear made me a much safer woodworker.

But, as years go by, life’s lessons fade from memory.

At about 2am, the morning of December 25th 2005 found me behind schedule on a gift for my wife.

I was almost done and it really wasn’t that big of a project. It was a simple book holder that she could place on her lap when reading in bed. All that was left for me to do was attach the ledge piece to the bottom that the book would rest on.

“How will I attach it?”, I asked myself. I thought of using my new biscuit joiner. “But how will I hold the piece against it?”, I asked.

I’m a bit of a night owl and was not sleepy, so I have no good excuse for what I did next. I flipped the biscuit joiner upside down, and held the piece against the fence with my fingers. Pulled the trigger and plunged the saw into the wood.

The next thing I remember, I was standing at the other side of the garage staring at a very tidy 1/8″ furrow through the tip of my left pointer finger and finger nail. The blade had kicked the wood out of the way and biscuited my finger instead.

Thankfully it missed the bone, but it did remove a good amount of flesh. Enough was missing that it posed a bit of a challenge for the Doctor. Well two challenges actually.

You see it’s not every day a guy walks in off the street with an injury from a tool as obscure as a biscuit joiner. Nor is it common at 3 in the morning to see woodworking injuries. Lump those together with it being Christmas morning, and you have a doctor that is laughing so hard that he can barely put a stitch in.

I’m glad I made his night.

This injury was pretty minor compared my friends in the past, but it really got me thinking. Does every tool I own need to have this much destructive power?

That was the day I first really looked seriously at hand tools as a viable option.

I kind’a miss that chunk of finger I lost that day, but I’m glad the event opened my eyes to the world of hand tools.

On a side note, This warning sticker is proof that warning stickers don’t work.

The wise don’t need them, and fools won’t head them.

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