Putting the "log" back in Blog

Late Entry for Shop Safety Week (warning: graphic hand injury)

Posted on May 13th, by Andy Brownell in Around the shop, Tools. No Comments

Rather ironic that the two missing fingers are the same ones I injured.

It’s hard to believe, but I forgot to share my own personal story for shop safety week, so here is my late entry on the long list of table saw injuries.
Back in September 2001, I was working on some rail and stile dados to accept a panel for a blanket chest. I decided to do a stop cut with a stacked dado blade about 11/16″ wide.

Needless to say, this was a poor choice and the last time I ever made such a cut. The rail shot backwards, kicking past my mid-section by about 100 mph, while the top/inside of my left middle and index fingers raked over the top of the blade.

A hot, stinging pain immediately shot through my hand, and I knew right away that it wasn’t going to be pretty. I immediately vocalized the obligatory F-bomb, and ran over to wash off my fingers to assess the damage. Not good.

I probably lost 1/8″ of each finger tip. My finger nails were gone, and a messy laceration ran up the two fingers. Once wrapped, a fellow shop co-worker rushed me to the E.R. a couple of miles away. Once at the hospital the pain was followed by shock. I collapsed into a wheelchair at the entrance and was brought into see a hand specialist. Aside from the ER nurse not being able to find someone with a key to get the really good pain killer, I got pretty lucky.

Twenty-eight stitches and 6 hours of micro-surgery later, I was lucky to have what stillresembled two very important digits. The worst part was 2 days later, I had to go to the Dr.’s office to get my crusty bandages changed. They had essentially fused to my fingers and THAT was as painful as the injury itself. My wife nearly fainted watching me deal with the pain. The pictures shown here are right after that incident. If you are feeling adventurous and haven’t eaten in 4+ hours, click to enlarge.Three months of physical therapy later, I went back to the shop and finished the piece with a multi-router. Today, they are a little gnarly and covered in scar tissue, but they work better than I expected, although I do feel a little stiffness when the weather changes.

A bad decision with a scary dado blade taught me the lesson to think long and hard about any cuts like that. Years later, I purchased my first table saw: the SawStop contractor’s model. Well worth the wait and the money and I haven’t used a dado blade since September 29, 2001.

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