Okay, this isn’t the same as when somebody claims something tastes like shit. I mean really, who has honestly tasted shit before? Listen, I was a baby, I happened to be crawling near some dog poop and I got curious. I don’t really remember it anyhow. I digress. This memory is vivid. That is my left hand in the x-ray taken on the eve of April 2, 2012, and if you notice, the distal phalanx on my left index finger is in two pieces. If you’re curious, yes it’s still in two pieces over two years later. Don’t worry, it’s a great conversation starter… neat party trick to bend my bone in half. I don’t however recommend it. Let’s take a quick look at all the variables that could have prevented this from happening, and the things you can do when using a table saw to insure that it does NOT happen to you.
First and foremost, if somebody with years of experience using this tool and somebody you trust, oh let’s say… your father maybe, give you a dangerous piece of equipment like this and gives you a laundry list of safety tips… LISTEN. Follow them all. I’m fairly certain I broke each and ever rule he gave me.
Use The Table Saw Blade Guard
“Here is the blade guard,” he tells me as he’s setting it on the ground next to the saw. “You need to attach that before you use this thing.”
So where was the blade guard when I decided to try to see what a spinning blade does to soft flesh? You guessed it. On the ground, right where he set it weeks earlier.
Adjust the Table Saw Blade Height
“You should also lower the height of the blade so it’s just taller than the wood you’re cutting,” he says. “This will help you get a cleaner cut, and should the worst happen and you do get your finger in there, hopefully it will help minimize the injury.”
How high was the blade? Well see for yourself. I’ll link to a gallery of photos covering the injury and healing process at the bottom of this post. But for those who don’t think they can stomach it, the blade was at least one, possibly two inches above the top of the wood.
Never Put Your Hand Behind the Table Saw Blade
He told me never to put my hand behind the blade because due to the direction that it spins, if it’s going to rip the piece of wood you’re cutting through, it’s going to pull it back toward you. If your hand is there when it happens, guess what’s going with it. Side note, if you decide to try this make sure the dog isn’t in the room. She may eat the tip before you can pick it up to take to the hospital with you.
You guessed it. I put my hand directly on the wood just inches behind the blade, pinching the two separate halves against the blade which effectively put the breaks on and pulled it and my hand through. It happened so fast. I was wearing a glove so couldn’t see the damage and it only felt like I hit it with a hammer. This brings me to my next point.
If Something’s Wrong… STOP
I had cut a piece of half inch plywood to a size of about 12″ x 6″ and what I really needed was a piece that was only 5.5″ wide. So I decided to shave that width off. It was such a thin piece that kept bouncing off the blade, and I was sure it was going to get thrown up into my face. I decided I’d just hold it down. I should have just turned the saw off and done one of the two following things.
Wear the Proper Safety Gear
I was in a hurry. I didn’t put on safety glasses. Had I been wearing them, I never would have had the need to put my hand where I decided to.
Use the Right Tool for the Job
This brings us to my final mistake. You won’t see it in any of the pictures because of the angle the photos were taken from, but literally right next to the table saw on the floor was a jig saw. This is a much safer tool and far more appropriate for making the kind of cut I was making.
All-in-all I can’t complain. If I hold up all four fingers and you look at the angle of the scar, I really should have cut all four of them. I’m extremely lucky to end up with only a single injured finger that’s fully functional in 95% of the functions I used it for prior to injury, and that looks good enough that the majority of people don’t notice until I point it out.
Gallery of Images (injury and through healing)