ABC – Always Be Careful

There’s a particular sound a high powered industrial power tool makes when the material being cut changes from wood to human flesh. I know that sound. Three times I’ve been present when a major shop accident occurred; two different table saws and one 1/2 inch router, always the left hand.

The first was my own stupid accident. First boat, last cut. I was excited and in a hurry. I remember when it happened I heard that sound, felt the pain, turned off the machine and yelled, “It’s a bad one!” My partner knew exactly what had happened, grabbed the baby and drove me to the local clinic. Only given Tylenol, the next drive and ferry ride to the hand clinic in Seattle was long. Not allowed to change diapers or do dishes for the next month, I understood that push sticks were a vital part of proper table saw protocol and that industrial machines had more brains than I did.

The second accident was worse. My shop partner took a 1/2 inch cove out of his left thumb with a router. All of us in the shop that day watched him lying on the floor and yelling/moaning sounds that were part deer, rabbit and coyote being murdered; inhuman. And one of the men kept screaming, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” An ambulance ride to Harborview. He later admitted that when he picked up the tool, something wasn’t right but he planned on fixing it after this one cut. We threw that router away, smashed in the garbage can so no one else would ever use it.

My third experience seemed even worse, because it was Rick. I heard that sound, deeper than the others and immediately knew. The table saw kept running and suddenly Rick came down the stairs, hand wrapped in his handkerchief. He looked at me and simply said, “I gotta go.” Rushing him to Jefferson hospital, I was in my own state of shock; this was a very bad injury. No insurance or money for a helicopter, I ended up driving him to Harborview; a really long trip. Prescription in hand from the E.R. Doctors for aid in transport, I requested preferential boarding at the Winslow ferry. The ticket taker refused my request. Told me to get in lane 12. So I drove to the front of the line, told them what I needed. One look at Rick, we were the first to board.

I’ve made peace with the table saw and it is in fact my favorite power tool. I’ve never been able to get past my fear of big routers. When someone turns one on, I literally have to leave the room. I should probably get counseling for that.

“It is better to be careful a hundred times than to get killed once”. MARK TWAIN


  1. Fishing boat blues: quite similar stories in the fleet. I survived with all my parts- but so many near misses on deck and in engine rooms!

  2. I understand all to well, I restore vintage European cars and build my own scratch built cars. So after 40 years and never a injury. My last late night,finishing a last detail on an old 356, before delivering the car to show with the customer in the morning. And then jumping on a plane to France for 6+weeks. I am drilling one final hole, to mount a door rail. Bit snaps, what is left of the spinning bit goes right in my finger. And it is stll there, trying to work its way to the surface.😀 but the good news the turned out spectacular, I did not spill any blood on the new carpets I had just installed.
    And I am in Southern France🇫🇷 with a bobo. I will take it.

  3. You got me scrinching with my memory of running my finger straight into Dale Nordlands 36″ bandsaw. I grabbed my hand & wrapped it before looking at it. I called for help and Quuipo, my faithful dog came running. I yelled at folks to look for my finger before the dog finds it! I then opened the wrap to look at it, and my finger was still there. It was cut lengthwise a couple inches, rather than straight across. The search was called off. I was sewn back together in town.

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