Woodworking 101

I’m a self-taught, rough-edged woodworker.  I got started because we needed a new bed and couldn’t find any we liked so I built one out of maple, cherry and oak.  It wasn’t bad for a first time out sort of thing and I started making other things, most notably a dining table out of cherry, mahogany and almond.

As often happens when you get over-confident in your skills, you tend to lose respect for the work, for the time it takes to do a good job, for the safe guards against small accidents.  I am meticulous about wearing eye and ear protection.  I make sure to check electrical when there is the smallest chance something could jolt me.  I use push sticks and other aids to protect my hands from blades and bits.  That’s why the accident I had mid-November was such a shock.

My Shop

My Shop

This is me working in my shop, which is actually the front part of our garage.  That’s a ping pong table I’m using as an assembly table.  You’ll see I have two workbenches, on with my bench top drill press and band saw, one set up as a woodworking bench.  I also have a contractor’s saw that is outfitted with a good fence.

The Saw

The Saw

This is where stupid starts.  Last cut of the day, a piece of hard maple, about the size you see above.  I was using a push stick and the small cut was caught between the fence and the blade.  That’s the recipe for kick-back.  I could have prevented this easily and in fact I thought about putting a stop block on the fence to keep the cut piece from kicking back.  Or I could have used a longer push plate that would lay on top of the wood.  I did neither and this is what happens…

A broken thumb on top of the gash that took 17 stitches to close.  I’m just now recovering from the break…tendons are tight and range of movement is still restricted…but I’m mostly healed, playing basketball and back to wood work.

So that’s my cautionary tale.  It never takes too long to do it right, even if it is the last cut of the day…in more ways than one.

One Response to “Woodworking 101”
  1. Carly 11 January 2010 at 8:41 am #

    How is your thumb doing these days? Any lasting pain/loss of function?
    Do you have a router? John received one as a gift but he isn’t sure what all he can do with it. He is considering buying or building a table for it. Any thoughts/recommendations on router tables?
    I also gave him a Kreg jig for x-mas, kinda like the one we gave my dad but better. He has been using it to build door frames. You should check out their website they have a lot of woodworking equipment. http://www.kregtool.com/index.php The company is located here in Iowa close to us. Hope all is well in Arcata. Maybe you should build an earthquake shelter next!

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