Table Saw Safety Hits Home

It’s been a rough week. Sunday night, I was in my shop working on a small project. It was nearing dinner time and my wife stepped into the shop to inquire about my plans for dinner. I was in the middle of resawing a small workpiece. I knew she was standing there, so it didn’t startle me. But something happened to the workpiece and in a split second it kicked back with a loud bang. I instinctively shut the saw off and reached for the workpiece.

Then I saw it. The workpiece was not the only thing I was cutting. The end of my right thumb had somehow come down directly on the spinning blade. I hadn’t even felt it.  Yet. My wife saw the whole thing happen.

The end result after some microsurgery is a shorter thumb without a thumbnail. I’ll spare you all the gory details. The prognosis for a full recovery is good after some physical therapy.

But what I have left to deal with now are all the questions. And anger and blaming myself for letting it happen. I haven’t been back to the “scene of the crime” since it happened. I suppose I’ll have to face up to it here in the next day or so.

I lay awake at night second-guessing myself. Not believing that I’ve been woodworking for over 30 years without serious injury.  The full range of emotions and “what-if” scenarios.

I’ve already wrestled with the 100 different ways I could have accomplished my goal that night. And what I should have done differently. The constant blame game you play in your mind.

But that’s behind me and life must go on. My point of telling my story is that you should always listen to that voice in your head that says, “Perhaps I should do this another way.” For that’s exactly what I was thinking precisely one-half second before I permanently injured my thumb.

3 Responses to “Table Saw Safety Hits Home”

Claude Stewart said,

well I’ve watched all your podcasts and I’ve [seen] more than one person use the tablesaw without using a push stick. It always made me cringe to see this and always wondered how you could [put] out material for people to download and watch and not use good safety habits. I just chalked it up to these guys have been using these tools all their lives and still have all their digits. I have been using a tablesaw for 35 years off and on have experienced kickback a couple of times and it scared me enough to change my ways. My father-in-law cut off one finger and my friend put his thumb into the blade during a plunge cut with his tablesaw. So I’ve tried to learn from them.  I now get real nervous whenever I don’t use a push stick. So I’m looking forward to seeing some good safety habits in your future podcasts. Claude

Randy Maxey said,

Claude, thanks for your comments. If I understand you correctly, you seem to think that a push stick is the answer to table saw safety. While I agree it is appropriate in some circumstances, it is downright dangerous in some situations. And it’s really unnecessary on cuts where your hands are far away from the path of the blade. Common sense goes hand in hand with safety.

I’ve already beat myself up over what I could have done differently. But I am convinced that accidents can and do happen in spite of our best intentions.

As for our podcasts, we try to use our best judgement but we’re forced to make some compromises at times so that the viewer can understand and see what’s going on. But I’ll pass your comments along to our presenters because you do raise some valid concerns.

I’m sure we’ll get a lot of comments here, and that was my intention. I want to raise awareness of this issue and you bring up some great points.

Thanks again,


Claude Stewart said,

Randy I felt kind of bad after I pushed the submit button because I thought I was kind of harsh. I agree that most of the time that I use a push stick is when I’m within 8-10 in of the blade. And I also have done that same thing running 1-2 in. pieces by the blade with my hand and I did for a long time until my friend (who had the accident) made me a couple of push sticks and said use these and showed me his thumb. So now I guess that I’m a believer. But when I watched the episode of the picture frames and the carpenter was running those small pieces through by just hooking his fingers over the fence well that just made me cringe. A few years ago I’m sure I wouldn’t have had a problem with it. I know when I had my kick back episode I wasn’t using one and I felt that I got lucky that break any fingers because the piece hit in the stomach and left a bruise through about four layers of clothing (winter). So no I don’t use a push stick all the time but I use one a lot more than I ever did. But this is neither here nor there. What is important is that some teenager or younger person might pick up a bad habit by watching your podcasts. I know I started using a table saw when I was about 12 and didn’t have any kind of instruction but at least I couldn’t point to an instructional video and say “dad he doesn’t use one”. So again sorry about my first post because I’m sure You will be beating yourself up over it for a long time to come. PS This might also be a liability issue. Claude