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The sad (and bloody) story of what happened when I made a saw

comments (6) January 20th, 2011 in blogs

MKenney Matthew Kenney, special projects editor
thumbs up 8 users recommend

Step 1: This is a frame saw, and I was making one so that I could resaw some thick boards for bookmatching.
Step 2: I used a single big dovetail to join the frame at the corners.
Step 3: I put the first dovetail together and it was tight. While bending over joint, I pulled with all my strength.
Step 4: Free too fast. The joint eventually came apart, but did so very quickly and unexpectedly.
Step 5: By the way the corners and edges of the parts were very sharp.
Step 6: Disaster! Of course the tail piece came flying up at my forehead faster than I could move. It hit me squarely between the eyes. I have a Y-shaped scar now.
Step 1: This is a frame saw, and I was making one so that I could resaw some thick boards for bookmatching. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Step 1: This is a frame saw, and I was making one so that I could resaw some thick boards for bookmatching.

Photo: Matt Kenney

When I started woodworking, I didn’t have any power tools. I made my first project—a garden caddy for my wife—with two dull chisels, a coping saw, and a stubby toolbox panel saw. Of course, I quickly realized that I would need more tools. Being a graduate student—in the lucrative field of philosophy, no less—I didn’t have much money, so I got into making some tools. Well, I eventually found myself in the garage making a frame saw so that I could re-saw some boards. I used a single, big dovetail at each joint to hold the four frame parts together. Everything was going really well until I dry fit the first joint. It was a bit tight. I struggled to get the joint apart, but wouldn’t smack with a mallet or hammer—I didn’t want to dent the wood. So, I really put some muscle into the job, bending over the joint and pulling with all I could muster. The joint gave in one quick moment. The part I was holding in my right hand came hurtling towards my forehead (a huge target by any standard). It was fast. In fact, the first thing I really saw was the blood dropping onto the bench. The corner of the workpiece, right where three edges meet one another, smacked me right between the eyes and left a Y-shaped cut in my head. It took just a few stitches to sew up the cut. (That's not such a big deal. I needed 164 to sew up a cut in my leg when I was in the third grade.)

I learned several things that day. First, we had some great neighbors we could rely on to watch the kids in an emergency. Second, don't lean over a joint when you're pulling it apart. But, most importantly, I learned that I really did need a bandsaw!

You can flip through a wonderfully illustrated version of my story by clicking on the drawers above. Go down the left-hand column and then go down the right-hand one.

posted in: blogs, hand tools, shopmade, injuries

Comments (6)

rngray rngray writes: I did exactly the same thing and I have exactly the same scar to prove it. Mine was a hand cut mortise and tenon on scrap wood, a practice exercise in a NBSS workshop! If I ever run into you I'll show you.
Posted: 4:25 pm on January 29th

jandrewyang jandrewyang writes: I sliced my finger on the edge of a bench leg I was trying to fair with a spokeshave. Not as bloody or "sad" as this story, but still a reminder that wood can get remarkably sharp!
Posted: 10:47 am on January 21st

MKenney MKenney writes: Steve,

This is no doubt a hilarious stories. I told it and showed the drawings as part of a short presentation at this years Working Wood in the 18th Century conference at Colonial Williamsburg. It got the laughs I expected. And I have no problem laughing at my own stupidity.
Posted: 10:01 am on January 21st

Aroonstock Aroonstock writes: Matt,
I'm glad you're ok. Thanks for sharing the lesson (and the great drawings).
Posted: 10:07 pm on January 20th

saschafer saschafer writes:
I don't understand why the blog post is entitled "The sad (and bloody) story..."? Shouldn't it be "The hilarious (and bloody) story..."? ;-)


Posted: 5:48 pm on January 20th

jtetreault jtetreault writes: Great lessons Matt! Along with philosophy, woodworking and editing, I think you can add animation to your bag of tricks. Try a quick click on lower left, upper right, lower right.
Posted: 3:39 pm on January 20th

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Blog edited by Fine Woodworking associate editor Matt Kenney.