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The Editors Mailbox

Router Injury Sparks Reflection on Safety

comments (84) May 20th, 2011 in blogs

MKenney Matthew Kenney, senior editor
thumbs up 73 users recommend

Senior editor Matt Kenneys recent router mishap just goes to show; injuries can happen to anyone, at anytime. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Senior editor Matt Kenney's recent router mishap just goes to show; injuries can happen to anyone, at anytime.


I think we all know (at least subconsciously) that woodworking is an inherently dangerous activity. We use tools that are made to cut things that are a lot harder than skin, muscle, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. They can even cut bone (see my collegue Justin Fink's story on the linked page). And no matter how cautious you are, no matter how diligently you practice safe techniques, you can't remove all of the danger from it.

I was reminded of that truth on a recent Saturday afternoon in my shop. Here's what happened. I was making a fence for my new drill press, and rounding over the edges of the plywood parts. Holding the trim router in my right hand and the workpiece in my left, I was moving smoothly through the various parts without a hiccup. And then I did it. While holding the router off the workpiece, I turned it up slightly, so that the bit was pointing toward the left, rather than straight down. At the same time I was moving my left hand (I honestly can't remember why), and my middle finger went directly into the bit. So, I calmly said "F&$K. S@*t." (Really, it was calmly.) And then I looked at my finger and realized I had a bit of good fortune. Because so little bit was exposed and because of the guide bearing, I was spared serious injury. It bled and I lost some skin, but I didn't need stitches and didn't go to the hospital. Two weeks later, it has almost completely healed. But that probably sounds like I'm whistling past the graveyard and haven't learned anything, which is misleading. I did learn something. I am always conscious of the risks involved with the tools I use and every time I use them I first think through how to perform the task as safely as possible. And, yet, I still messed up. I wasn't doing something obviously wrong (like cross-cutting with the workpiece against the rip fence). In the blink of an eye I did two things at once (tilting the router, moving my left hand) that resulted in an injury. I don't know why. It just happened. I wasn't thinking of beautiful women or college football. I was concentrating on the task at hand. And it still happened. I wasn't tired. And it still happened. That's what I've learned. No matter how careful you are, it can still happen. From here on out I'll keep that in mind every time I go into the shop.

I'll be more humble in the shop, keeping in mind that as a human being I'm bound to do something inexplicably stupid from time to time. I think that will help me be a better and less bloody furniture maker.

Addition (5/27/2011): Given the number of comments this post has generated (thanks for the good thoughts, folks), I think I should clarify a few points. First, I was using my trim router, a PC310. Like all trim routers, it is small. I can't hold it with two hands. One wraps fully around it. Second, the work piece was on a stable work surface and my left hand was to the left of my body, well away from the action. But I was holding the workpiece with my hand. Third, and most important, I do in fact recognize that I did something wrong. I stuck my finger into a router bit. That was stupid. The point I was trying to make is that even when you think you are being cautious and using good technique (and I would argue that even when you actually are being cautious) you can still do something stupid. I apologize for any confusion.


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posted in: blogs, router, accident, shop safety


Comments (84)

Rob98648 Rob98648 writes: I just learned how bad a router injury can be. While holding a trim router in my left hand I supported the base with my fingers while searching for the off switch on my companies porter cable. My index and middle fingers spent more than a couple seconds bouncing around on the 1/8" round over bit. All it felt like was a hard vibration on my fingertips but that vibration told me exactly what was going on; I just mutilated the tips of my two precious fingers. I was at work and fortunately coworkers were around so we wrapped up my hand quickly and got me to the urgent care right away.
Posted: 9:33 am on November 20th

oakleafjoe oakleafjoe writes: (Warning, snide remark coming.)
Until a company comes along with a router that slams a chunk of metal into the router to stop it from harming you.
Then it will want to pass laws to make all routers do this.
Then capitalizes on the law big time!
Posted: 6:41 pm on July 30th

lindhrr lindhrr writes: Cal67......I agree with your comment.......Have a Colt trim router,A few years ago had hold of the router to round over a edge....my little finger was in the open area next to the bit..turned the router on and zing.nicked the tip of the finger...I was lucky.only minor damage..but since have been afraid to use the Colt!!!!!!!
Posted: 7:40 am on July 30th

woodygrandad woodygrandad writes: Had a similar incident but in my case I was doing dovetails with a Leigh Jig and when I had completed a cut I shut the router off and placed it on its side on the work bench behind the jig. I then reached for the work piece on the jig and my hand went in front of the router, remember it was on its side and the thing was still spinning. After much degrading reference to my intelligence I had my wife take me to the ER. 12 stitches and about a month later I am fine except for a very interesting scar. The answer for this is to make a simple devise to hold the router just drill a hole in a piece of 2 by 6 big enough so that the router will sit on it and the bit will be safely in the hole . You live and learn.
Posted: 12:17 pm on June 27th

TurboRoy TurboRoy writes: Thanks Matt for this brilliant article, makes me feel less like a dummy when I do things like nearly sticking my finger into the back of a spinning saw blade while 'guiding' a piece through (that taught me a big lesson, use something other than your finger!). I always enjoy your articles and videos, but this one is particularly relevant for all of us. Well done, not for sticking your finger into a router bit, but for owning up. It helps amateurs like me to be extra careful.
Posted: 3:17 am on June 4th

skinnyb skinnyb writes: Glad to hear your accident was minor, but I love reading about everyone's horror stories. They remind me of the dangers I'm around every day. They also bring back the memories of my own accidents and close-calls. Unfortunately complacency comes with any activity that we take part in, be it woodwork, driving a car, or even cooking. Clamping down parts may be the safest way to use a trim router, however the time involved could turn a 2 hour task into a 2 day job. Not that it excuses unsafe practices, but it's in our nature (especially professionals) to find faster more efficient ways to complete tasks. Again, I'm glad your mishap wasn't serious and thank you eveyone for sharing your stories... I know they'll be fresh in my mind when I get to the shop in the morning.
Posted: 8:05 pm on June 2nd

woodsurgin woodsurgin writes: It is sad there are so few schools teaching shop. One of benefits I have not forgotten in 50 years since high school is the emphasis on safety. We learned safety as a mindset. I still think of safety zones, letting machines wind down, and unplugging tools before changing bits. I agree with the comment that the safest tools can be the most dangerous.
With routing, everything is clamped down. I always am paying attention to router rotation as I have had the closest calls with climb cuts.
Posted: 11:06 am on May 31st

woodsurgin woodsurgin writes:
Posted: 10:55 am on May 31st

Muscleguy Muscleguy writes: A couple of years ago I was squaring across a board with square and knife, notched the knife in the cut at the top, slid the square up and moved the knife down the blade of the square removing the top of my left index finger very cleanly. Did I mention I scary sharp my marking knives? There's a little white patch on the tip marking the deepest cut where the dermis didn't have all the info to replace the fingerprint there to remind me: check all fingers before cutting, even with hand tools and treat hand tools as dangerous as motorised ones.
Posted: 3:51 pm on May 29th

slowman slowman writes: Hey Matt, its good to hear that you escaped with a slight injury and did not lose your finger.
When I was 14, My parents had a large house with about 100 meters of hedge that needed trimming often. that was my responsibility. I was a very causios kid with a family full of engineers and ex army men to tell hair raising stories and teach me the proper way to do stuff.
So I bought the best trimmer on the market, German made, with all the safety gear. it had a two handles, for good leverage and so both hands will be in a place accounted for while the blade was running. the left hand handle was pivoted to allow for easier storage, and secured with two nuts while working. one day while trimming it suddenky swung with my hand still on it directly into the blade, which pinched and cut to the bone three fingers on my left hand like so many grapes, faster than I could let go of the safety. almost 30 years later I still cary the scars and the lesson - even when you do nothing wrong, shit still happens.
After a trip to the hospital and a painfull healing process, I bought a trimmer with a fixed handle and to hell with storage efficeincy, but the idea that you are playing with forces greater than yourself and sooner or later something will happen, is a very sharp reminder of our true place in the world.
Posted: 5:39 am on May 29th

blake77 blake77 writes: Very often even the smallest acts can have the gravest or most fortunate consequences. Luckily for me the latter was the case. About 5 years ago I was using an ogee style bit mounted in a router underneath a router table to shape a piece of top molding trim for a cabinet. The router bit had a guide bearing above the cutter and I was wearing safety glasses. As I lined up the moulding to make a second pass for some reason I stopped and put on a full face shield. In the middle of the second pass the router guide bearing exploded and struck the face shield about an inch and a half below my left eye. The piece of shrapnel left a 3 inch long gouge up the face shield and then continued upward and buried itself in the 14 foot high ceiling of my shop. A fellow woodworker did some calculations which showed the broken bearing was traveling faster than a .22 rifle bullet.
You can still see the hole and a bit of twisted metal in the ceiling. Everytime I see it I am reminded that "pretty safe", wearing just safety glasses when a full face shield was also availble, is not safe at all.
Posted: 10:28 pm on May 28th

Cal67 Cal67 writes: I recently acquired a trim router and find it very useful. But the first time I serously used it, I realized that without the handles of the larger routers it was way to easy to grab the router without regard to where or how close the hand was to the bit. I suspect one can get the hand holding the router in harms way without even threatening the left hand. As a first step I have added some red tape as a reminder of a point below which my right hand should not wander. For me I think installing as wide a base as practical/available helps to control any tendency to tip the base and prevents my tendency to instinctively (perhaps unsafely) shift finger/hand positions to better control the router when a tip occurs.
I am not a commercial user.
Posted: 9:57 pm on May 28th

GlennD62 GlennD62 writes: I havre had two accidents involving a router. The first was in 1995. I was routing the edge of a countertop. The router encountered a bad piece of grain and the router jumped cutting into my ring finger on my right hand. I remember at the time trying to protect the hand as much as possible that I yank it out of the way. The bit did not cut my finger too badly, but in yanking my hand out of the way, I yanked so hard that I tore ligaments and damaged nerves from my hand all the way up to my neck. 3 years of surgeries and therapy later, I lost 70% use of my right arm. All that it took was a split second.
The second accident happened last year. Again, a split second of lost concentration. This time it was my middle finger on my left hand. The bit did not cut the finger as much as it smashed the finger. The end of the finger was smashed open to the first knuckle. If not for the amazing surgeon, the finger would have been amputated. The surgeon took his time and put in the effort to rebuild my finger. You have to look closely to see any damage. This is the same surgeon that work on my right hand.
I am glad that you are doing well. It is very important that we always pay full attention to what is going on around us. As said before, woodworking is inherently dangerous. We need to treat it as such and be careful.
Posted: 3:01 pm on May 28th

rick54 rick54 writes: Glad to hear you're ok, Matt. I always clamp everything down when routing. My mishap happened about 30 years ago. I was ripping strips for window extensions and while reaching over to keep the pieces against the fence I dropped my hand down a little too close and cut my index finger requiring seven stitches. I was actually not thinking because I was ripping so many that the spinning blade basically hypnotized me for a brief second and I forgot where I was. The result is it left the tip of my finger from the first knuckle numb. I consider myself lucky that it wasn't any worse. I haven't had an accident since but am well aware that it could happen any time if I don't think about what I am doing. Good luck in your future woodworking projects and BE CAREFUL AND ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!
Posted: 12:57 pm on May 28th

DwainWilder DwainWilder writes: Among construction contractors, it is well know that many accidents happen on Friday afternoon, when one is tired, finishing the job, looking forward to the weekend, and distracted.

So I always get extra careful, even with hand tools, as I approach the finish of any piece of work. I build stringed musical instruments, and I had a habit, when I first started in business of marring a finished instrument top during the final moments of cleaning up, putting tools away, or getting out a pair of scissors (ouch!) for something.

Also, every time I turn on a power tool I remind myself with this thought, "This might be the last hour you have all your fingers and your hand!" This little mantra helps focus the attention...
Posted: 12:49 pm on May 28th

mdlnobl mdlnobl writes: I too suffered the the common fate known as COMPLACENCY in my shop early last year. After having finished all but one small area for a large plaque that had to go out the next day for a retiree's party, I turned on my trim router while standing above the workpiece, and for whatever reason other than COMPLACENCY, I reached in with my left hand and struck the bit with my fingers. $10,000 and one month off of work, (OUCH), I can say that I think through each process with more respect and attention. By the way, the nail beds were routed off and the tips were wrapped with cow collagen and now everything looks good. Minor numbness in the two fingers but that helps as a reminder every time I reach for a power tool. Be safe.
Posted: 12:02 pm on May 28th

Cragganmore Cragganmore writes: I sometimes wonder if we don't lower the caution bar when using our smaller tools. Are we more careful when using a table saw than a circular saw? For me, my most serious injury (14 stitches) came from the hungry end of a biscuit joiner. If you'd have asked me what my most dangerous power tool was, the biscuit joiner wouldn't have been anywhere near the top of the list. I agree, an accident can happen to anyone at anytime.
Posted: 11:55 am on May 28th

wecoguy wecoguy writes: Cannot beat just stopping at the first sign of weariness, no matter how rushed the job... If we tried making every tool in our shops fail safe we'd price them out of existence for one and like make them useless for another... I've had a couple close calls, visualized a pink haze when that 3 HP router is cranked up with a raised panel bit.... But, do everything to avoid hand holding any workpiece, I'm not comfy with the rubber mats, don't use 'em...

Walk away, stay sober, be safe!

weco
Posted: 11:44 am on May 28th

crowesnest crowesnest writes: ..... I would only add that the inherent yet glaring lesson is in the shop, especially with your power tools running your mind must be on task, it only takes but a split second of a distraction to cut yourself open or off!
Posted: 11:24 am on May 28th

dkelsey dkelsey writes: I have always considered the little router one of most dangerous tools in the shop. Since it is so small and can be used with one hand, the tendency not to turn it off when moving it to another part of the project is strong. With a big router you can not use one hand and you would never move it to another location tipping it up as you do so. I've never had a mishap with it, but a spinning tool with no safe guard in place scares me. It's easy to put down while it spins down with the bit toward you. With the big ones, if you don't wait for it to spin down, I at least set down with the bit away from me.
Posted: 11:12 am on May 28th

abrowning abrowning writes: Glad you escaped relatively unscathed. I've always felt that fear is your friend in the shop. Not the paralyzing type, but the type that heightens your senses and makes you assess what it is you are about to do. Maybe the source of that belief was my schooling.

I attended a very well appointed K-8 school that had a wood shop that would rival most vo tech schools. We took Industrial Arts starting in fourth grade. I remember the table saw intro very clearly. The shop teacher started the table saw which had no guard on it, had us all stand take cover behind our benches, and dropped a block of wood that was maybe three inches square on top of the spinning blade. That block of wood shot across the shop where it hit the cinder block wall about ten feet up and shattered into several pieces. It was a vivid lesson.
Posted: 10:17 am on May 28th

engrx2 engrx2 writes: Something that lots of folks do not realize is that routers at 10-20,000 RPM "gyro." Basically it is just like a bicycle wheel that wants to stay pointed in one direction when it is rotating ...that's why you get away with "look mom, no hands." What happens with any gyro is that when you smack it (e.g., the bit gets hung up), it will go into a hard to predict and hard to handle motion... (for the techies, it wants to precess). An interesting experiment is to remove the bit, turn the trim router on and try to twist the router. It will want to jump out of your hand. The faster you move, the greater the force generated. With a bit that snags the work, you can get into lots of trouble fast. Morale of the story clamp, clamp, clamp....
Posted: 9:40 am on May 28th

knuts knuts writes: I don't own or use a trim router because they feel somewhat unsafe to me. Call it cowardly or respect from 50+ years of woodworking, but ALL of my routers have handles for BOTH hands, including my Dremel.
Posted: 7:59 am on May 28th

just_mich just_mich writes: I don't normally work with one hand on the machine and the other on the workpiece. I use clamps on the work piece and move the router around the piece or I use a router table and use both hands on the workpiece.

Glad to hear you weren't seriously injured- maybe needing to change your shorts though, Matt!
Posted: 7:48 am on May 28th

garfieldsimons garfieldsimons writes: The most dangerous machine in the machine shop is the band saw. I have heard of more accidents with that machine than any other, simple because it it the safest. Trick is to program oneself with safest habits possible so when the distraction comes, and it will, one's lesson in humility can be less painful.
Posted: 7:41 am on May 28th

ksharpe69 ksharpe69 writes: I think we've all had that moment where our eyes grow as big as saucers and we think "what the heck were you thinking!!". I believe it is good to share these moments with others so that they may not make the same mistakes. We all share a common passion and we should try to be each others "brothers keeper" if we can. Articles such as this may keep one person from having a significant injury, and that's why it is important to share. Some folks have too much pride to admit they made a mistake or lost focus for a moment. Not Mr. Kenney. Hats off to you, Sir.
Posted: 6:42 am on May 28th

DennisHamilton DennisHamilton writes: I would like to add the following comment;
The one part of your body that had paused for a rest was your mind, you let your guard down and as you and I know this can be dangerous. I speak with some authority since I now live with two impaired fingers for letting my hand move into the danger zone. Call it stupid if you want but or any other thing but when you forget to remember you will get into trouble.
Thanks
Dennis
Posted: 6:20 am on May 28th

JimKoren JimKoren writes: We all will have war stories. I have a few myself, luckily only 6 stitches after 35 years.

Woodworking is one of the few activities that OSHA hasn't required fail-safe guards. Maybe technology didn't exist a few years ago. But now table saws can be stopped before serious injury. Maybe that technology can be adapted to chop saws. And there are probably other technologies that can stop other types of tools. If we are not careful lawyers are going to make tools prohibitively expensive.

Maybe there is something we in the field(both pros and hobby) can do to preempt the lawyers. In the 80's the nuclear industry created the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations to self regulate and forestall new government regulations. It worked. Maybe we need to create something similar for woodworking. Any ideas?
Posted: 12:01 am on May 28th

uueagle uueagle writes: Five years ago, after 20+years as a professional, AND knowing all of the safety conversations,my tables saw took about half of my left thumb. Just as you found your digit in your router, I found mine arguing with my saw blade. My verbal remarks were not quiet and not about pain. I was just furious at myself and have not been that angry before or since. And, it cost some hosital time!

My warning: Be aware when you're tired. You forget the rules and just want to be done. Some lessons are just hard.
Posted: 11:29 pm on May 27th

BigJimAK BigJimAK writes: Matt,

You made a fourth mistake: you were holding both the router and the workpiece. One of the two should always be immobilized. If the item is too small to clamp down and you don't have a router table you can either build a jig to hold it or put it in a handscrew and clamp that to the table.

A handscrew affords a lot of safety when working with small items on a router table too. On a routing-specific forum I follow we hear people argue against this, worried that they'll cut up their handscrew in the router bit.

They're worried they'd cut their wooden handscrew so they put their hand in jeopardy instead.

This is patently unsafe.

bigjimak
(also moderator on routerforums.com)

Posted: 11:00 pm on May 27th

AspenServices AspenServices writes: Glad you weren't hurt more. Stories like these we all need to hear occasionally as reminders of how easy it is to forget to think. And our friend the router is not very forgiving, as I too learned like many, the hard way. Several yrs ago I was adjusting the bit ht in my table, holding the large round over bit with my left hand as I rotated the motor slightly from below when I accidently kicked on the switch.
It wasn't until after 5 turns that I was able to pull away, realizing the tips of 3 fingers just splattered around my shop. Next day I bought a router lift...
Posted: 10:36 pm on May 27th

Bakerboy Bakerboy writes: I'm glad to hear Matt didn't suffer a serious injury. I'd be interested in hearing whether he has a new perspective on FW's April Fools Day video now.
Posted: 10:19 pm on May 27th

rlp1949 rlp1949 writes: I know I'm asking for some flak by posting this comment. I smile when someone writes about how careful they are and how they always follow strict safety procedures and that makes them immune to an accident. I agree with the person who commented that an accident is... well.... an accident.

I've been working with wood for over 50 years. I've had my share of splinters, nicks and a few experiences that left me standing there with my eyes wide open after a piece of wood and/or maybe my technique misbehaved. I had one nick that required some stiches. I try to be safe and careful, but I never doubt that an accident can happen. So, guys, I wouldn't criticze someone else without having a piece of wood handy to knock on. It can be tough eating crow with your hand bandaged.

I'm glad you are okay, Matthew. Thanks for the reminder.
Posted: 10:03 pm on May 27th

bobbresnahan bobbresnahan writes: I frequently wake up at night thinking about fingers clipping jointer blades, bandsaws, etc. Even better I have visions of same as I approach the machines. Those darn little routers (they are so handy no pun intended) can now enter my dream life -- here's hoping none of them enter any of our real lives!
Posted: 9:53 pm on May 27th

hdrock hdrock writes: Holding the trim router in my right hand and the workpiece in my left, is what you did wrong.
Clamp the work down
Posted: 9:20 pm on May 27th

stjones stjones writes: Why on earth were you holding a workpiece with your hand? That's what a workbench is for. I hope that in the future you keep both hands on the router.
Posted: 9:20 pm on May 27th

PrettyHandyGirl PrettyHandyGirl writes: Matt,

So glad you are okay. And thanks for being "man" enough to share your accident.

I agree with AndyRey, I try to keep a healthy amount of fear when it comes to power tools. I find the ones that I am most comfortable are the ones that are the most dangerous because it leads to complacency.
Posted: 8:55 pm on May 27th

Doug Irish Doug Irish writes: Whew! Several years ago I was using a 1/4" chisel and it dropped out of my hand toward the floor. Instinctively I grabbed down hoping to keep the sharp end from hitting the concrete. Naturally, it hit handle first and the tip of the chisel went all the way through my hand. Fortunately it went between finger/joints and did no nerve joint or bone damage.

Posted: 8:39 pm on May 27th

Doug Irish Doug Irish writes:
Posted: 8:35 pm on May 27th

nvragn nvragn writes: Well let me tell you of my story. I fully realize you should unplug a router before you change the bit so I will tell this so none of you get into the habit of not doing it like me. I am a professional cabinetmaker but just the same it was stupid.

Working at my home one weekend I started to change the bit in my router. As I changed the bit and tightened nut I heard the click of the on switch. What I will never forget is it sounded so slow as if in slow motion. Before I new it the router kicked around waist high right a the level of my belt loops. Need I say more. I was luck though and the router grabbed onto my t-shirt and quickly climbed up to my neck. I screamed to my wife to come quick and in my panic backed up unplugging the router. It stopped. My poor Dad lived two house down and heard me scream and came running through the house telling my Step and Sister that I was in trouble. I guess the funny part was for some reason I wasn't shook up just my Wife, Dad, Step Mom and Sister. The router wrapped up in my shirt like a rope all the way to my neck. Next day I woke and you could see the how the router had gotten so tight on me that that I had like rope burns around my waist. My only injury. Never told many people because I feel like a fool for doing it. Just may sure guys you unplug all tools when working on them. I sure do.
Posted: 8:29 pm on May 27th

Len Len writes: Matt, I'm glad you didn't require stitches and the injury was not "major."
I'm a cautious one. I always take precautions because an injury eliminates my ability to earn a living. I have had my share of mishaps. Every single one avoidable. I have an inner voice that tells me when something is wrong. Sometimes it's not obvious. That's when you need to put everything down and take a break.
So my small piece of advice. Look again at what happened. Examine it. Were you not in the correct position to see the tilt? Train your inner voice. It's saved me more than once.
Posted: 8:16 pm on May 27th

Ray-Jay Ray-Jay writes: Ah yes, the seasoned woodworker stories,for better than 40 years I've been a avid woodworker,I've taught woodworking,built cabinets,furniture,restored antique mahogany boats and never had an injury that required a trip to the ER or a doctor.
Nearly a year ago to the day, I was widening a too tight dado with a slotting bit, I only needed to take off about a 1/16" inch............off a ten inch piece, the first and second pieces went well ( I had the router turned upside down,held in a vice ) the third piece caught a the end grain.....and drew my hand into a 1/4' X 1/2" slotting bit, the bit severed my pinky at the second joint ( from the palm ) and then continued through the side of my thumb,lopping off about a third lengthwise,including the thumbnail, ut oh.......my record didn't stand. An ambulance ride,an ER visit,sugery to cap off what's left of my pinky,stiches in my thumb to hold everything together , three weeks out of work and about three months to get back to somewhat normal. I consider myself lucky.....really lucky.
I could add pictures, but don't look if you're planning lunch soon.

Posted: 8:14 pm on May 27th

michael2160 michael2160 writes: When using a PC Trim Router I would balance the unit on the material with a finger from the hand not holding the router. One afternoon while trimming an edge my finger splipped off the base and the next thing I am trying to get out of the way of a flying trim router.

No injury to me but it was the last time I used that trim router. I now have a Festool trim router with a wide base and I can control the router with two hands.
Posted: 8:08 pm on May 27th

carphoneguy carphoneguy writes: I can relate. Last week I was turning a new project. Normally, the chuck jaws are closed down when I turn pens, this job required opening them up to hold a new mandrel. As I was moving my skew, my finger tip got hit by the jaws that were no longer a smooth surface. Not terrible but I learn a lesson about taking the same procedures and changing the equipment can cause problems. My stuip fault but at least it wasn't major.
Posted: 7:59 pm on May 27th

rpeowen2 rpeowen2 writes: My problem is that he doesn't seem to feel that he did something wrong - that something WENT wrong is undeniable but that he DID something wrong seems to escape him. I always read anything and everything about accidents, hoping that I can glean some nugget that will help myself or my clients (I teach woodworking at an outpatient psychiatric clinic) avoid pain. Or disfigurement. Or dismemberment. Or ...
Posted: 7:55 pm on May 27th

toadvin toadvin writes: Once, I was belt sanding a scribe line on a top, and when I used one hand to wipe off the dust, with the sander still running but held aside, it sucked in my little finger into the rear housing and removed the top of it as it pulled it around the belt. It's always the little momentary lapses that get us. (This being only one of several reminders over the years!)

Think and stay safe.
Posted: 7:53 pm on May 27th

Ray-Jay Ray-Jay writes:
Posted: 7:52 pm on May 27th

Planebldr Planebldr writes: Years ago I felt that I was using good safety practice with my router and a spline cutter to join boards for a table top.I used the shortest extension cord possible, draped over my shoulder to keep it out of the router path, cutting in the right direction. But a board leaned against a bench behind me fell over on the cord,pulling me off balance and tipping the router, kicking it back into my thigh as I stood in front of the board. It climbed right up my thigh just missing my femoral artery. Luckily, it was only fatty tissue involved. This illustrated that using the shortest cord may have been the best electrical practice but it would have been better to have the cord on the floor as it crossed the shop. My only other injury from decades in the shop has come from tool malfunction because this gave me a healthy respect for the dangers in using even a hand held power tool.
Posted: 7:46 pm on May 27th

frogranch frogranch writes: I have built my timberframe quite by myself, chisel work and planing. Built my stairs, kitchen cabnets and butcher block tops. I am saftey concious as can be, but alas, three months ago running thin 1/4" wite oak boards, 6" wide on edge thru my planer on edge, which I have owned and run for twelve years. one of em flipped and my finger followed into the blade. Took off a good 1/2" plus some bone, damn that hurts. Never has a board rolled on me, had I moved the fence closer to the edge I would have been somewhat protected. Today was the first day back on the planer, a but trepidacious, but still running it. Glad to still use my hand, a bit numb and still healing, but able to use it again. Never too safe......
Posted: 7:38 pm on May 27th

Anacapa Anacapa writes: I'm with AndyRey -- probably over-careful with my machines, but too frequently making careless moves and drawing blood with chisels, knives and carving tools, especially when doing repeated tasks.

Glad you weren't hurt too seriously, Matt. I'm sure there are a lot of us who want to keep you around at Fine Woodworking
Posted: 7:31 pm on May 27th

snowbelt 3 snowbelt 3 writes: I did something equally stupid. I was dadoing a shallow 1/4 inch groove and for reasons unknown to me, I pulled back on the workpiece resulting in an immediate kickback. I've been woodworking for many years, but I have no idea why I did what I did. An equally stupid move involved cutting 1/4 inch plywood. Inattention resulted in twisting the workpiece and the loss of a tooth on an expensive Forrest saw blade. Inattention is our enemy.
Posted: 7:18 pm on May 27th

gbkout60 gbkout60 writes: Even the most safty conscious veterian can have a momentary lapse or disstraction. If only SawStop made routers, and every other power tool anybody ever used. But as SawStop itself explains, an injury must occur before the system works. Perhaps the "next time" you/we may think, "remember what happened last time".
Posted: 7:03 pm on May 27th

caskof43 caskof43 writes: I did the exact same thing one year ago.The bearing was my friend that day and being a carpenter for 22 years I felt stupid.The injury was the same and no stitches needed.It does happen....
Posted: 6:58 pm on May 27th

Lauchlan Lauchlan writes: I teach wood in Australia where safety standards in schools and industry are very high. I not many unsafe techniques on a range of serious woodworking sites. The picture of the "naked" router above is a disaster waiting to happen, it MUST be shielded all round to a height that will not allow fingers to reach the blade.Work Cover could enter your school or business and if they saw that, fine you or even close you down if an injury had resulted. Safety was the number one thing taught in our trade course, the quickest way out was to not follow STRICT safety policy to the LETTER. A publication like yours should not even show pictures of unguarded machines, not everyone is well trained. As for your router accident, Clamp the job and HAVE BOTH HANDS ON THE TRIMMER, lift off the job, point away from body, turn off, put down. This is how we teach our 15yo students.
Safe woodworking
Posted: 6:56 pm on May 27th

Des.K. Des.K. writes: Hi Matt.
Glad to hear the injury was only minor. Mind you, it can send shivers down your spine when you think what could have happened. Provided there's no injury, these mishaps can sometimes be a good wake-up call about safety and the danger of even the smallest amount of complacency.

I'll second foto45steve's comment about the potential for hand tools to take a nasty bite as well. I was fitting some shoji windows in Japan a few years ago, and while trimming the top horns to fit I somehow managed to slice through to the bone with my hand-saw. Five stitches to repair, and I still don't have full feeling in the top of my forefinger.

Now, regardless of whether I'm using power or hand tools, the moment I start to feel my mind wandering, I stop and take a break. Thankfully, I can still count to ten at the end of the day.
Posted: 6:48 pm on May 27th

SteveBezanson SteveBezanson writes: To murrmac123:
I've listened to this same argument many times over the last few years. The problem is that those comments usually are made by those who have not checked the definition of the word 'accident'.
Posted: 6:47 pm on May 27th

bruce277 bruce277 writes: Never having an accident in almost 40 years I had two in the period of one week.
Both were due to being over confident, careless and a departure of the rule "that if you think a procedure is a bad idea, it probably is and DON'T DO IT"
Luckily, neither were too serious. In fact only one required a trip to a critical care facility as I couldn't stop the bleeding from the kickback my thumb took. As sutures wouldn't work on this type of injury, they had to use some sort of glue strips to it it to stop.
It still feels as if there's still some wood in my thumb and I'll eventually get it looked at.
These were both from a table saw.

Posted: 6:39 pm on May 27th

rupps rupps writes: Matt, I'm glad you didn't get hurt any more than you did. Yes, I'm sure you learnt from the mistake. And I hope its a long time before it happens again.

On another note, as one of my favorite editors, my ears perk up when I see an article by you. However, reading this one has let me down. No matter what you actually said, you chose to include it in the article, somehow thinking it would be ok if you loosly disguised your profanity. You might as well have just spelled the words out. By choosing to include your profanity, you added absolutely nothing to the article whatsoever, but you lost some respect. I hope this is not a trend for you or FWW.

Posted: 6:36 pm on May 27th

murrmac123 murrmac123 writes: There is no such thing as an accident.

What people refer to as an "accident" is really only the inevitable outcome of unsafe working practices.


Posted: 6:12 pm on May 27th

foto45steve foto45steve writes: I agree that we can never be too cautious with tools, but I hate hearing people say it is just power tools as I learned the hard way. I was trimming a very small piece with hand saw (one of those really sharp Japanese ones) and just hand holding it. As the cut was almost finished I thought to myself if I was using a power tool I would change my grip, but it is just a harmless handsaw. Well a second later I realized that one pull of the blade can cut skin down to the bone. Fortunately I made it through with no stitches, but a reminder that all tools can be dangerous.
Posted: 5:58 pm on May 27th

tefariss tefariss writes: Here John, this is the carnage from a kickback on a table saw. I sold it and bought one with a blade shield and anti kickback mechanisisms. Happens so fast...

Posted: 5:58 pm on May 27th

tomfjr tomfjr writes: I have used routers for about 50 years and the dangerous flaw they all have is the collet chuck. Even when tightened the bit can slip and come out. This may not injure you but it can ruin the part you are making. Keeping the bit and collet clean can help.
Tom
Posted: 5:50 pm on May 27th

BGodfrey BGodfrey writes: You have to be thinking all the time. Once I was nailing two pieces of 1x cedar (1-1/2" total thickness) together with a brad nailer. I opened the side-loading nailer and it was empty. I dropped in some 1-1/4" nails held the two pieces together with my left hand and shot a nail. It left a divot like it always does, nail or no nail. And the pieces just fell apart again. So I opened the nailer and everything looked fine. I shot a test nail and it shot. So I lined up my two pieces again, held them tightly, carefully lined up the nail gun with the existing divot and shot another nail ... into my finger. What the heck?

It turns out that there had been one 5/8" brad left in the nailer from a previous task. It was too far into the mechanism for me to see and it was too light to shake out. When I shot the first time, it went 5/8" into the 3/4" piece - not far enough to come out the other side, much less tack the two pieces together. When I shot the second nail, it pushed the little one on through ahead of it. 1-1/4 plus 5/8 equals 1-7/8. The excess 3/8" went into my finger. Thankfully it wasn't more.

You can bet that I am more careful to check that my nail guns are really empty now and I don't put my finger directly beneath the nail even if I'm sure the nails aren't long enough to go through.
Posted: 5:47 pm on May 27th

MESKEET MESKEET writes: About fifty years ago I was working in my landlords basement shop. He didn't have a band saw so I was cutting out the bottom of a sixty inch aircraft carrier hull for a radio control model I was building freehand on his table saw. The workpiece was a 1x10x64 inch pine plank,there was no blade guard on the saw so I was careful to watch the top of the spinning blade as I was cutting. I was thinking to myself "Watch the blade,watch the blade!!" and I did watch it as it cut about 1/8th of an inch off the tip of my right index finger.
Posted: 5:46 pm on May 27th

seacruise seacruise writes: Yes, I too have done dumb thing in the shop. I too have made the same error with a router. And, I predict that despite my best efforts, I will make future errors. And, I may get hurt. Nevertheless, I try very hard to be as safe as possible despite the reality that I am a natural born clutz. Thus, I try to do everything possible to avoid serious accidents. Every week that goes buy I notice myself using more hand tools and fewer power tools. I also bit the bullet and bought a SawStop machine. Yes, I spent some money. But, I still have all my fingers. And, if and when similar technology is avalible on other power tools, I will buy them too. My personal goal is to get to the point that I do everything except rough lumber jointing, plaining and brake down with hand tools. Even then, I have been know to cut myself with a chisel. So, I think it is prudent to be as careful as posible but by all means keep working wood.
Posted: 5:38 pm on May 27th

usafchief usafchief writes: There are 3 positives in woodworking: Woodworkers will always have one mistake in any project (screwup), wood shrinks/swells, and last but not least; there is no such thing as an accident in a wood shop.. Some one did something stupid - yes I have a thumb that is 3/8 of an inch shorter than it use to be, from a jointer - never felt a thing til the shock set in....No power tool, battery or otherwise has any forgiveness built into it.... Be careful in the shop, it is a lot less painful.... Besides, bloodstains are hard to get out........
Posted: 5:37 pm on May 27th

Fabuladico Fabuladico writes: Glad to hear that you escaped serious injury. I had an early background as a machinist in factories. I was always frightened by the machines I worked with. It didn't hamper my work, but knowing that a punch press is coming down with 135 thousand psi of pressure gives a guy a very wary attitude.

I have that same attitude toward my woodworking machines. All of them scare me a little bit. I am always aware that second chances are few and far between. Yes, I have hurt myself, a little more seriously than described above, but I recovered nicely and learned from my error. One thing I learned is never to take a tool for granted, and yes never work when tired or upset.
Posted: 5:30 pm on May 27th

esquire25 esquire25 writes: Unfortunately, but predictably, you acted like a human being. We are not designed to stay 100% focused 100% of the time. That's part of what makes us human. Slogans like "safety first" and "stay alert" are useless. Still, it sounds like there was nothing by way of design that would have prevented this accident. I'm glad the injury was minor. Be well.
Posted: 5:19 pm on May 27th

lawtrade lawtrade writes: Hi.

I am happy to know you are doing OK.

I suffered a similar mishap last year.
My trim router tilted slightly to the left instead of staying upright when I was cutting a shallow grove on a samll piece of plywood.
The bit very slightly broke the skin of my left thrumb, kicked my thrumb nail a couple of times, and bounced away. Luckily, I had the router in my hand all that time.
I was not paying attention beause it was such a simple task with such a small tool.
A few curse-words and bandages later I went to to my task.

I learned to respect my little one-handed router quite a bit more from then on.

Lawrence
Posted: 5:03 pm on May 27th

bricofleur bricofleur writes: Sorry about this bad experience. I'm glad the "damages" were limited. Accidents do happen, but we don't know when. Such routers are capricious, reason why I design this extended base.

http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/17261/no-more-tipping-trim-router

Take care and stay alert!

Best
Posted: 3:42 pm on May 27th

PatLynch PatLynch writes: sorry about your thumb..
...but i couldn't find justin fink link...
Posted: 2:22 pm on May 27th

rpeowen2 rpeowen2 writes: From the manual for the Colt trim router by Bosch.

"Use clamps or other practical way to
secure and support the workpiece to a
stable platform. Holding the work by hand
or against your body leaves it unstable and
may lead to loss of control."

and

"Never hold the workpiece in one hand and
the tool in the other hand when in use."

Many common practices are unsafe. I've seen people hold 2x lumber on their leg and trim it with a skill saw - scares me and I wouldn't do it but to them it's a common use of the saw.
Posted: 11:24 am on May 23rd

PaulC PaulC writes: Really, you were doing everything perfectly, and the accident happened anyway? It couldn't have been prevented? You're okay with it happening again?

Posted: 8:00 am on May 23rd

AndyRey AndyRey writes: I have a natural fear of power tools and clamp, use finger boards - everything I can think of to keep my fingers and body out of harms way. I really pay attention to what I am doing.

However, get me near a hand tool and I can do some serious damage. Can't say the number of times I've cut myself with knifes, screwdrivers - even put a cut on my thumb with a handsaw once.

For me it has a lot to do with how much I paying attention to what I doing. Something in my brain knows anything with power is dangerous so I pay a lot more attention to what I doing when there's a power cord attached.

If you see me with a hammer - just take it away from me...
Posted: 11:58 pm on May 22nd

moucon moucon writes: I had a small Makita router(that I'd used for 20 years) catch a piece that was on router mat (one of those quasi-sticky rubber mats that supposedly make it possible to safely rout things w/o clamping them) and send it sailing across the shop and through a 9-lite door 15 feet away. The piece was no mini- it was plenty large enough to rout in that way - I don't know what I did wrong, other than I must have let up on it at just he right time or something. Nobody got hurt but between the workpiece, the router, and the glass flying in every direction it's a miracle. Now EVERYTHING gets a clamp or a jig to make sure it stays put. Accidents happen in a micro-second - you don't even have time to react.
Posted: 2:24 pm on May 21st

balsaboard balsaboard writes: Thanks Matthew, good reminder. I've seen it happen in school. Nothing serious.
Posted: 12:13 pm on May 21st

cahudson42 cahudson42 writes: Hi Matt,

Glad you came through OK!

I'm reminded of my own 'near accidents' when routing the edge on a 'butterfly' wall key holder. Its about 5" square, with the complex curves of a butterfly. I would try holding the workpiece with my hands, and route on the router table. No matter how close to the final line I had bandsawed, the piece would always grab. I stopped making them.

Then I saw a trick somewhere - forget where. Fasten the butterfly template securely to a vertical wood post (2 x4). Fasten the workpiece on top of that with screws/brads from the bottom. Clamp the post vertically in your bench vise. Proceed to route with a hand-held router on top (two hands holding it?) with flush-trim bit.

Hands are now completely away from the bit.
Chris
Posted: 7:30 am on May 21st

GunpowderWoodworks GunpowderWoodworks writes: The hardest part of any accident investigation is determining the cause. Accidents are always the result of a chain of events - the elimination.of any one of which would have prevented the accident. Although you may not be able to point to one specific cause, you can almost always find ways to keep the same thing from happening again. Saying "It is common to... " or "I have... many times that weren't clamped down" does not mean that these are best practices. Until you explore this incident honestly enough to determine the things that could keep it from happening again, you will be doing yourself and your readers a disservice.
Posted: 6:55 am on May 21st

MKenney MKenney writes: I should clarify that I was using a trim router to do this. It is common to use them one handed. And I have profiled the edge of many pieces that weren't clamped down. However, even if the piece were clamped down it wouldn't have a difference. The accident didn't happen because of the workpiece. It wasn't involved at all.
Posted: 9:40 pm on May 20th

Wood_Jack Wood_Jack writes: Anyway, I'm glad Matt and Benjamen weren't hurt badly. It's a good reminder to stay aware of the dangers of woodworking.
Posted: 8:39 pm on May 20th

benjamenjohnson benjamenjohnson writes: I was bit by my router earlier this year, luckily it looked much worse than it was. I tore up the skin on my right ring finger and knocked off a bone chip.

I was routing a 1/4" groove with my hands holding the wood down over the bit and the bit grabbed the wood and shot it off the table and my finger hit the bit.

I learned a few things from the experience:
1) Know the wood your using. I'd done the same operation in red oak many times and had no problems, the hard maple I was using that day reacted differently.

2) Even if there is wood between you and the bit never use your fingers instead of a feather board.
Posted: 8:08 pm on May 20th

Tye154 Tye154 writes: Yeah, Wood Jack I agree, I can't imagine working with a router in this manner. I'm no pro, but my router is either mounted under the table or the wood is clamped while I operate the machine with both hands. I can see how this could happen. Maybe getting too comfortable with your machine.
Posted: 7:25 pm on May 20th

Wood_Jack Wood_Jack writes: I'm not saying this is wrong or unsafe myself. It's just that I've never worked in that manner and, frankly, it never occurred to me to do it that way. I've always used a router with one or the other, the router or the workpiece, stationary.

Is it common to work with the router in one hand and the workpiece in the other hand?
Posted: 4:31 pm on May 20th

John_Schaalje John_Schaalje writes: Why didn't you add any pictures of the injury? I thought that was the the real kicker in an injury story: the wreckage that came from it.
Posted: 4:08 pm on May 20th

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