Your Stupid Days

September 10, 2008

My apologies for ignoring the blogosphere. I’ve been working and soaking up September’s sunshine. The best time of the year in Oregon.

Let’s continue on about Safety.

Rule #2: Don’t stick your fingers into the blade.

I know that was Rule #1, but there are lots of ways of sticking your fingers into the blade. And the only way you’ll be safe is if you have a SawStop saw and that’s another story. I had a student one time, an orthopedic surgeon no less, and when I walked into the shop that first day of class, he very proudly showed me the compression bandage on his finger. “See, what a great bandage.” Well I had to ask why he was wearing a bandage, and he told me that he had had the table saw on and he was working on it and then he just stuck his finger into the blade. Go figure.

Please do not judge this man. Stuff like this happens all the time. Your brain disengages and you do something stupid. Please, do not think that you are smarter than this physician. This man who spent a good part of his adult life studying the science of healing. His education did him no good because he had a stupid moment. Stupidity plays no favorites here. Stupidity descends upon us all equally like the morning dew descends upon the flower and the cow pie.

Therefore I have developed rules for working in the shop.

1) Do not drink any alcohol and go to work in the shop. I have discovered that the best thing that beer helps me to do is to drink more beer. It is perfectly suited for that job and no other. Not a smart move on my part to drink beer and try to think. A stupid hat comes down on my head and in the midst of drinking beer, [this is how stupid you get], you think the stupid hat looks good on you. And even one beer can make you do stupid things. My worse accident ever in the shop happened after one beer.

2) Develop habits for your stupid days.

Everyone has stupid days. Days when your energy is low, your concentration is worse, or your mood is bad. Everyone has these days. These are days when you should not be anywhere near a moving saw blade. Yet there you are. Working close to several horsepower of spinning danger and you are brain dead. You know these days. You know, usually too far into them, that you are stupid that day. That everything you pick up falls out of your hands or you are constantly knocking things over, losing stuff, not paying attention.

On those days you shouldn’t even be in the shop but there you are anyway. You have to develop habits for these, your stupid days. Because on your smart days you can get away with anything in the shop. You could rip things on the table saw with your elbows holding the work and you’d be fine. But on your stupid days, oh my, on your stupid days, you shouldn’t even be driving a car. You should have stayed home and there you are muttering to yourself about traffic or cursing your luck in choosing a color blind spouse, or lamenting the Cubs blowing another lead [just wait, just wait, it’s ain’t over, till October] Instead of concentrating on the work at hand, you’re thinking about a hundred other things. But we don’t usually know which day is our smart day or our stupid day. Which day will be better. We press on regardless of all the warning signs.

Therefore you must have habits in place. Habits that will protect you on your stupid days.

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Published in: on September 11, 2008 at 8:26 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Love your blogs Gary. Your first rule regarding beer is my one safety rule that I have not broken in over 30 years of table saw usage. Even on those warm saturday afternoons when that beer would taste so good. I have had that beer, but locked the shop door and went fishing!

  2. Regarding safety, I try to take a very extreme approach to most tools. On the table saw, I have the spring-loaded, one-way rotational, 45 degree angled down rubber safety wheels on at nearly all times, and I never allow my hands to get (a) within 12″ of the blade, and (b) never behind the front tooth of the blade. There’s simply no need to do so if you use push sticks and the yellow wheels. I know of several guys who have lost one or more fingers or fingertips to the tablesaw, and I can happily say that I have never had an accident with it with the safety wheels in place and while using push sticks. Maybe that’s because I always work alone – there are no bad habits to pick up and no pressure to be “macho”. If I ran a cabinet shop, I would post my safety rules at each machine, and fine every employee $100 who I witnessed violating any one of them, with a “three times and you’re out” policy, if only to keep my worker’s comp insurance low.


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