Table Saw Injury

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Blog entry by Lenny posted 09-06-2012 02:26 PM 9368 reads 0 times favorited 113 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After much internal deliberation I have decided to share that I have joined those included in table saw injury statistics. I do so hoping that perhaps my misfortune might help one or more in the Lumberjocks community, even if it is just a wake up call. Furthermore, without getting into a debate on the topic, I want to say that I believe my injury would not have occurred if I was using a Sawstop table saw. I will say a bit more on that later.
On Sunday August 12, 2012 I finished making a cut using my home made crosscut sled and turned off the saw. I had the desired piece in my hand. I looked down, saw the remaining stock lying next to the blade and decided to retrieve it. I can neither rationalize nor explain why I then reached across and into the still spinning blade. Oh how I wish I could have those mere seconds back, but that is not to be.
All four fingers of my left (dominant) hand were cut. The pinky and ring fingers sustained deep tissue and bone lacerations, the other fingers, essentially superficial cuts. The injuries are to the back side (not the palm) of my hand. My wedding band was cut open and sent flying into a shop wall. I can still hear it hitting the wall and thinking it was something other than a ring. On the day of injury I underwent surgery (stitching) in the emergency room. I had an appointment with a hand surgeon two days later (tues.) and she performed more extensive surgery on Thursday. The surgery included placement of a pin in my pinky, wiring of the middle knuckle of the ring finger and additional stitching. Since tendons were severed, range of motion may be permanently limited. Now three weeks post-surgery, the stitches and pin have been removed and I have started therapy.
I am of the belief that the most positive thing is that I could have, but did not, sever any digits. Prospects are good for return of a good amount of functionality to all fingers.
Let me move on to shop safety issues. Several months ago I made a crosscut sled that some on LJ call a super sled. Here is a photo of it:

If you use a crosscut sled and do not have a Plexiglas shield over the blade from front to back, I highly recommend that you add one. There are many versions on LJ. Here is a sample photo:

LJs say they included this feature to keep dust and chips from coming up into their face but since it is installed directly above the blade it also serves as hand protection. If mine had one I would not have been able, or at least not inclined, to reach across the blade as I did. Here is a photo of me re-enacting how I reached for the piece of stock:

And here is a photo of my wedding band:

I mentioned the Sawstop. Assuming the technology works, and I believe it does, my injury would have been a mere scratch on my hand. I bought my table saw, a 5 hp Powermatic (PM), in 2009. It came down to the PM or the Sawstop for me. At the time I resolved that the jury was still out on the Sawstop. Would it have false triggers? Is it a quality machine comparable to a PM or a Delta? Will it really work? There are other machines in the shop as dangerous, or more dangerous, than the table saw. Will the flesh detection technology ultimately be available for all table saws via a retrofit? About a year after my purchase, I retired and was often home alone in my shop. I resolved it was time to get the Sawstop. I procrastinated and here we are two years hence. My point here is, everyone has their opinion on the Sawstop, especially given the results of the high profile lawsuit cases. If you are of the mind that you believe in it and want it, do all you can to get one. At some point in the past few weeks I told my wife I didn’t know if I could go back to woodworking. That concern is behind me. I know I will. My wife’s response was, “You’ll go back, but not without the Sawstop.” I want to mention one more thing about the Sawstop. My injury occurred after I turned off the saw. It got me wondering if the Sawstop flesh detection feature only works when the saw is in the on position. I called the company and was informed that it does continue to work until the blade comes to a complete stop.
One last thing about shop safety. If you don’t already do so, be sure to have a phone with you in your shop. I was able to use my cell phone to call 911. Best wishes to all and be safe!

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

113 comments so far

View willoworks's profile


41 posts in 3087 days

#1 posted 09-06-2012 02:37 PM

Glad you survived with “minimal injuries”—it could have been a whole lot worse. A guy I work with cut his hand off about 10 years ago and although they reattached it, it is less than optimal and he had many operations and years of therapy. I find myself walking away from the saw and doing something else while the blade is still spinning which keeps me from doing something like that. It’s an ingrained habit now.

-- Turning A Round

View Kookaburra's profile


748 posts in 2760 days

#2 posted 09-06-2012 02:42 PM

Some good warnings here. Most immediate for me is to have my phone handy. If I thought about it, I would know that was critical, but I often leave it in the house (cleanliness and I do not stop working to answer the phone anyway). Since I do not always have pockets, I think I will fasten a “pocket” below waist level to a shelf. That way, if I am knocked down, I can still reach it.

I know the cut tendons issue – I had a kitchen accident years ago. Do what the therapist tells you and you should be very happy with the movement. I can not fully clench my fist, but there are not many things I need that for. Fortunately for me, my cuts were not on my dominate hand, but it was still a good warning.

That wedding band is really scary. Oh, listen to your wife, she is talking sense.

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View Scott's profile


121 posts in 2760 days

#3 posted 09-06-2012 02:49 PM

Does the SawStop trigger still work once the power switch has been turned off, even though the blade is still spinning?

View Mauricio's profile


7163 posts in 3688 days

#4 posted 09-06-2012 02:53 PM

Thanks for sharing your experience. Knowing how others have gotten hurt will helps me avoid similar injuries.

Hope you heal quickly and completely.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View redryder's profile


2393 posts in 3638 days

#5 posted 09-06-2012 02:56 PM

There’s nothing fun about the emergency room.

Good question Kroden.........................

-- mike...............

View Surfside's profile


3389 posts in 2710 days

#6 posted 09-06-2012 02:57 PM

I’m sorry for that sad story of yours, Lenny. I am one of those who believe that Sawstop technology is really useful in terms of safety. Though I’m not in favor of that greedy innovator! His discovery is great but his greediness is a miss!

-- "someone has to be wounded for others to be saved, someone has to sacrifice for others to feel happiness, someone has to die so others could live"

View Lenny's profile


1639 posts in 4063 days

#7 posted 09-06-2012 03:00 PM

Kroden, yes. I mentioned above that I called Sawstop with that very question and was informed that the flesh-detecting feature continues to work until the blade comes to a complete stop.

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

View ellen35's profile


2742 posts in 3969 days

#8 posted 09-06-2012 03:01 PM

WOW! Having been to your shop and knowing how careful you are, this is shocking! I do hope you are doing better each day. Your advice is well taken. I keep my cell with me at all times and have a house phone in my new shop. As for the Sawstop… you make a compelling argument. I see more and more Sawstops everywhere I go. Perhaps it is time to think seriously about Sawstop or an alternative. We do need an alternative!

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4836 days

#9 posted 09-06-2012 03:22 PM

I’m very sorry that you had this accident, & we pray for a rapid, & successful recovery.

I noticed in the picture that your blade was set pretty high, do you always run it that high?

I was taught on day one in my wood class was to run the blade about 1/8” above the piece you’re cutting.

I think it’s much safer, & also you get much less kick back problems.

Again, I feel real bad!

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View wunderaa's profile


248 posts in 2739 days

#10 posted 09-06-2012 03:34 PM

Lenny, thanks so much for sharing. With the inherent danger present with the equipment we all use, this is an sobering reminder to be diligent about shop safety. It’s unfortunate that more folks here don’t speak up about their injuries and/or near-misses. Again, thanks for sharing, and I wish you a speedy and full recovery.

View jstn's profile


8 posts in 2652 days

#11 posted 09-06-2012 03:48 PM

Thanks for the courage to share. I’m new to woodworking and appreciate the community aspect of LJ. I often wish I had a mentor to work with me in the shop and teach me the do’s and don’ts (especially with regards to safety). This community is the next best thing. I hope you have a speedy recovery.

View joewilliams's profile


89 posts in 2661 days

#12 posted 09-06-2012 03:53 PM

kudos for sharing…..I will take a lesson from your experience, hope you get better quickly!

-- Joe - - - something witty should go here - - -

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4418 days

#13 posted 09-06-2012 03:53 PM

Yikes Lenny.
I take this as a warning to myself. Serious stuff.

Take care buddy. I hope you heal OK.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Blair Helgason's profile

Blair Helgason

169 posts in 3950 days

#14 posted 09-06-2012 03:54 PM

Very sorry to hear that, I hope you make a full recovery.

-- Blair

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4516 days

#15 posted 09-06-2012 04:22 PM

Hi Lenny;

Real sorry to hear about your misfortune. It always scares me, thinking about how a person can be careful for 30 years, and then let their guard down for just one second, and the thirty years won’t count anymore.

My feelings about the sawstop are much like yours… I may not like the way they are going about it, but the safety features far outweigh that for me. I like my fingers too much.

I hope you have a full and speedy recovery.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

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