It is a tough day when you end up at the Emergency Room. Over the weekend I was working on making a table for my wife, and ended up putting my pinky into the table saw blade.
In this episode I talk about what happened, and a bit of the fallout from it. I also discuss a couple of options for trying to figure out how to move forward without stopping woodworking.
Overall I have learned a few valuable lessons, but the price in pain makes me wonder if it was worth it.
If you prefer to watch:
Hello and welcome to the 14th episode of the BudDIY Podcast. Today we’re going to talk about how my table saw sent me to the ER. Yay. But before that, if you’re watching on YouTube, please feel free to hit subscribe and hit that notification bell so you know when new episodes are released. If you’re listening on the website, we are available on all major podcasting platforms so you can subscribe over there. If you’re on the podcasting application listening, please feel free to visit the website at buddiy.net and subscribe to the email newsletter so that you know when you episodes are released. With that, let’s jump into the show today.
First, what’s been going on around here? I’m going to get to my injury here in a little bit, but first I spent this weekend working on a table for my wife. It actually is coming along pretty good. I thought I had a good, interesting design that was going to make it not look like it was made out of two by fours as much. But as I get through it, it’s kind of looking like it was made out of two by fours. I guess that was inevitable since it is. But I think it’ll turn out okay. I also got to use my router for the first time on a woodworking project. I had it for something else. I have a little palm, like a little smaller router. That was interesting getting to learn how to do that. Did lots of test boards. Also did some more testing on my jointer and got the bed cleaned up on that. I have video up on Instagram for that at instagram.com/BuddyLindseyjr. So that was a lot of fun.
Then I did some more testing on it and I think the bed is no longer co-planer and so I get to mess with that a little bit more. I got the base of the table that I was working on done and I was actually working on the top and that’s when I figured out it wasn’t co-planer because it’s really messing up the top that I was working on to be able to put the boards together for the top of the table. So something I got to work on. But the base, I got it sanded down to 220 grit and it is really smooth. I think it’s going to turn out nice. I think for what it is, it’s going to be a pretty nice table. We needed something that was a little tall for our youngest, so she wouldn’t easily try to be able to climb up onto it and pull stuff off, but also be heavy so it could sustain her messing with it. So we’ll see how it goes.
With that, let’s go ahead and jump to what happened. Basically I got my finger stuck in my table saw and that was not a lot of fun. Now I will say… Let me jump to my finger is okay. Just like in the Monty Python movie, it’s only a flesh wound, except I didn’t lose a limb. At the end of the day, it just cut straight down my pinky a little bit and took out some chunk of skin. There’s no broken bone. Took a little bit of my fingernail off. Anyway, it’s turning out okay. It’s going to hurt for a while. I have it stitched up, I got seven stitches. It’s a lesson to live and learn. Yeah, it was not a fun time. But I want to kind of walk through what happened, what was going on, my trip to the ER, just several different things to kind of give everyone else an understanding of when you cut yourself like this, when you have an accident, it has some pretty far reaching things that go on in your life. I just want to start from what happened to where I end up.
To start, let’s go with what happened. Well, I was cutting a board. It was a little bit longer on my table saw and so I was trying to follow proper safety guidelines on that. I learned in a safety video that if you hook your left hand onto your thumb onto the back of the… Or I guess the front of the table saw to kind of help hold and you push with that hand to hold the stock against the fence to keep pressure and then you shove the board through with your right hand and then once the end of the board gets up onto the table, you hold pressure and grab your push stick or your push block. In my case, I was using a gripper. Then you put the gripper on there and you just keep pushing, holding that pressure against the fence and all the way through the stock and you should be good to go.
Well, that’s what I was attempting to do. But I think what happened is I was thinking through everything, since I’m still new at this, I’m thinking through a lot of like what’s going on? As I’m doing it, safety. As I’m doing it, I’m like, okay, this can happen, this can happen, this can happen. In this case I was concerned that maybe kickback might happen. So I unhooked my thumb from the back of the table saw and kind of held it tight against the board. I think what happened is as I was reaching over to grab the gripper and instead of moving my arm and just my arm, I started twisting my torso to move my arm instead of just moving the arm. I think what happened is when I did that, it pushed my left hand forward just enough that it grabbed the very tip of my pinky and pulled it in and just went and sliced up the finger.
Thank goodness I was doing a lot of other stuff right and it shows. If it barely touches you, it can grab and go. It’s not that bad. I mean I would say it’s an inch and a half long up the pinky. But I think that’s what happened. That’s the only thing I can figure out. I just remember when it happened, it was like what the crap just happened? How did that happen? That was like one of my first thoughts. Everything I was doing, as far as I could tell I was doing it right based on, I don’t know, probably 20 or 30 different safety videos I’ve watched on doing table saw work. I just could not figure it out. It just didn’t make sense.
Right after that happened, the immediate first thing I did is shut down the table. Just basically started leaving. I made sure the table saw was off. I didn’t worry about anything else. I was looking at my hand seeing what was going on. It was bleeding quite profusely, not like squirting, just kind of bubbling out at a consistent rate. As I was walking out of my shop, I took off my hat, took off my PPE, took off my apron and was just kind of dropping it on the ground as I went out. Once I got out the door and I had all my stuff off, I reached into my pocket and grabbed my phone out. In the meantime, I had closed my fist so that everything was like pooling in my hand, all the blood was pooling in my hand, and to make sure I could still bend my pinky and I could.
From there, I called my wife and ask where she was. She was actually coming back from picking up our kids up from my inlaws and I asked her where she was. She was only a couple of miles away and I’m like, “All right, here’s what we need to do. I need you to get here and I need you to pick me up because I need to go to the ER. I cut my finger on the table saw. The finger is still attached. I can still move it. It’s just bleeding really bad and I want to make sure everything is safe and okay.” She got home and I had her call her parents to meet us in town as we drive back through town so that we could swap vehicles and the girls can stay at their house for the night.
From there, I went to the ER, got in. With the coronavirus and stuff, I was super upset and mad at myself because now I have to go to an ER where there’s a higher likelihood of me contracting it. We’ll see what happens. I don’t think they’ve had any diagnosis there. I’m not 100% sure, but they were super safe. Everything was super sanitary. I didn’t really interact with a lot of people. Anyone that came in, they were standing pretty far away and so I should probably be fine. I didn’t interact with any other patients. In fact, I didn’t see any other patients while I was there. The lobby area was clear. The only people I saw the entire time were nurses and doctors. So that was really cool.
But anyway, so I got there, signed in. Then went and almost immediately went in back. They took some information for registration purposes and then they opened it up, they looked at it, and the doctor was like, “Okay, it actually looks pretty decent for what it is, and let me get an x-ray.” So I got the x-ray done. They looked at it. No broken bones. She says, “At most, you might have a cracked bone, but it looks like it just took flesh.” That was good. From there, they cleaned it up and they numbed my finger. I don’t know if they just didn’t numb it enough because the fun part came when they started doing stitches. Every other prick that they did or every third prick that they did for something, I could actually feel it. Feeling stitches is a lot of fun getting put in.
I got the stitches in there and they did it up and I mean everything was good. They cleaned it up again and then wrapped it with gauze and put a splint on it for me to use for the night. Then they gave me some antibiotics and a prescription for some pain medication and I was let go. I mean, I think I was in the ER for about an hour and a half and that’s it. I mean it was pretty nice.
Anyway, so that was kind of some of my experience there. While I was there, I asked her, “What can I expect from a healing prospect on this?” She’s like, “Well, based on what it is, it’s probably only going to hurt really bad for about a day. Then after that, you should start feeling better. Then you’re just going to have to let it heal. You’ll keep the stitches in for 12 days.” She doesn’t recommend moving it a lot, but after a few days, start letting it get air. If I’m going to go do any work or anything outside, then I need to wrap it up and make sure it stays clean and I need to wash it at least two times a day with soap and water and it should heal up nicely, especially with the six day regimen of antibiotics that I have.
I feel like I got away with something because it was such a minor injury. I think that some of that is because I was taking so many other safety precautions and really trying to think it through as I was doing it, it was only this bad. I mean it could have been so much worse and I was afraid it was going to be worse. I’m very fortunate in that.
Based on that, several things went wrong when I thought they were going right. I think part of the problem that I was having is that I was thinking too much about safety. It seems totally paradoxical, but the issue is I’m still new at using a table saw and literally every action I was doing I was thinking about safety-wise, what am I doing? How is this going to happen? What’s going to happen here? I started out imagining the cut that I was going to do, how I was going to do each step. And I did that. Then as I was doing, and I was thinking this thing can happen. When I was pushing the board, I’m like, I need to make sure I hold this because I don’t want it to kick back at me because I don’t have a riving knife in the back because it’s an older table saw. So I need to be cognizant and I need to watch that.
Then I’m like, okay, now that I’m at this point I need to make sure I get the push block and I need to be able to put that on there, to do that just right. I don’t normally turn my body when I grab the push block. I just grab the push block, I’ll just reach over and grab it and then pull it right back. I don’t know why I did what I did differently to cause the board to slip forward somewhere. I don’t know. Maybe when I unhooked my thumb from that, I pushed my hand forward a little more than normal. I didn’t just release the thumb and push more against the fence. I’m still not 100% sure on that, so just going to have to be a lot more careful. I’m probably going to end up buying a feather board as another precautionary thing to get so that it can hold the pressure and I have a little more control over what’s going on. I can keep my hands more away from the blades. That’s the only thing I really know to do.
At this point, I’m going to continue to do some more research on more safety stuff and more safety things that I can do. Then I’m also probably going to buy a SawStop table saw. I don’t necessarily want to spend that kind of money on a table saw. I’d rather spend money on other stuff. But somebody did make a good point in a video I was watching. They were like, “A SawStop is expensive. But at the end of the day, it’s cheaper than attaching fingers back on.” It really is. While my trip to the emergency room is not going to be the full price of a SawStop, it’s going to be a chunk of a SawStop and I think it’ll be worth it in the end. I’m going to continue to try to do better so that I never even trip a SawStop stop. But who knows. I’m super nervous at this point and this is a problem that needs to be solved and I need to continue to be careful. It was an accident. Yeah.
I also kind of want to mention this is potentially a downside to refurbishing older table saws is when you’re inexperienced with table saws. You don’t know all the safety stuff that you might need that might also come with a table saw. So it could have some downsides to it that you don’t have everything that you might need. I don’t know that I don’t have everything that I don’t need. Again, I am still new at using table saws and doing this and doing woodworking. I’m still learning and this is just part of the learning experience. I’m just going to have to figure out where to go from there.
This isn’t going to stop me from continuing to do it. It’s going to make me more cognizant of safety and trying to pay attention more. Not that I wasn’t paying attention, I don’t know, but it’s going to cause me to slow down maybe. We shall see, but I’m definitely going to look at more of what I can do for safety and I will take you along on that ride as well.
As for the repercussions from this happening, I mean really it has some repercussions. I made a commitment to myself that this year that I was going to do a daily post on Instagram. Well I’m probably not going to be able to do a lot in the shop over the next couple of weeks because I have to have stitches on for 12 days. I don’t know how much stuff that I can do. I don’t know where I’m going to get all the content over the next couple of weeks for the minimum. Then there’s the kind of getting back up on the horse afterwards and trying to get stuff done. I don’t know. Is it going to scare me trying to get back behind that table saw or not? I don’t know. Some of the repercussions is personal commitments of getting stuff done. It’s going to slow down my learning process as well. Doing woodworking.
Fortunately for work, I can still type fairly well without the pinky. I’m a little slower, but I can still do it. That’s not too bad, but I’m also going to have a money out for other extraneous bills as well. Some of the other repercussions is I might end up buying a table saw and that’s going to be an expense and that’s going to delay other tools and other projects and other things that I want to get done. I’m going to have to try to find a way to monetize my woodworking sooner than expected to be able to offset the cost of that table saw. It’s basically changing how I have to look at everything that I’m doing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s the way it is. It’s changing everything that I have to do. I’m going to find opportunities to do and tweak how things are working, but it is what it is.
Really at the end of the day, all I can say is be sure to pay attention to what you’re doing. Pay attention to all the actions that you’re taking. Be really cognizant of what you’re doing and have fun and don’t get too scared to do stuff. I think that this is a good learning experience. Learn from my mistake. Stay aware of what you’re doing. Try to avoid getting injured because it really sucks. This really hurts. I’m a little off right now because of the pain medication. But I made a commitment that I want to do a podcast episode every week and so here I am doing it to make sure I get it done.
With that, I thank you for your time. I thank you for listening. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to engage and talk more about this. I will definitely let you know more about what I’m doing to solve this problem because I don’t want to get injured again because in actuality, I was wanting to get a bandsaw but in a sense, it kind of terrifies me now because thinking of doing everything correctly has led me to getting injured and a bandsaw could potentially do the same thing and they don’t have a SawStop version of a bandsaw because it works totally different. I don’t know. It makes me working in the shop more nervous than I already was. That’s not necessarily a good thing either. But that’s a discussion for another day. Again, I just want to thank you for your ears and I wish that you would have a great day.