I ran into an old friend last week while Christmas shopping. I hadn't seen
him in quite some time so it was a pleasant surprise to run into him. He
had a large woodworking shop so I of course asked him what he'd been making
lately. He immediatly held up his left hand displaying what was left of his
fingers. Every finger, including the thumb was half as long as they should
have been after being cut off by a chop saw. He admitted to doing just
about everything wrong. To start with, one of the fingers on that hand was
in a splint from a previous accident. He was in a hurry. Cutting a short
piece of wood, the splint, being longer than his finger, got caught by the
blade and pulled all his fingers into the blade.
I can only imagine the look on my face while hearing about this accident. I
hope I never have to hear about another one and will take great steps so
that I never have to explain an accident of my own like that one.
Please be careful while woodworking. Body parts are hard to replace.
I got my CMS a few years ago and almost immediately screwed up by
trying to cut a piece that was too short to safely cut using a CMS..
the piece moved (as it almost had to) a bit and bound the blade,
causing the stock (a 5 or 6" piece of 4x4) to twist and get a 1/2"
curved gash on a sort of diagonal line... about where my hand was
before I let go...
I was SO lucky, and I appreciate that.. but I was also incredibly
stupid... If in doubt, I'll clamp it and keep my hands far from the
blade, or find another way to make the cut..
Please remove splinters before emailing
I posted this a short while ago....It's just as scary, so here it is again.
I recently learned that two weeks ago an old friend almost lost his arm
above the wrist when his sleeve got caught by the chop saw blade, dragged
his arm in and cut it to just short of the tendons and main artery. His son
told me the arm was hanging down.....His father grabbed it and pushed it
against the other severed section, then ran across the street to get a
neighbor to call an ambulance.
Doctors spent three hours doing what they could to prepare him for airlift
to a larger hospital some 500 miles away.
Once there, he spent 9 hours in surgery. They must have done a miraculous
job because he was able to move his fingers within a few hours after! He
was a VERY lucky man.
Bottom line - Don't look away while you're cutting and don't wear long
sleeves....It only takes a second. Makes me think that one of those
instant-stop devices might not be such a bad idea. I guess Nahm's repeated
safety tips aren't such a bad idea after all :O)
I bought a 12" CMS recently and after using it a few times
I decided to attach a 10" length of 1 X 4 to the fence, about
10" to the left of the blade, 2.5" above the table, with the end
butted into the saw fence. This sets the minimum distance
from my hand to the blade and hopefully would put the 1X4
between me and the blade if something goes wrong. I'm
not sure that I'm not creating other problems by doing this;
let me know if you can think of any.
I mention if for the obvious reasons.
I did much the same thing in what I hope were my stupid(er) days, on a
little longer piece of wood than you (thank gawd) that I FAILED to snug up
against the fence, because I was trying to increase the angle a bit (powered
miter saws were fairly new then and you learned by experience). I did!
I'll never forget the speed with which that blade snatched the piece of wood
and slammed it against the fence, with my fingers first. I was lucky to only
lose four fingernails from the incident.
Every since then I have had a healthy respect for the quickness, and power
to do harm, of miter and chop saws.
wheewww ... still shudder when I think about it.
Ya know, I've had this idea in my head for some time, to make a miter saw
safer. Set aside the obvoius safety issues with sticking your fingers too
close to the blade, the actual piece being cut can be a more common hazard.
I'm sure most of you have cut something small, like a return for a piece of
shoe moulding, and heard a loud "CACHINK" followed by the piece leaving the
saw at similiar speed in which a TS saw can throw something. Being a
carpenter, cutting small pieces is routine and I've learned to just "be
careful" cutting small pieces and get on with my day. Recently i've been
thinking about how to "prevent" this from happening. My idea involves
creating a zero clearance insert for the fence of a miter saw. That would
allow the small piece to be supprorted in the back and preventing the blade
from throwing that little sucker out of there. Miter saws all have the same
problem- the fence is spread to far apart. This is partially done to
accomodate bevel cuts, and therein lies the problem with creating a ZCI.
But i'm sure i could demise something.
Hmmmm.. anyone got an new MS, maybe a Bosch 4410, to donate for research?
I have a piece of 1x that I shaped free hand to fit in the gap...I just
sketched the opening shape on the front and routed off the thickness of
the fence so it fits "flush enough" to the front of the fence...then I
just clamp it in place when doing a bunch of the type of small stuff
you're talking about. A more permanently fabricated one would be nice,
but it <does> help significantly.
If I have a lot of a specific trim I also make a cradle for the front to
hold small moldings so don't have to hold them by hand as well...one
gradually builds a collection for various standard shapes.
I was walking the dog one day and saw a finish carpenter doing some work on
the neighbor's house. He had some big chunk of wood he was moving around
with each cut. I was intrigued and went up to him and asked what he was
He had a number of "freehand clamps". The operated much like those
hydraulic clamps on the commercial saws. But his were ultimate simplicity.
He would take a chink of wood and make a rabbet on one edge. He would then
affix a handle at a 15 degree angle. He would line up his wood for the cut
with this big wood clamp on it. He then pushed the clamp against the back
fence. The stock was held very securely by a much bigger block of wood. His
hand was always a foot from the blade.
He needed a very strong and solid miter saw bench setup to do this. He said
that he got tired of always having to think of his finger and witnessed
other accidents and did not want to become a statistic. He just basically
came up with a neander version of the commercial hydraulic clamps. And as
for short peices, he just put some stock behind the clamp block to make it
Now I know that it is difficult for some folks to visualize this from a
verbal description. So I will describe the block used for cutting 2 X 4's.
He had a chunk of 4 X 4. He cut a rabbet that was a little shallower than
the 2 X 4. He cut it at least one half the width (or more) than what he was
cutting. So this big chunk of wood wrapped around one corner of the smaller
peice without touching the saw bed. He then screwed a piece of plysood to
the top with a wood handle attached. The wood handle was just a large dowel
set into two other peices of wood. Nothing fancy.
So he lays the notched 4 X 4 over the 2 X 4. He pushed the handle back and
down. The miter say is secred to a strong table that will not slide. This
locks the wood securely in place without having to have his hand near the
He told me he tried to work out jigs that use those destaco clamps. But he
cut so many different types of wood, that he would need a whole bunch of
specialized jigs and have to set each one up individually. Which would take
a lot of time. That is why he went to the notched block approach. He makes
up one block for each type of wood he cuts. Then it lasts for years.
He would make up a bunch of handles out of plywood and dowels. Then anytime
he needed another block, he just cut out a wrap around peice (a rabbet) and
attached the handle. The handles were definitely the most time consuming
He was good too. He cut off the trim just as fast if not faster than anyone
doing this kind of work. Only he did it in aboslute safety.
I hope the explanation is adequate. I just saw it and him using it. So I
am going from memory here. But I thought it was a good approach. And fairly
simple as well.
I saw a guy loose 3 fingers.
A friend of mine (a nurse) picked up the fingers
put them in salty ice-water (similar to blood), and brought them to the
The guy had all 3 reattached. They all work fine.
When I was younger, 12 or 13 years old, I was using a circular saw to
cut up some pieces to make a box. I had the board hanging over the side of
a chair and started to make a cut. The blade on the saw bound up and threw
the saw back into my left leg plunging the whole blade in. Tendons and
artery were severed and as a result, I hit the floor with blood gushing
everywhere. I remember pulling off my to shirt and belt and making a
tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Mom was hysterical, but managed to call
for an ambulance. I remember feeling really light headed and very cold on
the ride to the hospital, and the EMT's rushing me into the OR as I was
losing consciousness. My parents said shortly thereafter, they were
approached by a nurse who suggested calling in the Father of the church to
give final rites "just in case".....
Anyhow, the good Lord must have had other plans in mind for me, cuz two
weeks later i dropped the crutches and was walking again. The scar i have
starts very close to the family jewels and extends down my left leg about
10" or so and is my personal reminder to think about safety.
Ironically, i grew up to become a carpenter and use a circular saw
pretty much daily. In fact, i still use the same saw that almost ended my
life for demo work on rare occasions. (oddly enough)
Anyway, this is my testament to the importance of safety. --dave
I know this who was changing a light bulb while standing on a foldin
chair, the chair broke, he grabbed a pipe above his head, his ring go
caught on a screw or rivet, at he tore his finger off. Another gu
packed it it ice, but by the time they got to the hospital the finge
had been too damaged by the cold to be attached. The doctor said tha
you should wrap the finger in a clean cloth and pack the cloth in ice
Absolutely correct. Packing it in ice is VERY bad, just as it
would be if the finger was still attached. Putting it in water,
saltwater is better, keeps the tissues from drying out, icing the
water keeps the tissues from decomposing and decreases the O2
requirements. Salt alone is bad, ice alone is bad, cold
saltwater, and remember the OP said to make it basically a normal
saline solution (not his exact words), is good.
Dave in Fairfax
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