Things were going along just fine until Bindlestiff showed up.
Today was my first day back in the shop since December and what a nice
day it was, weather wise. Fifty-some degrees and sunny - a perfect
day to begin cleaning up the mess I'd left from the last job I did.
In the normal course of events I clean up the shop just after
finishing a project - empty the dust collector - re-hang the clamps -
put away the odd tools that were left out in the hurly burly of
completing an installation. This time I'd gotten bronchitis towards
the end of the job and it had hung on for the better part of two
months - so the shop looked like hell.
I was well on my way to having things squared away and was fitting a
freshly cleaned Leuco finish blade ($180.00 in 1987 money) back onto
the Unisaw when I was startled by a loud banging on the shop door.
Now, my shop door is really a pair of fifteen light French doors and
any damned fool coulda seen that my back was turned and that I was
bent over the tablesaw, concentrated like.
That made no nevermind to Bindlestiff, who pummeled the doors hard
enough to rattle the glass close on to breaking and rattling me to the
degree that I dropped the Leuco ($180.00 in 1987 money) into the
innards of the Unisaw - and it didn't sound like it had a real easy
trip to the bottom, neither.
Bindlestiff pretty much passes the duck test. He looks like a duck.
He walks like a duck. And he sounds like a duck. But he's about six
foot five and weighs better than an eighth of a ton - and he has a
house down the road from me a bit, so I figger he ain't really a duck.
What he is, is a man who constantly tests the forbearance of his
fellow man - what we here in the Southeast corner of Penssyltucky
call, "A real pain in the ass."
I calmed myself for a bit by taking a few of those deep cleansing
breaths that I had learned about in the Lamaz classes I'd taken with
my wife, in preparation for the birth of my oldest child, although I'm
not sure why I did that, as it hadn't worked for my wife when it came
right down to it. When it came right down to it, she turned purple,
dug her nails into my hand and cussed me and the doctor both, with
language strong enough to burn the paint off the delivery room walls.
Hoping for a better result, and somewhat addled by the deep breaths, I
turned to face Bindlestiff.
He stood on the other side of the French doors, that I keep locked, so
that I won't be startled by intruders ( ! ), with a big grin on his
I've always made it a policy to be nice to the neighbors, even the
ones that I don't care for much, because I was running a sub-rosa
cabinetmaking shop behind my house, in a residential area - and I
didn't want anybody to rat me out to the township. But I was retired
from professional cabinetmaking now and thought to give Bindlestiff a
piece of my mind.
It was only the fear of being physically accosted by a six foot five,
better than an eighth ton duck that made me open the doors quietly and
"I could see from the road that you was working in here. Can you cut
the tongue offa this piece of flooring for me", quacks Bindlestiff.
He held out a gnarly chunk of prefinished oak flooring, with a
battered tongue and about a dozen nail holes along its twelve-inch
"I tried to beat it in to make it fit but it wouldn't lay down and I
don't have no more pieces left."
"Sure", says I, so used to keeping peace with the neighbors that I did
not express my inner thought of just where this mangled piece of
flooring should rightly go.
I went to the tablesaw to retrieve the Leuco ($180.00 in 1987 money).
"Boy, you sure did jump when I knocked on your door."
"Yeah, too much coffee, I guess.", says I, while thinking about what
kind of substances Mother Bindlestiff must have ingested during
Bindlestiff's gestation period to produce such an awkward lump of
I retrieved the Leuco from the bowels of the Unisaw cabinet and set
about looking it over very carefully.
Listen here, I had interviewed three different saw sharpeners before
selecting one to sharpen that blade. It has a funny tooth
configuration, with a hollowed tooth that comes to real sharp points
on the outside edges - and it needs someone who won't mangle it
according to the usual practice of sharpening shops. The guy I picked
had kept the blade in primo condition for over fifteen years, without
wasting any carbide.
It was my best blade for fine crosscut work.
As to why I mounted it with the intent of ripping the tongue off of
the flooring piece, I couldn't tell you. I guess I just wanted to get
Bindlestiff out of my shop as quickly as possible.
I didn't see any damage to the blade and set about to fire up the
"I pulled all the nails out real good." Says Bindlestiff, and, taking
him at his word, and not seeing any evidence of metal in the holes, I
turned on the saw.
I've a long-standing habit of staying out of the line of fire when
turning on the tablesaw. Over the years I've had a few blades spit
teeth at me when the saw started up and I no longer even think about
standing where they can get me.
Bindlestiff, not being particularly mechanical, as evidenced by his
violated flooring board, had not learned any protective strategies in
this regard - and he stood right in line with the Leuco when she
started up. I'd told him to stand off to the side but Bindlestiff
ain't much of a listener.
I got about four inches into the cut when all hell broke loose.
The shrapnel caught Bindlestiff right in the middle of his, "I'd
Rather Be Bowling" tee shirt and described a straight line through the
dancing bowling pin graphic, from just below his neck to just above
Bindlestiff emitted a huge quack and had the most perfect look of
shock and stupefaction on his face. Three small blood blossoms
overtook the washed out colors of the "IRBB" tee shirt.
A fourth tooth had shattered the fluorescent tube in the overhead
light and shards of thin glass, along with a powdery substance wafted
down onto Bindlestiff's head.
The carbide didn't go in too deep. Bindlestiff picked the pieces out
with his fingers. They were shaking pretty good.
I'd shut the saw down by reflex and once I saw that Bindlestiff wasn't
mortally wounded, I picked up the piece of oak flooring.
The evidence was clear. There was a shiny piece of cut off flooring
nail winking out from the board's edge.
"I had to twist one of them nail heads off." Says Bindlestiff, while
fingering a puckered spot on his vast belly - that wasn't really
bleeding much at all.
Well, old Bindlestiff wasn't hurt much. He had a few dents in his gut
and some glass that we had to blow out of his hair with the air
He left the shop, with a new respect for the truth about hidden nails
and a promise to pay for the Leuco ($180.00 in 1987 money).
I watched him walk down the road and thought about how getting a set
of shades for the French doors might not be such a bad idea.
Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker (ret)
Real Email is: tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet