I first heard the term in the sailing context. “Boat-bite”: the bruises, cuts and pinches endured in the ordinary course of being out on the water.

I (voluntarily) don’t sail anymore, but a new “—–bite” has taken over my life. “Shop-bite”: the nicks, cuts and  pinches endured in the ordinary course of being in the woodworking shop.

Woodworking is inherently dangerous. Sharp blades and bare skin do not mix well. Nor do flying chips and unprotected eyeballs.  Handtool woodworking employs far fewer spinning blades of death than machine-based methods. Chips just don’t fly out from the chisel with the same velocity as from the  plunge router. But the risks are similar and injuries can and will happen.

I am fortunate to have never had a serious injury in the shop. My worst injury was slicing off the tip of my middle finger with a marking knife, just shy of the nail (it grew back). But I suffer from shop-bite regularly.

My usual injuries all relate to hand planing. I have a fairly loose grip on the knob, so I will often lose a chunk of skin on my palm or a finger between the work and the toe of the plane when starting a pass. And I still blister a bit during long stock preparation sessions.

I have a strictly-enforced ” sharps get put away when not in use” policy in my shop, so I’ve managed to significantly reduce edge-based injuries. I will still nick myself with a marking knife occasionally, but my finger-slicing incident scared me into great care when marking. To the extent I can, I mark at the start of a session, while my limbs are fresh.

“Shop-bite” is unavoidable, but with care and respect for the tools, serious injuries can be avoided.



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