shop safety

I’ve Done it Again

About five years ago, I sliced off the meaty tip of my middle finger on my left hand with a marking knife while using a combination square.  Well I’ve done it again.  The exact same wound.   I don’t have any pictures from the hospital this time.  But I did manage to locate some of the dried blood after I got back home.


Maybe it will pit the holdfasts for better grip.

I’m told this too will grow back eventually.  But I’m in pain and limited in what I can do both in the shop and at the office for a week.

Moral of the story: be careful out there folks.


Gusset (noun)

noun: gusset; plural noun: gussets
A piece of material sewn into a garment to strengthen or enlarge a part of it, such as the collar of a shirt or the crotch of an undergarment.  A bracket strengthening an angle of a structure.

This is a gusset.

Joining two or more pieces together is an interesting endeavor.  Some joints, like dovetails or mortise and tenon joinery, have tremendous mechanical strength (especially when force would largely be applied in the direction of that mechanical strength).  Other joints, like rabbets and dadoes, offer greater strength than a simple butt joint, but nonetheless require some fasteners to achieve a durable connection.

But what about butt joints?  In theory, a face grain to face grain glue-up using a modern PVA glue with upwards of 3,000 psi in glue strength should do fine on its own.  Prudence dictates adding a metal fastener or two perpendicular to the mating surface to prevent the joint from sliding over time under normal force.  Forces are not uni-directional all the time, however.  And specific woods are not ideal for every application.


With a 4 sq. inch mating surface, the glue theoretically asserts 12,000 lbs of force at the glue line.

Take, for instance, the above-pictured “saw bench”.  Although patterned somewhat on the Schwarz design (plans are here), it is assuredly not a piece of shop equipment.  Made from Eastern White Pine, it’s instead a portable sitting bench for a buddy who is about have a child.  I like the design, as it’s easy to knock together in a leisurely day.  Plus, it’s so damned comfortable.


A proper Schwarz saw bench in the background.

Under no circumstances can this bench collapse with a baby in the picture.  So I added some gussets to stabilize the legs laterally.  I might not have done so in another, harder material.  In fact, had this been oak or ash, I might have instead just screwed twice into the face of the joint and put a third screw in from the bottom.  But pine splits with too many fasteners per square inch (even when pre-drilled).

So next time you need to stabilize a joint from forces in a direction other than the mechanical strength of the joint, consider adding a gusset.  It might just save a baby’s life.


Walking on Sunshine

I had intended to call this post “Let there be Light: the Revenge”, but thought better of it in the end. But the point is the same: proper illumination is an integral part of doing quality work (woodworking or otherwise).

It’s not pretty, but I don’t want to hardwire any fixtures yet.

By now, that I swear by these LED light bars is not news. But as always happens, there is some finesse in the hanging. To hang properly, the hooks in the ceiling should be about 45 inches apart. But in the orientation I desire, that meant hanging on studs 48 inches apart. Too far for just the S hooks to reach.

My solution? Twist some leftover coat hangers from the Roman Workbench mockup.

And I got to use my electrical pliers!

Each is about 5 inches long and much sturdier than the thin wire that originally came in the box. Nothing fancy, totally free, and quick.

The simplest solutions are always the best.

And now I can see what I’m doing. And isn’t that really the point?


For the Love of My Tools

For almost a year now, my workshop floor has been bare concrete (other than a few anti-fatigue mats).  It’s not ideal for either knees or tools, and I hold my breath every time something drops to the floor.  But no longer.  My workshop has a wood floor now!


Oriented Strandboard, as it were, but still.

After about 5 hours of work, and for the low, low price of about $350 (plus the lunch I bought my buddy from work), I no longer have to pray in slow motion every time a marking gauge or chisel rolls off the workbench.


But I still put the anti-fatigue mats down.

The DriCore tongue and groove panels were super easy to install.  It’s night and day from the old concrete surface.  I even did the pine trim boards.  The room even feels brighter, now that the black concrete floor is hidden.  In case you forgot what the old floor looked like, see the contrast.


$1.54 per square foot never felt so good.

For now, I will leave it bare.  I’d like to see how well it wears before I go overboard.  BTW, I know it’s been a full month since my last post.  I’ve been preoccupied with non-woodworking tasks, but am hoping to get back on the horse soon.



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.