Table Saw kickback and trimmed finger (Graphic description & images)

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BarbaraT

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Hi All

I was recently ripping down some 4 x 4 pine, into 1 x 4.. Towards the end of the cut the saw kicked and my left hand, which was pressing the wood against the fence clipped the blade....
The saw trimmed off the tip of my first finger and has taken a chunk out of my second finger..

It happened so fast, my hands weren't close to the blade..... I wasn't tired, drunk or i considered dangerous.
Initially, it didn't hurt .. I applied pressure and managed to stop it bleeding and off to hospital.

After morphine and lots of doctors poking it.. If you apply direct pressure to the wound for 10 minutes.. Yes it will stop the bleeding but it doesn't half hurt.
The plan was to use half of my toenail however on close inspection I didn't have enough finger left.

The bone of my index finger has been shortened with something called a nippler, then rounded with what I'm guessing must be similar to a wood file.
The nail has been completely removed and the skin to the left wrapped around the bone and sewn back together.

What shocked me was, I visited a relatively small hospital (St Johns in Edinburgh), The surgeon is operating on 2 to 3 hands a week all from table saws..
I was one of the more fortunate victims, some loose their entire hand.

There are 3 surgeons in the plastics ward and multiple hospitals in Edinburgh.
I had no idea so many people were getting injured.. This is one city.

I asked the surgeon if the injuries were mainly inexperienced users and he said that it didn't make very much difference.... the previous victim had been using the same saw for 20 years.

I'm going to buy a power feed that will keep me further away from the blade, as far as I know, you can't retrofit the sawstop mechanism.

Sorry in advance for posting a gruesome picture, if one person who reads this can do something differently and
save their finger I would rather upset a few others..

IMG_20231130_084300_107.jpg
 
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Ouch! - sounds like you were lucky to get away relatively lightly, albeit unfortunate and I can imagine very painful.
You don't mention, however wouldn't 2 push sticks one to feed and another to apply pressure to the fence have prevented this unfortunate incident?

Over my DIY woodworking career I've damaged the tips of both ring fingers, one via surface planer and once with a router, both down to the bone but not as severe as yours and I can testify how painful it can be.
I hope you make as good a recovery as can be expected..
 
Really sorry to hear of your injury. Table saws spend most of their time plotting new and inventive ways to kill you, so I'm not surprised at the number of accidents seen by surgeons.

Any sort of kickback on a table saw can be absolutely vicious in terms of strength and speed, so being out of the "line of fire", never having fingers anywhere near the blade, using push sticks, a short fence when ripping etc are all very good advice.

Having lost a chunk of a thumb many years ago (router table rather than a table saw) I can empathise on the pain. If it's of any comfort it will eventually heal, and while we're not exactly lizards (growing back tails) I was surprised at how much the missing digit "filled out"; such that the end result looks significantly less worse than it did immediately after the injury.
 
Hi All

I was recently ripping down some 4 x 4 pine, into 1 x 4.. Towards the end of the cut the saw kicked and my left hand, which was pressing the wood against the fence clipped the blade....
The saw trimmed off the tip of my first finger and has taken a chunk out of my second finger..

It happened so fast, my hands weren't close to the blade..... I wasn't tired, drunk or i considered dangerous.
Initially, it didn't hurt .. I applied pressure and managed to stop it bleeding and off to hospital.

After morphine and lots of doctors poking it.. If you apply direct pressure to the wound for 10 minutes.. Yes it will stop the bleeding but it doesn't half hurt.
The plan was to use half of my toenail however on close inspection I didn't have enough finger left.

The bone of my index finger has been shortened with something called a nippler, then rounded with what I'm guessing must be similar to a wood file.
The nail has been completely removed and the skin to the left wrapped around the bone and sewn back together.

What shocked me was, I visited a relatively small hospital (St Johns in Edinburgh), The surgeon is operating on 2 to 3 hands a week all from table saws..
I was one of the more fortunate victims, some loose their entire hand.

There are 3 surgeons in the plastics ward and multiple hospitals in Edinburgh.
I had no idea so many people were getting injured.. This is one city.

I asked the surgeon if the injuries were mainly inexperienced users and he said that it didn't make very much difference.... the previous victim had been using the same saw for 20 years.

I'm going to buy a power feed that will keep me further away from the blade, as far as I know, you can't retrofit the sawstop mechanism.

Sorry in advance for posting a gruesome picture, if one person who reads this can do something differently and
save their finger I would rather upset a few others..

View attachment 171128
Sorry to hear of your accident - brave of you to post about it! Hope you get back into action quickly.
Seems to be the most common serious accident in woodworking.

ALWAYS use two push sticks, NEVER have your hands nearer to a TS or a spindle than say 6"
Use the standard pattern widely available Axminster Workshop Push Stick and make copies from ply or mdf. Unlike your fingers they are consumables and it doesn't matter if they get shortened.
HSE regs are very slack on this and American youtubers are insane risk takers, so ignore them both.
 
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Yikes! Do you think a featherboard pushing the workpiece against the fence might've helped in your situation?

I do hope you recover quickly and haven't lost your appetite for woodwork.
 
Ugh!





Blurgh!!
Claims to be repulsed by such things, yet amongst the first to click. :LOL:

I expect table saw accident happen two ways. The first is from board material catching the back of the blade and climbing up and over, usually down the the lack of a riving knife. The other with solid timber which can bend and twist as the internal tensions are released from cutting through the fibers

Did you have a riving knife in place ? Not being judgmental in any way, these things do happen and you've lost the top of one finger which is a pretty bad one, and you deserve some tea and sympathy for it.

" Use the standard pattern widely available Axminster Workshop Push Stick "

Not long enough imho. I use 20"+ and two of them at a time. one to push sideways especially the last bit to go through and the other to do the pushing through. Keeps the hands high enough so theres a lot of space should something slip. If the push stick is too short, the distance between the blade and hand is much less, and its going to take a second for the brain to realize and pull back. So the closer it is to the blade, the greater the chance the limb can contact.
 
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The surgeon is operating on 2 to 3 hands a week all from table saws..

That sounds like a problem in Scotland, maybe an epidemic and they need some serious safety training on the use of the table saw. Tablesaws are very dangerous but luckily they are stationary apart from the blade so cannot come after you, the only way they cause injury is from misuse or bad operator practice. Where were your push sticks and fingers do not count ?

you can't retrofit the sawstop mechanism.
You do not need it if you respect the machine, I really dislike and do not trust my table saw because I know it will cause injury if I let it but I keep well away from that blade and always use push sticks both for pushing wood through and against the fence but not plastic ones. My reaction to anything going wrong is to step back and hands behind me whatever is happening, I don't even go for the stop button until I understand the circumstances of the incident.

I have to ask the inevitable question. Was the guard in use or were you doing it American?
Maybe the guard would not have helped, if pushing wood through or against the fence then your digits can just follow the same path. The very reason why push sticks should be used.

I hope you heal ok and it has not put you off woodworking, all you can do now is put it down to a lesson learnt the hard way.
 
The guard was in place, I had a push-stick in my right hand feeding the timber through.

I was standing to the left of the saw, so would have been clear of flying timber...
My Left hand was just lightly pressing the wood against the fence.... possibly as i was at the end of the cut it would have been further forward than normal..

I was at the end of the cut so 4 1/2 inches of blade would have been exposed.. (Teeth only just clearing the wood. )

It happened so fast that I'm still not sure how my left hand ended up touching the blade. It was a 24 teeth rip blade (12" blade) so big teeth..

My left hand would have been exactly 3 inches away from the side of the blade....
 
.....

It happened so fast that I'm still not sure how my left hand ended up touching the blade.
Because it didn't have a push stick in it. It's worse at the end of a pass when you don't have the workpiece itself between you and the blade.
My left hand would have been exactly 3 inches away from the side of the blade....
Too close by far, and no push stick.
You get to use push sticks as second nature quite quickly if you stick with it (no pun intended!)
They actually give you better control - you can hold nearer to the blade if you have to, you don't have to lean so far forward, you can reach past the blade with a push stick and flip things away etc.
 
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I'm sorry. I have recently ripped construction 2x's using the combination blade I use for everything. I noted extra resistance though nothing untoward. Because of your posting I will try to use my rip blade for thick material in the future. I think that safety has a small element of good luck along with good practice. Twenty years ago I was ripping material while standing to the side, using a pushstick. An offcut flew by and imbedded itself in the drywall behind me, undoubtedly my fault though the cause was not evident.
I applaud your courage and hope your healing is excellent.
 
Sorry to hear about that, hope it heals well 🤞

As said always use 2 push sticks, using the recommended 450mm push sticks your fingers never need to be any closer than 12" to the blade.
 
I'm sorry. I have recently ripped construction 2x's using the combination blade I use for everything.
If you use the wrong blade then you are just asking for trouble, as you said you noted extra resistance and this would be down to too many teeth which cannot clear their gullets so clog up and then you push harder which can lead to an accident, also blunt or dulled blades can be just as bad.
 
.... An offcut flew by and imbedded itself in the drywall behind me, undoubtedly my fault though the cause was not evident.
Usually when the off-cut is between the blade and the fence and you can get a sling shot effect, especially if it's a close fit, fine blade, or not set up dead straight/parallel to start with. And use 2 push sticks - not one!
 
Thank you for being brave and sharing the pain.
All of us mess up. The most positive thing we can do is share our mistakes so others have a chance to learn the easy way, not the hard way. 🙏

If some of the comments here feel just a little like "I (could have) told you so", please see it as members reminding themselves and others of how easily we could be bitten by our own saws and what we might do to avoid it.

I had no idea that these injuries were so common. That comes as a shock and salutory reminder even when you think you're aware of the dangers of a saw.
 
There but for the grace of God...

Thank you for posting, I have sometimes been a bit lax about the second stick, a timely reminder, hope the heeling goes as well as it can.
 
I'm sorry to hear of your accident. I also have the tips of two fingers missing on my right hand. My accident happened when I was only eight years old, and it was nothing to do with woodworking the accident being with an agricultural machine: it did, however, teach me to respect all kinds of machinery, and in nearly sixty years of woodworking machinery use, mostly as a professional I've managed to keep myself accident free. I can't really imagine what it would be like to have full length fingers on my right hand. That's no consolation to you, I suppose, except that I can perhaps understand the thoughts going through your head and hope you heal quickly.

Still, from the posts you've made I suspect you made an error in the use of the saw; basically, you got your fingers too close. Jacob is right to say the use of push sticks is the way to go. The HSE guidance states that the last 300 mm of the part being dimensioned in a rip cut should be undertaken with a push-stick, and that a push-stick should be used throughout the whole process for any pieces shorter than 300 mm. I'd go further, agreeing with Jacob, that two push-sticks, for most rips, are better again, i.e., one to push the piece being dimensioned (between the blade and the fence) and one push-stick to control the waste, when required, that is the part to the left of the blade. I've taught essentially that technique or practice to a wide variety of learners for at least three or more decades, i.e., the last 300 mm (122) of a rip cut should be guided by a push-stick, or push-sticks.

Here's a link to HSE guidance on circular saw bench usage. The relevant page is page two where they discuss the subject, along with guidance about the form of push-sticks. Slainte.
 
I hope you both make a quick recovery, I really appreciate you sharing your experiences.
 

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