Happy New Year!

Wow, I’m taking way too long between posts. Just when I think “I should sit down and blog…” something distracts me. Not that I’ve made any “New Year’s Resolutions,” but I’d like to get into more regular writing.

Woodshop news: after winding down from the craft fair I did make a couple of tongue drums, for my nephews and a friend’s child. They were big hits, and I look forward to adding them to my repertoire in the future.

I took some time off over the holidays, and then started tackling the chairs to go with my dining table (yes, there are still touch-ups needed on the table…). Then I had a table saw mis-hap. The table saw is the freakin scariest piece of equipment in the workshop, bar none. It’s not just the blade itself, but it’s the fact that the blade rotates so that the cutting part (top and leading edge) are rotating directly back at the operator. If you drop a block of wood on a spinning naked blade it will shoot back with the force of a cannon shot. When ripping wood (cutting lengthwise) on the tablesaw there’s always the chance that a slight bend or twist will press the wood into the back of the blade, which is on its upward path. This lifts the board up and hurls it back – known as a “kickback.”

Fortunately, this wasn’t so bad. I did violate one cardinal rule, and got what I deserved. When a piece of wood is cut and doesn’t pass completely out the back of the blade (sometimes the offcut just “hangs” there on the back of the table), you should turn the machine off and wait for the blade to come to a complete stop before moving the wood. I didn’t. I know to be careful to not let the wood swerve into the blade, so with the saw still running I stepped in back and gently tugged the 2 foot piece of off-cut through that last couple of inches past the blade. I was never in danger of being cut, and was out of the path of the wood should it go flying. What I didn’t count on, though, was that moving the wood nudged the plexiglass blade guard into the path of the blade, and a tooth caught the guard. What happened next was truly amazing. The guard literally tore in half – the blade didn’t even have time to cut it, it just grabbed the guard and tore it up. This also pulled the splitter (a piece of metal right behind the blade designed to help prevent wood from swerving into the blade in the first place) out of its fastener and right into the blade, stopping the blade instantly. When I realized what had happened I turned off the motor (it was “humming” but not turning) and inspected the damage. Two carbide teeth from the blade had broken clean off, the splitter had a gouge in it, and the guard was a piece of junk. I’ll include photos – maybe – next time just to remind myself not to be an idiot again.

So, lesson learned: safety rules exist for a reason. I thought the only danger was kickback, and yes, I was very careful about how I moved the wood. To be honest I’m not entirely sure how the guard wiggled enough to touch the blade. It may have been loose to start with (in which case I actually did myself a favor by being on the other side of the table when it cut loose). At any rate, from now on I will always turn the machine off before making any move to remove offcuts.

I’ve got an order in for a replacement guard from a guy who’s making them in his own shop – it comes with an easy-to-remove splitter (the OEM version requires using a wrench in a tight space). I’ve had to remove the splitter/guard lately to make some special cuts for my chairs (yes, there are alternative “guards” in place to protect hands), and the problem with the OEM splitter is that most people, after removing it, don’t put it back on because it’s such a pain in the butt. I did some research on alternatives, and hope the Shark Guard pans out. I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, and I needed a new blade, too. I’m trying a Freud general-purpose blade (10″ 50T) and so far it has cut like a dream. Freud blades have a great reputation in the biz.

The chairs! I’m trying a pair from this Popular Mechanics plan. I’ve got the pieces cut out, the mortises drilled, and after a little more cleanup on some of the tenons, I’ll be ready to dry fit one. The anxiety-producing part is that this is my first chair, and I’m cutting pieces in their directions on blind faith it’ll all come together correctly. In a day or two I’ll discover whether I’ve made an error in measurement, or where joints aren’t fitting. The problem is I don’t have enough experience with chairs to know where there can be some wiggle-room with fit, and where perfect fits are required. I strongly suspect there is very little room for error in chairs, because they take such a variety of heavy loads and are moved around a lot. I’m sure there will be lots of lessons learned here. 🙂

That’s it for now. I’ll try to post more regularly in the future!

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