Good times with power tools

"Do you have blue training?" the guy at the front desk of the wood shop lab asked.

"Yeah," I said, "but it was like two semesters ago and I'm sort of rusty."

"You want a quick refresher?"


And that's how I met the table saw. I mean, became reacquainted with the table saw--as I said, I had been trained to use it once, but that was months and months and months ago. All I really knew about it was that it was large, dangerous looking, covered in strange levers and Plexiglas finger guards, and that it would probably try to kill me if I got too close.

Jon and I had come to the processes lab, the indigenous home of the table saw and various other implements of destruction, so that we could cut some panels for painting class. See, for Painting 2, paper isn't good enough as a painting surface; that shit has to be wood. But, like all art students, the processes lab freaks us out super bad and we try to spend as little time in there as possible. We just wanted to get in, cut, and get out, and since I was the only one of us that had the blue training that would let me use the table saw, the responsibility to cut that wood fell squarely upon my shoulders. And since I cared more about getting out of there quickly than about equally sharing cutting duty, I agreed to do it.

"You move the blade up so it's above the thing you want to cut," the guy said as he showed me how to arrange the plank we were about to cut. "Then you slide it through, pushing from both sides, with these wood pusher stick things. See?"

"Got it," I said, and turned on the blade.

"Be sure you push it all the way through, even once it's past the blade," the guy told me. "If the blade catches the corner as you push it through, it can shoot back out at you like a missile."

I made the first two cuts easily and without issue, and I was feeling pretty good. A girl in our class had come in to cut her own wood, the guy who had showed me how to use the table saw was now browsing the internet from his laptop, and everything seemed casual and safe.


On the next cut, I suddenly saw the smaller piece of wood begin to turn beneath the blade. I watched it rotating in slow motion; it turned, stopped, and then the blade caught it. There was a loud, shrieking noise, like a velociraptor descending on a dilophasaurus, as the 7x7' plank of wood shot out of the table saw backwards and slammed me in the pelvis. For a moment I was stunned as I slowly realized that although I had just taken the full force of a flying inch-thick sheet of oak right in the waist, I had not been sliced in half. I heard the wood clattering on the ground, bouncing out the door of the lab, and hitting the far wall of the hallway. The counter guy was running over to me, people outside were peeking in, and I was staring open-mouthed down at the giant rectangle of sawdust on my shirt.

"Are you alright, dude?!"

"I'm fine," I said, shocked. "I think. I think I'm fine. I--"

"Nobody's ever been hurt on my watch before!"

"I'm fine," I stammered again.

And I was fine. Mostly. I'll probably have a wicked sweet bruise tomorrow which will be a barrel of fun, but at least I got my painting surfaces all cut and ready, and I didn't get disemboweled. I just got shot. By a flying square of wood. At point blank range.

"You see, my philosophy is simple. In a world where there are literally ten million ways to mutilate yourself on a normal day, why go messing around with tools?"

Amen, Pete. Amen.

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