jacob stordahl

The Table Saw is a Witch

Published January 18, 2024

When I was working as a welder, one day I was standing in the shop with headphones on. Heads down and focused on my work, suddenly I heard a loud noise from behind me. I turned around and saw a co-worker, standing at the table saw clutching his hand. My heart sank. I ran to grab someone for help, they got him into a car and brought him to the hospital. Thankfully he only needed stitches on his thumb; nothing was completely cut off. As a relatively new professional, I was shocked that this had happened to the person with the most experience of anyone in the shop. This co-worker had been operating a table saw for longer than I had been alive.

It seems very common to me that people are afraid of large power tools when they are first learning how to use them. However, in my experience, inexperienced users of dangerous tools are never the ones to hurt themselves; it's always the "too comfortable" seasoned professionals that get hurt. When you're inexperienced, you practice caution, but when you've been doing something for a long time,that caution wanes.

Ever since I transitioned my career to tech, I always find interesting correlations between building physical objects and building software. Recently, an incident occurred that required a Friday hotfix deployment, due to an unintentional change that was missed by three engineers (myself included); we've gotten too comfortable.

In an effort to dissuade you from falling prey to this habit as well, I'll leave you with a quote from Tom Sach's short film, "A Love Letter to Plywood"; "The table saw is a witch. A witch who will take your finger. We treat her with great care, and respect."