Last week, disaster struck [[dramatic drums and organ play]]. Well, not really, but I did manage to get a 2" shard of plywood lodged in the depths of the palm of my hand that required a hand surgeon to remove.
I was setting up the famous Jeff Lohr router jig that conveniently uses wedges and a back fence to hold wood stable and properly-placed for easy routering of more than one piece at once and accurately without any hassle. Now, I will say that again; I was setting up the router jig (which requires little-to-no effort) when I decided to brush off some dust with my hand. I must have harvested the perfect circumstances for my hand to catch on the edge of the plywood base of the jig at just the right angle and speed for a 2" splinter/shard/wooden needle to slip into my palm and break off inside.
Off to Urgent Care we went, because tweezers and sewing pins were not going to cut it this time. As you can tell from the picture, there was one tiny entrance point but the actual length of the wood was buried so deep under my skin that it was really difficult to see where it stopped and started. The kind doctors at Urgent Care gave me an x-ray (which turned up nothing because it was wood and not metal or dense bone tissue). Then, they numbed me up, sliced me open, and did their best to hunt the wood piece(s) down and take it out. After looking for it for an hour or so with no luck, they decided it best to send me to a specialist. I am incredibly thankful to The Philadelphia Hand Center staff for staying late on their Friday afternoon to take me immediately. Dr. Sweet did an amazing job with the impromptu mini-surgery she did to finally separate me and the plywood. Scalpels, surgical binocular loupes, more numbing agent, stitches- the whole nine yards were required for this splinter removal.
Watching her pull a 2" shard of plywood from my hand was both relieving and nauseating. Five stitches and five hours later, I was wrapped up and on my way home. With a little TLC, limited right hand use for the week, and stitch-removal on Friday morning, I will be good as new. Jeff is mad at me for not saving the extracted wooden shard but, equally as grateful that the worker's comp/insurance is getting some exercise. A huge thanks to you, Jeff, for driving me all over creation to get my hand repaired and ensuring that everything was in order all the while.
Because safety is always the first priority at our shop, Rob has already eliminated any possible safety/splinter risks posed by the existing jig by making a new one (even though this accident was 110% my own doing and really not that fault of the jig). This Lohr-original jig is something that is used in the shop more-than-regularly. The swinging door stops can be adjusted or removed to create mortises with ease. The base alone can hold similar sized pieces together for any quick-and-easy routering. It is a work of genius that has been featured in Wood Magazine and has been a crucial shop aid for well over 10 years, so although the older edition is now retired, students can look forward to learning to work with the latest model.
Moral of the story, folks: Use a dust brush. It's not like we have a lack of them around the shop so it was my own thoughtlessness (paired with some seriously perfect circumstances) that lead to my own disaster. I can take solace in the fact that all the safety measures and precautions that we take at the shop every day continue to protect me from any major harm.
With my very first set of stitches, and a much more intimate relationship with plywood, I think it's safe to start to consider myself a real woodworker.