With the popularity of the original article about knife shop accidents, here are five more knifemaking lessons learned the hard way. Use these stories as examples of what to watch for while in the shop. Stay safe!
“I Sawed My Index Finger in Half”
Lesson: A slow moving metal-cut bandsaw can appear quite harmless, yet one of my worst injuries in over 40 years of knife making occurred with mine.
While hurrying to cut a screwdriver slot into the head of a threaded stainless steel handle escutcheon bolt, I failed to do the two safety steps I apply now: fully support the fastener upon a slotted plate encircling the saw blade and hold the bolt with a pair of vice-grips, keeping my hands a safe distance back away from the blade.
But instead, as I pushed the 3/8″ fastener into the saw blade, it snagged the top edge of the face, dragging it down into the exposed slot in the table in front of the blade, pivoting the front part of my index finger into the blade while wedging it in place with the opposing shoulder on the part. As the blade sawed my nail in two and continued to slice through my entire fingertip due to the back pressure from the part, I had to slowly watch and wait for this gruesome process to end once I quickly turned the machine off.
To say it bled a bit was an understatement, as a friend who’d stopped by after I’d left for the hospital asked excitedly if I’d gotten a deer that morning, due to the amount of blood all over the doorknobs and floor leading into the house.
As the doctor was about to remove the sectioned fingernail pieces and stitch up the huge, tapered gash, I’d chosen to remain seated upright on the bench to watch. However, upon trying to insert the needle into my fingertip to deaden it, the callused tip proved so dense that he proceeded to drive the needle all the way through my finger and out the top, shooting a stream of Novocaine all the way to the top of my shoulder.
At that point, I told him, “I think I’ll lie down now.”
Hammond Knives & Designs, LLC
“I Blocked the Knife with My Hand”
Lesson: Any time you place a blade against a fast-moving wheel, use extra caution.
I was getting ready for a turkey dinner and noticed how dull my knife was. I went out to my garage to my paper wheel. I started to sharpen, but my sleeves were loose. I put the knife down, rolled up my sleeves, and grabbed the knife. The knife caught the wheel like a bullet. It hit the back wall and shot straight at my head. I blocked the knife with my hand, and in doing so cut tendons on top of my little finger at the knuckle. I felt like a fool and knew that I did a stupid thing.
“That Got Me Nine Stitches”
Lesson: Don’t assume pliers will never fail.
I’ve had a few times that scared me, but one time stands out in particular. I almost had this knife done, and I was holding the handle in my left hand and the blade in my right with a pair of pliers. The blade slipped, and the point went right through my first finger. That got me nine stitches.
“The Point Spun Across the Palm of My Hand”
Lesson: Protect your hands when using a drill press.
I just finished grinding the blade and a small clip on this little 3-inch blade. I took it over to the drill press for the handle holes. Little did I know that copper, which is what the customer wanted, would grab the drill bit. The knife started to spin out of my hand, like a helicopter.
Instinct made me hold tighter, but the press was stronger. The point spun across the palm of my hand and gave me a deep, 1.5-inch gouge in the palm of my hand.
Now I always wear a Kevlar glove or use a stopper of some sort to catch the knife if it ever spins again.
Art’s Knife and Leather Works
“He Stared at His Drooping Fingers in Disbelief”
Lesson: Locks have come a long way, but they’re not foolproof. Also: don’t stab tires to be a show off.
Editor’s note: This one isn’t about knifemaking, but it’s still worth reading.
I was at one of those big shows they hold at Las Vegas every year. The guy hawking the knife was talking about how his knife had the best grip. He was stabbing his knife through a steel belted radial tire.
As the demo went on he invited anyone from the crowd to come up and try to stab their knife through the tire. Finally, a man that looked like Charlie Daniels decided to try. He had a folder in his hand. He took two or three steps and lunged at the tire knife in hand.
I heard a crack and the big man withdrew his hand like people do when they get cut. He stared at his drooping fingers in disbelief. The lock on the lock back had broke and the folder folded closed on his fingers. The crowd gasped. The first aid guys shuffled him off.
So another big guy comes up with a rather large hunting knife. He raised his hand as high as he could and brought the blade down hard in a hammer fist motion. His hand slid down the handle on to the blade, cutting most of the way through three fingers.
That brought the dog and pony show to an end while the organizers of the show directed everyone’s attentions else where. Lesson learned: let someone else show off for the big crowd.
Share Your Stories
Have a horror story of your own? Tell BLADE about it. It could save someone from injury, or worse.
Learn More About the Craft of Knifemaking
Learn what you should do in the knife shop with BLADE’s Guide to Making Knives, 3rd edition. You discover techniques for forging, heat treating, grinding and more. Get the book from ShopBlade.com for the best deal.
Knife Guide Issue features the newest knives and sharpeners, plus knife and axe reviews, knife sheaths, kit knives and a Knife Industry Directory. Get your FREE digital PDF instant download of the annual Knife Guide. No, really! Click Here to Get Your Free Issue