In Woodworking Mistakes

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Snake Surprise

While I was visiting my brother in Florida, he showed me his latest toy, a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill. A huge hickory log was mounted on the cutting platform. Sawdust puffed as the blade effortlessly sliced a 3″ thick section from the top of the log. “That was the ‘clean cut,’” he said. “The next cut will be the first lumber-maker.” He pushed the blade back into the log, and in only five minutes, we were stacking a beautiful 10′ long board.

My brother was pulling the saw back to make another pass through the log when, only inches from his hand, a small red, yellow and black striped snake wriggled out of an old woodpecker hole. “Yikes! That’s a coral snake!” I thought, remembering the old cautionary rhyme “red on yellow, kill a fellow.”

Fortunately, my brother wasn’t fazed. “Give me that shovel,” he said. “I forgot—I usually probe holes like this one with a wire before I cut.” I expected him to bash the snake, as we would have done as kids, but instead, he deftly scooped it up and tossed it back into the woods. “Coral snakes eat mice and other vermin,” he explained calmly, even as I was taking deep, cleansing breaths and trying to swallow. –D. Thompson

Miter Miscue

I decided to use MDF to build an air scrubber for my shop. That MDF holds a nice, sharp edge was an important consideration, because I planned to miter all of the joints. I started by cutting 45˚ miters on the piece for the right side of the box. Unfortunately, the piece slipped as I picked it up, and its sharp mitered edge cut the palm of my right hand. I cleaned and bandaged the cut and called it quits for the day. The next day I went back to the shop and mitered the piece for the left side. You guessed it. This piece slipped, too, and I now have matching scars, one on the palm of each hand. –Bill Halsey

Product Recommendations

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