Workshop Mishaps: Issue 28

Comments (0)

This article is from Issue 28 of Woodcraft Magazine.


How to avoid a goring when boring

To reduce tear-out when using my table saw, I decided to make several zero-clearance inserts from 1/2" Baltic birch plywood. For the inserts to sit flush with the saw top, I had to create four reliefs in the bottoms to accommodate the saw’s bosses that the insert leveling screws contact. Using a 11/4" Forstner bit in my drill press and holding an insert on the table with my left hand, I proceeded to bore holes for the reliefs close to the edge. The first few holes were perfect. I felt clever and wondered why I had waited so long to make the inserts. Then came a shock. On the next hole, the bit suddenly caught the edge of the plywood, spinning it to the right and yanking my left thumb into the bit. Talk about tear-out! The bit ripped part of my thumb nail off and created a 1/2"-long gash in the flesh.

I did not think the injury was bad enough to get medical attention, so I washed the wound, applied an antibacterial ointment, and pulled it tightly closed with a bandage. Several days later, I decided to go to my doctor for a tetanus shot and have my thumb checked. To my relief, the doctor said that the thumb was healing nicely even though it could have used a few stitches. Fortunately, except for some sensitivity, my thumb is back to normal and the nail has completely grown back.


Roger Salvesen, 58, of Beaufort, South Carolina, has been a serious hobbyist woodworker for 34 years. His interest in the craft was sparked as a child by his grandfather, a skilled carpenter. Roger enjoys making furniture and built-ins. Now that he’s retired, he looks forward to spending more time in his shop pursuing his lifelong passion.


Like many woodworkers, Roger never considered a drill press a dangerous tool. “I’ve always respected a table saw and any other power tool that has a blade, but I was complacent about the drill press. I never expected something like this could happen,” he rues. However, Roger learned the hard way that the powerful torque of a drill-press motor can easily overcome one’s grip on a workpiece and cause it to spin the instant the bit catches an edge or seizes in the material.

After the lesson that was literally “drilled” into him, Roger now knows the importance of securing a workpiece when using a drill press. To ensure that a similar incident never happens to you, follow these pointers.


  • Verify that the lock handles for the drill-press table height and angle adjustments are tight to prevent dangerous table movement when boring.
  • Always secure the workpiece in a vise or clamp it to the table or fence. For a long part, position it with an edge against the left side of the column—if possible—for added safety against rotation.
  • Make sure that the bit is clean and sharp.
  • Avoid plunging quickly into the material and applying excessive pressure.
  • When machining a hole through a part, clamp a backer board against the piece where the bit will exit to provide a continuous drilling surface.
  • When drilling overlapping holes, reposition the part as needed using a stopblock clamped to the fence.
  • Set the appropriate drill-press speed based on the bit size and type and the hardness of the wood.
  • Never use a hand bit with a screw tip in a drill. The tip can thread into a part, causing it to suddenly lift and rotate.


Write Comment

Write Comment

You must be logged in to write a comment. Log In

Top of Page