Workshop Mishaps: Feeling a Bit Whipped?

The story

When my wife admired a wooden bauble in a movie, I said to myself, “I could make one of those so easily.” With her birthday approaching, I designed a beautiful bangle that called for boring through a piece of rosewood with a 2½" holesaw, bandsawing the outside profile, and finishing up with some carving. A piece of cake. The holesaw still had a 12" extension attached from a previous job, so I just chucked the whole thing into my drill press, lowered the table, and clamped the rosewood block in place. When I hit the switch, the drill press spun up to high speed and started to vibrate just as I felt pain in my hand. I quickly shut the machine off and saw that the drill extension had bent to about 45°. The holesaw at the end of the bent rod had slashed across my thumb and a few fingers, but the wounds weren’t serious. I did finish the jewelry project later, still in time for birthday giving.

The victim

Matt Lohr, a Virginia network engineer, started fooling around with wood as a high schooler. Now he enjoys designing and building furniture. “I love taking a need, drawing out a plan, and then creating something,” Matt says. With three boys under age six, he doesn’t log as much shop time as he’d like, though he recently completed a wall entertainment unit and an Arts and Crafts platform bed.

Case analysis

Hurrying often leads to trouble. Leaving the extension attached to the holesaw saved a few seconds, as did starting the drill press without double-checking the speed setting. But the rush proved costly. When you combine a foot-long bit extension that probably isn’t precisely straight with a holesaw in a handheld drill and run it at low speed, the risk factor for injury is likely small. Chuck that same extension and bit into a drill press and accidentally run it at high speed, and you’ll encounter an out-of-control wobble situation that could prove disastrous.

Shop-smart strategies

For safety’s sake, always take time to set up your tools and equipment correctly. When using a drill press, follow these tips:

• Tighten the chuck securely and remove the key.

• Position the table properly and lock it securely.

• Clamp the workpiece firmly to the table with a backer board beneath it.

• Make sure drill accessories are correct for your machine and suitable for the job. A drill-bit extension, for instance, is intended for specific applications and shouldn’t be used otherwise.

• Before you flip the switch, make sure the speed is correct for the material, type of bit or accessory, and hole size. Go online at for a free speed chart. 

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