Context is an important qualifier. It frames our choices and responses in ways conscious and unconscious. Recently, I made a project for the December issue of the magazine. In one photo, I crosscut a 5″-wide board on a cabinet saw but did not use a stand-off block (to avoid potential binding and kickback). This caused many folks to speak out about the unsafe technique.
The context here is the saw I was using for the cut. It is a high-quality machine with heavy-duty trunnions to keep the arbor and blade aligned, a super-strong fence accurately aligned to the saw blade, a robust riving knife behind the blade, a substantial and strong aftermarket miter gauge and a piece of stock (trimmed square to the fence on the table saw) that was narrow, but not overly so.
My (somewhat self-serving) point here is that in the context of what I was doing, my woodworking lizard brain did not identify this cut as a dangerous technique – because it was not (in context).
Even so, I failed twice. First, by not taking the extra step to absolutely make the crosscut a safe one. And second, by publishing the photo. For those mistakes I offer a sincere apology and vow to do better in the future.
Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal
Milling Eastern White Pine
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