They want me to kill it. And a part of me wants to kill it. I can imagine the space I would have to myself if it were gone. I can imagine the quiet and the safety, but I can’t do it. I love my table saw.
It’s funny how the voices change. When I started out in the world of woodworking every piece of advice about purchasing tools said to start with a table saw. At 13 I was young and impressionable; this piece of advice stuck. I dreamed of having one of my own and of all the things I would make when I had it. Somehow, I ended up with a tiny Craftsman saw. It was so small that when you attempted to make a cut it would dance across the garage. The fence was a pain to get set. It was under-powered. And capacity was minimal.
The saws in my middle and high school shop classes were different. They were lower to the ground, had plenty of power, and a sturdy fence. I fell in love with the cabinet saw. I began dreaming of an upgrade. When I got a job at a lumber yard, the saws got bigger. In the custom shop where I worked we had three 10-inch cabinet saws; one of them with a power feed. I literally spent hundreds of hours in front of a table saw, enough to get comfortable with them.
One afternoon, close to quitting time, one of the salesmen had a rush order for some small glass bead. We would run two edges through the shaper, cut it off on the saw, and repeat. The thin pieces would flap all over the place. Instead of taking the time to get a proper hold down on it, I just reached behind the blade and held it in place. At one point I went to reach behind and pushed my thumb into the blade. It was a stupid move. And it wasn’t the fault of the saw. Thirteen stitches later I was back to work.
I was a little nervous at first, aware that my relationship with a table saw had changed. But I had developed a healthy respect for the saw. I knew that it could kill me or be my best friend, but the choice was mine. Throughout the decade that I worked in that custom shop I watched as others donated fingers to the equipment– all of them were doing something stupid.
Even with all the blood loss, after I left that job I still wanted a cabinet saw of my own. I bought a Delta contractor’s saw that had a decent fence but was under-powered. It served me well for years but, ironically, I wanted a Powermatic 66 just like the one that bit me. I finally found a used one on Craigslist at a price I could afford. It sits at the center of my shop; a dream come true.
The voices have changed for good reason. There is much to be gained from a slower pace in the shop. Old skills that might be forgotten need to be rekindled. But it is hard to let go of something that has been front and center of your mind for years. The things we love the most often leave the deepest scars.
I want to kill it. But I’m not just killing a saw, I’m killing a dream.