Fun with Power Tools

John is not what you’d call a handyman.  However, when you compare his expertise with mine, he becomes Bob Vila.  I readily admit that I am mechanically and spatially challenged, and I’ve known this all my life.  As a child I could never remember which way to turn the handle on the outside faucet, and even as an adult I catch myself muttering, “Righty tighty, lefty loosey” when I’m shutting off the sprinklers.  As a teenager, the army recruiter who reviewed my ASVAB tests expressed skepticism that anyone with mechanical aptitude and spatial reasoning scores so low could park an automobile, operate an electric toothbrush, or tie shoes.  I have learned to compensate for my deficits by avoiding activities that require these skills whenever possible and only passing other cars when there are no oncoming vehicles in sight.  However, on at least one occasion, I let my pride override my common sense with pretty dire consequences.

We had recently purchased an adjoining property and started renovations on the dilapidated house that came with it.  Because of the previously mentioned lack of home improvement skills, we hired someone to do the construction work, but I thought I could save some money by doing the finish work myself, so I had been sanding sheetrock and painting in the basement for several weeks.  To provide a bit of a break, I decided I would sand and varnish some of the new woodwork.  Since one of the pieces of wood I needed to work on was a long capstone at the top of the stairs, I decided the job would be much easier if I used the electric sander rather than expending the effort required using a manual block sander.  At this point I should have called John to ask where to find the appropriate power tool.  Unfortunately, I thought I could find the orbital sander on my own and surprise him with the finished project when he got home from work and avoid any teasing from him about not knowing my way around the shop.  As it turned out, a little teasing would have been a lot less painful.

I found the orbital sander and a sanding disk quickly, and walked the half mile to the property and set about my business.  I peeled the adhesive backing and put the sanding disk in place.  After plugging in the sander, I flipped the switch and started sanding.  I stopped almost immediately as the sandpaper dug into the wood leaving obvious gouges, and the sander emitted a high pitched whine that I’d never heard before.  I tried again with the same result.  Fortunately, I shut the power tool off before holding it up to look for a slower speed setting.  Unfortunately, I didn’t wait for it to come to a complete stop.  As I looked at the handle I was holding, the sanding disk suddenly flew off and hit me in the face with enough force that I took a step back, momentarily dazed.

It only took a second to realize what had happened and quickly run my tongue along my teeth to check for any missing dental work.  Everything appeared normal, and for a fleeting instant, I thought perhaps I had dodged a bullet.  That dream quickly ended as blood started dripping on my shirt.  I pulled the hem of my shirt up to my face to catch the blood as I ran to the bathroom and paused in front of the mirror, reluctant to view the full extent of the damage.  When I finally mustered the courage to look, what I saw wasn’t good, but it also wasn’t horrifying.  My lip was pretty mangled, but the cut stopped just short of my nose, so I thought it might be possible to avoid a trip to the emergency room.

Grabbing a wash cloth from the bathroom, I headed back to the house where I had medical supplies and air conditioning.  The room was suddenly stifling hot and my skin was clammy.  Walking the half mile back to the house in 105º weather with my head spinning was an ordeal, but I didn’t have my cell phone with me, so I didn’t have any other options.  Back at the house, I gingerly cleaned the wound and assessed the damage.  The gashes left by the sandpaper were fairly deep and something appeared to be sticking out of the two cuts that ran from the edge of my lip just clipping the middle of my nose.  Using a pair of tweezers, I carefully grasped the object and pulled it from my lip.  It was a small piece of grit from the sandpaper.  Okay, this was going to be fun.  I irrigated the wound and pulled a few more pieces of sandpaper from my face before calling it good and retiring to the sofa with an ice pack to keep the swelling down.

After 30 minutes or so I decided I’d better call John so he wouldn’t be surprised by my appearance as I now looked as though I’d had a cleft palate repaired.  After recounting the incident and describing the “orbital sander” to him, he let me know just how lucky I’d been.  It seems my orbital sander was in fact an angle grinder, and the uncharacteristic whine I’d heard was the difference between the sound of a 3,000 rpm motor on the sander and the 10,000 rpm motor on the angle grinder.  After he got home and took a look at my injuries, he summed up my luck by saying, “I can’t believe you didn’t cut off your nose.”  I’m happy to report that the cuts healed with minimal scarring; although, 5 years later an occasional fragment of sandpaper will still work its way out.

I continue to avoid situations that require mechanical aptitude whenever possible.  When I’m forced into using anything gas or electrically powered outside the kitchen, I make sure I’m closely supervised.  John continues to be incredulous that my brain is just not wired to use, repair, or purchase machinery.  I, on the other hand, accept the fact that I will never be able to have fun with power tools.

One Response to “Fun with Power Tools”

  1. Glenn Wiebe says:

    Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor you ain’t.

    Oh . . . wait. Ya you are.


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