Clark Hollow Ramblings: The day the music died

U.S. Navy photo via Wikimedia Commons
U.S. Navy photo via Wikimedia Commons

When you make a mistake doing something that you have done for a long time, you often want to go back and trace your steps and see just how that mistake or accident happened. Sometimes it is helpful to see what you did wrong. Maybe you can keep from having that accident happen again.

Last year when they were closing out the Kmart store in Front Royal, my bride saw a good deal on a kids swimming pool. Thinking the grandkids would get a big kick out of it, she bought it. Turns out, they loved it. We used it most of last summer, and she and I were able to package it away pretty well and we are using it again this summer.

Since you can’t let the little ones play in this thing with no adult supervision, you wind up sitting out there in the sunshine while the little ones splash around and pretend to swim and have a big ol’ time. Meanwhile, you are burning up. So, we got out the big umbrella and the heavy base and that worked for awhile, but pretty soon, the bride wanted a table. So, while looking around in the ReStore shop in Warrenton, I come across this 4-foot round table top, that looked like it was made from pressed or composite board, with a hard, Formica-like top. Figuring I could make some legs for it, I took it home.

I had to make a few angle brackets, and get the right length screws and a tube of Liquid Nails, and I was well on my way to having this project completed. I set my table saw up, took a two-by-four and split it into two-by-twos, and had enough left over to make an extra brace for each leg. Before starting to assemble it, I thought I should make the legs a bit more professional looking, so I tilted the blade on the table saw and moved the rail over into position to remove the sharp edges on the legs, and I was ready to go. Not having any extra lumber, I needed a try piece to see if I had the saw set up correctly. I picked up a short piece of two-by-two, about a foot long. That was my first mistake.

I turned the table saw on and started to feed the try piece through the saw. I did not have a scrap piece of lumber to push the piece all the way past the blade. That was my second mistake. Getting the try piece almost past the blade, I reached over the blade with my left hand to pull the material through from the other side. That was the third and worst mistake.

If you happen to play guitar, especially acoustic guitar, especially with wire strings, and you play a lot, you know you have to build up the “pads” on the end of your fingers on your fretting hand. That’s the hand that makes the chords and notes on the neck of the guitar. For me, that’s my left hand. Those pads are hard, thick calluses on the end of your fingers.

The saw blade cut through the pad on my index finger, barely missing the bone, and etching a notch out of the fingernail on the other side. Because the pad is a callous, I probably didn’t feel what I had done until the blade hit the meat with the blood and the nerves in it.

Sometimes, if you make a mistake, you get away with it. No harm, no foul. If you make three mistakes in a row, you are probably going to have to pay a penalty for that much carelessness. I am paying. Everyday.

Once the finger heals and the soreness leaves, I have to rebuild the pad, if I am going to be able to play three- and four-hour shows. That takes time and dedication. While I am waiting, the pads on the other fingers wear away, get thinner and tender from non-use, and the vicious circle continues, until you can play without pain. Then you build up the length of time you can play. It takes awhile.

I paid $5 for the table top and two bucks for the two-by-four. Right now, the little wobbly round table out by the kiddy pool looks to have about five hundred dollars worth of aggravation and lost potential. You live some. You learn some. Until next time, be careful out there. Table saws show very little mercy. I am able to kid about this only because I know how lucky I am and how very much worse it could have been.

Richard Brady
About Richard Brady 154 Articles
Richard Brady was born and raised within sight of Rappahannock Peak, as was his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, etc. He graduated from George Mason University and was employed for 35 years with various agencies of the federal government. He retired in 2001, and he and his wife, Linda, live in Flint Hill, Va.