Saturday, January 28

A Real Hatchet Job: Shrapnel, A Cautionary Tale

[Note to self (and others). Be sure to grind any flattened edges of a striking surface to keep from do it yourself surgery]

It had happened before, not the day before, but a few decades ago.  I was at a friend’s house splitting wood and was able to take some some to burn if I helped split a few oaks and maples felled over the years. It was good exercise and I was with Kevin as he hammered a wedge in a 30 inch diameter log.  It was the weird Twang I heard and his slowing of his follow through on the sledge that signalled something was wrong.  He said, “oh man” and dropped the sledge, as my eyes picked up on the blood beginning to trickle from his left forearm.  

As he hit the wedge, a sliver of iron had broken off under the impact and rocketed into his arm.  It was a jagged cut and he went to get it removed and the wound stitched, as I kept working on my firewood stash. Not that I wasn’t sympathetic, but it was a one man job and the ex-rugby playing, Sasquatch size Kevin insisted on driving himself.
Stanley Workhorse

Fast forward two decades and I am splitting kindling with an old Stanley hatchet and a ball peen  hammer.  The hatchet was the wedge and the hammer the sledge in this updated version of the earlier tale. Feeling a pinch in my side, I looked down to see blood forming on my shirt.  Yes, you guessed it. The impact of the hammer had produced the equivalent of a flechette and it traveled through my shirt and cut my chest. Ok, at this point, I did have a flashback and should have gone through a cause and effect mental exercise. Breaking out the grinder on the octagonal hammer head of the opposite side of the business end of the Stanley hatchet would have kept this from happening but what were the odds of it happening again?. There was a fire to build and my daughter put on a band-aid and I was good to go.  Until the next day….In the identical position and splitting more wood. Splitting wood is a  zen thing for me and relaxes me, OK grasshopper?

Safety glasses on and swinging hard onto target, I felt my thumb light up in pain. Looking down, I could see the mini missile appearing gunmetal grey under my skin. For some reason, splinters of any and all materials seem to gravitate to me, so I have extensive experience removing them.  X-Acto and magnifying glass at the ready.  I was operating on my left thumb and I am left handed, so I soon realized that I was in over my head and another set of hands was in order.  Post surgery, I was reminded that I needed to do some grinding. It is now back to a smooth octagonal shape.

We all know that a sharp edge is safer than a dull one.  Also keep in mind that as we “mushroom” the head of a tool, we need to reshape it for safety.  


Terry Scoville said...

I too was the recipient of shrapnel. My brother was using a mushroomed wedge with a mall and I was sitting at least 15 feet away and all of a sudden I was hit. I looked down at my quad and saw blood and felt the pain of a dime sized piece of steel rip through my flesh and lodge in my leg. It spent a week in my leg before a doctor friend looked at me and told my dad that it was still in there. Hurt like hell when they numbed me up and dove in there to extract it. I was about 10 at the time. Yes i concur with you, never use a mushroomed anything to strike on or with unless you want to bleed. Lesson learned by my brother and dad too.

The Gang said...

I had an 8 cord split-a-thon about 5 years ago due to a crazy windstorm, but other than that, I'm a rookie. I was a great workout! Pics of wind storm...