Bob Vila Tells How Not To Kill Yourself Using Power Tools

A Picture of Bob Vila Original Host of This Old House
Bob Vila, Original Host of This Old House and My Hero

Bob Vila, known as The Dean of Home Renovation, was my hero back in 1979 when This Old House first aired.  My husband and I had just purchased a money-pit of a fixer-upper and I sat enthralled in front of that tiny black and white tv and watched every episode.  Many hosts have followed Bob on that great TV show, but Bob Vila will always be my favorite as he gave me the courage to attack that first house.  And those houses that followed.  One thing he did on that show and is still doing was demonstrate how to use tools in such a way as to not kill ourselves.

Well, guess what?  He’s got a terrific website now!  There you can find all kinds of renovating and decorating advice, but this is the article that caught my eye:

Proceed with Caution: 10 Power Tools That Can Kill You

WOW.  I knew I was taking a chance with my fingers, but I never realized that I might be taking a chance with my life.

A Picture Of A Surprised Woman When She Realizes How Dangerous Power Tools Can Be


In a nutshell, the 2 major causes of injuries are kickbacks (not the illegal kind) and electric shock.  Other things can cause injury in addition, of course, but these 2 are the biggies.


What are Kickbacks?

Bob talks about 10 tools that can maim and kill you if not used properly, but 4 of them are power saws.  That’s not surprising with those toothy blades spinning around so close to our bodies at 50 miles per hour!  All types of saws are subject to kickbacks, but what are they?  A kickback is defined as when the saw blade binds or stalls suddenly on the wood, causing the wood to get picked up by the blade and violently thrown back toward you, or even worse, pulls you into the saw.  Yikes.  Not good.

The key to preventing this is to make sure your blade doesn’t bind in the wood.  Duh, so how to prevent it? Use the following precautions:


  • Make sure you’re using sharp blades and never force the saw through the cut.  Some people like to sharpen blades.  I just buy new ones.


  • Support the wood sufficiently.  Never try to cut an awkward, floppy piece of wood on a table saw.  The wood needs to be well supported on saw horses or stands.  When I started out with my table saw, I was the worst offender of this.  Since then I have gotten smarter and more careful when using it.  I have discovered rolling stands, which work great and fold up to store.  For a full 4 by 8 sheet of plywood, I use 2 of these. 


picture of rolling stand to use with table saw
Rolling Stand



  • Keep your hands as far away from the blade as possible.  On the table saw, use a push stick.


Electric Shock

Of course, we know that electricity can kill us.  That’s why I personally use cordless tools!  But if you must use an electric power tool, use these precautions:

  • Keep the power cord far, far out of the way, and keep track of where it is.


  • Make sure you use an extension cord that is rated for your power tool and for outdoor use.


  • Use cordless garden tools.  (I snuck that in there)


If you haven’t tried cordless garden tools, you should give them a try.  I feel so much safer using my hedge trimmer now that I’m not afraid of cutting right through that cord.  I also have a cordless leaf blower and cordless line trimmer.  They are light and easy to use.  Great for women.

Mr. Vila also mentioned the dangers of pneumatic nail guns.  I’m sure they’re effective, but as a DIYer, I wouldn’t use one.  Just the noise alone puts me off.  But the idea that one wrong move could send nails shooting around the room like bullets gives me the willies.  A good alternative is a cordless brad nailer.  I absolutely love mine!  The downside is that it won’t shoot through cement.  I tried. 

There are many other safety tips, of course.  I know they seem like common sense but sometimes, in our desire to get the job done quickly, we may forget.

Here are a few:

  • Do not work on wet floors or use electric tools in wet conditions.
  • Wear goggles and other appropriate safety equipment.
  • Never point a nail gun at yourself or another person.  (that’s a good one)
  • Never carry an electric tool by its cord.


Thank you to Bob Vila for this great article on power tool safety.  You can read it in its entirety here.

You can find his website here.


Tools I use to DIY safely:

picture of safety goggles
No Cry Safety Glasses


As always, take care. You can do it!

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