Do not try this at home.
It was a fairly normal Sunday, church from 8.30am until around midday. Back at home, I finished processing the outstanding wedding pictures, and then for a break, I decided to work on my Mark III backpacking stove.
Everything was going fine until I decided to drill out the center of the plate that will form the gas burner air jets. I broke a fundamental workshop rule, and instead of clamping down the workpiece, I held it down with my hand. The step drill bit jammed in the workpiece and it proceeded to rotate at 2,000 rpm, I was wearing gloves but they provided no protection from the sharp tin of the plate which sliced into my thumb and middle finger.
Removing my glove it looked pretty bad, so I went to the bathroom to clean things up. Before I could even turn the tap on I’d collected a handful of blood in my spare hand, and I decided this was a hospital job. I wrapped my hand in a small cloth, applied pressure and waited for Ginger to take me to the emergency unit.
I had the presence of mind to try and prevent my getting blood all over the upholstery of the van, so I took a second rag which I used to catch the excess blood dripping from the first rag. Ginger is normally very good with medical emergencies. Not so this time. When we got to the hospital she left me in the van while she went and talked to her cousin who happened to be passing by – she’d forgotten I was unable to open the door. I thought it was funny.
Assuming everything heals as it should, I’ve had a lucky escape. I cut right through my thumb – including the nail, but the cut had gone length-wise, missing the bone (hence the x-rays; to check for bone damage). Ginger took a brief look while the wound was being cleaned, and described me as having a ‘forked thumb’. The most painful part of the whole thing – including slicing my hand was the injection of the pain killers, once they took effect I didn’t feel a thing. I laughed when they stuck a sticking plaster on the spot where they gave me my tetanus shot, it seemed a bit silly while I was dripping blood.
I totally forgot to take a camera to the hospital, and Ginger’s camera decided to die on us (that’s two cameras and one laptop FUBAR at the moment), so I ventured back into the workshop to take today’s picture. In it we have my bandaged fingers, the sliced glove, and sitting innocently in the background the plate I was drilling when the accident happened.
Once the hospital bill comes in, this could end up being one of the most expensive tin-can backpacking stoves ever built. Moral of the story? Always clamp down your workpiece.
Footnote: On the way back from school Monday, Katie told the story of another pupil who had been in the emergency unit for some stitches. She asked the guy sewing her up what was the worst thing he’d seen that day. He went on to tell her about my thumb…Copyright © 2011 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.