I am currently unable to use a power saw. Blame Ken Jennings.

I am currently unable to use a power saw. Blame Ken Jennings.

Jennings, the Jeopardy! champ, wrote a book called Because I Said So!, in which he investigates the validity of common myths and stock parental warnings. ("You'll put your eye out with that thing.")

In the book, he mentions the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a government agency that collects information on accidents. I decided to check it out.

It's a great resource if you want to know how many people injure themselves by, say, running with scissors every year.

Most of it is dry statistics, but I did stumble across one study that included a hair-raising collection of stories about how people hurt themselves on saws. It was fascinating, even though I cringed through most of it.

Here's a typical story: "I was cutting trim with a neighbor for a new storm door on the back porch…The saw just (dragged) the piece of wood through the saw and my hand got caught on it somehow. It was so fast. I felt a little burn and I thought I just nicked myself. I held my hand up and I noticed that the thumb and little finger of my left hand were gone."

Every time I read that, I check my left hand, just to make sure the fingers are all there.

There are dozens of those stories, many with common elements. So if you are going to use a power saw (these were all table saws, which have a spinning blade sticking up out of a platform, like a shark breaking the surface of the ocean), here are some precautions:

Get married. I think half of the stories end with, "My wife drove me to the hospital." (Only a couple of stories involve a woman being injured by a saw.) Lock up the cat. In one sad tale, a guy relates that as he was cutting a piece of wood, his cat jumped onto the saw table. He saved the cat but cut his hand on the blade. Beware of "ripping" and "kickback." Ripping is when you reduce a board's width by cutting it lengthwise. Kickback is when the wood suddenly jerks. Many of the accidents mention both things.

Although the tales are brief, some tough-guy posing comes through. One man describes cutting his fingers, then calmly wrapping the wound in a towel, turning off the lights and heading upstairs to tell his wife he needed a ride to the hospital.

Others are more self-reflective.

"I did everything wrong," one saw-casualty story begins.

He was tired. He removed the safety guard from the blade because it was in the way. He sliced open his hand: "It was stupidity on my part, and I feel as though I should have stupid stamped on my forehead."

Before I operate a saw again, I'm going to have "be careful" stamped on mine.

-Joe Blundo's column So to Speak appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. Visit his blog at Dispatch.com