Popular Woodworking 2003-10 № 136, страница 104

Popular Woodworking 2003-10 № 136, страница 104

Out of the Woodwork

The Haunted Jointer

The same accident twice: Is it urban myth or a very strange fact?

Mark is a customer who talks more than he buys at the hardwood supply company I run. But I never know when one customer will send a buyer my way, so I always allow Mark to use his daily quota of words on me. A few years ago, Mark's visit paid off.

"Say, I know where you can get yourself a free jointer," he said one day.

"Oh yeah?" I responded cautiously.

"Sixteen inch. It's sitting in a parking lot next to where the old Dundee Boat Co. used to be. They dragged it out of the building before it was torn down. It's been sitting there for more than a year. I think the owner would be glad to see it fixed up and used."

"That's nice. I'll keep it in mind," I said.

Mark leaned forward, lowered his voice and said, "It has a cylindrical head."

I whispered back, "I'll take it."

Most old jointers have square heads. Accidentally stick your finger in one of those and it will grab and pull your entire arm in before you know what happened. Cylindrical heads only remove a salami slice of your finger at a time. Meet any 50 woodworkers and check their hands. You'll see several reasons for not using tools with square heads.

We arranged to meet the owner, Frank, the following Saturday. Mark gently reminded the elderly gentleman of the condition of the jointer and what a worthy person I am. Mark explained how the jointer would have a new life, perhaps even a classy paint job, maybe with a racing stripe. We shook hands on the deal, then I followed Mark and his dad to the site of the demolished factory in my '67 Dodge flatbed.

In the far corner of the lot stood the massive, rusted machine with the pitted table and the wonderful cylindrical head.

As we loaded the truck, Mark filled me in on the jointer's venerable history.

"She was bought new by the Hornell Furniture Co.," he said. "Frank bought her

when they went out of business in the '40s. They kept the jointer on the second floor but before they went out of business the building was in such bad shape it fell through to the first floor and they set her back up right there where it stayed until they went out of business. It was too big to move.

"After Frank bought it he really didn't use it much," Mark continued. "He was afraid of it. One of his employees accidentally removed his thumb with it. It was a strange accident. The company had a committee that reviewed accidents and recommended ways of preventing them. When the employee recovered, the safety committee gathered around the jointer and the employee demonstrated what he was doing when the accident happened. In the process, he cut his other thumb off. Frank just shut off the machine and stored lumber on it."

"That's really strange," I said. "I heard of an identical accident happening at the furniture company near Dansville a few years ago except it was with a table saw."

"I swear it's true, Pete. Frank told me."

"I believe it, Mark. But you have to admit

by Peter Sieling

Peter Sieling runs Garreson Lumber Co., a small cabinetmaking hardwood supply firm in Bath, N.Y.

it is a curious coincidence," I said as I thanked Mark and his father for their help and left.

But that story - did it actually happen? Did my jointer enter into the annals of American Folklore or is it a fact? I probably will never know. How many other tools across the country have cut off two thumbs or fingers or hands? I've heard the story a couple of times since then and even ran across it in a book written in the 1940s.

A few years after this, an older gentleman shuffled in to buy a piece of oak for a shelf. He didn't turn it this way and that or sight down the board the way inexperienced woodworkers do. He just tucked the board under his arm like a man who's been around lumber most of his life. When he opened his wallet, I noticed half his thumb was missing. He held the wallet in the other hand oddly, as if his second thumb was missing, but he mostly kept his hands in his pockets.

As we chatted I learned that he worked at the Hornell Furniture Co. when he was younger. I casually led him back to the jointer and asked if he is familiar with the fence system, which I never quite figured out. He looked it over without recognition. "Nope," he said. I didn't dare ask if he knew the jointer's story. You simply can't ask a stranger personal questions. PW

104 Popular Woodworking October 2003

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