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Or You Could Just Be More Careful…

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A couple of inventors are trying to design a utility knife that would retract the blade if it makes contact with skin.

I am a proud owner of a SawStop table saw.  For those of you not familiar with a SawStop, it is a revolutionary system that runs a small electrical current through the saw blade while it is running. When a change in electrical conductivity is detected, a proprietary brake cartridge fires, stopping the blade in .03 seconds and dropping it beneath the level of the table. Now, a couple of inventors want to apply similar technology to utility knives as well . . .

“The knife is about halfway through the assessment process. More than 1,200 members answered questions about the device to determine demand. Most people agreed it was an original idea, would appeal to both men and women and that they would purchase it for a gift for a parent.”

More than 38,000 people a year are injured by table saws every year. These may range from moderate cuts to full finger amputations. Injuries like these are obviously a big deal and can be life-altering. The SawStop system stops the blade so quickly that the developer has actually demonstrated the technology by touching a moving sawblade and receiving no more than a superficial scratch.

In the case of injuries from utility knives, I wasn’t able to find statistics that break knife injuries down to the level of the specific tool involved. Speaking from experience (I have cut myself with a utility knife on several occasions), many injuries go unreported as they are superficial and require no more than a band-aid or butterfly closure. Serious injuries may require stitches, and would therefor be a part of general knife injury statistics.

Of course, like any tool, a utility knife can be misused by a warped individual to harm innocent victims. The Lone Star College knife rampage was conducted with an Exacto style knife, though mercifully no one was killed. Others haven’t been so lucky. There’s no information yet how much something like this would add to the cost of a typical utility knife. Or how many people would pay the extra expense if the new safety system was available.

Discussion

8 responses to ‘Or You Could Just Be More Careful…

  1. I’ve been training my nine-year-old about knife handling with the Spyderco trainer. That seems to be working well. Put another way, you can’t fix stupid. And if you do find a way to create an end-run mother nature just makes a better stupid person.

  2. Worst cut I’ve received was from a linoleum-cutter utility knife- granted, I was abusing the tool and asking for it, but there’s a point at which the inconvenience isn’t worth the added safety, I feel.

  3. I love the idea of the sawstop, but I’m somewhat skeptical.

    I’ve seen several video demos of the product, and the thing that always stands out to me is how slowly the finger (or finger-substitute) is pressed into the blade. If someone is moving that slowly, they’re probably being cautious enough not to touch the blade in the first place.

    While 0.3 seconds may seem fast, it’s not really *that* fast when you consider how quickly a finger would normally move into the blade during an accident. I’d really like to see a higher speed demo.

    • I have accidentally tripped the break cartridge. I was cutting some bamboo that wasn’t as dry as I thought it was. There is an override for cutting wet wood or pressure treated lumber, I just neglected to turn off the sensor. I assure you that it is unbelievably fast. That and it will scare the ever-living crap out of you. Even if it had been my thumb, I would take a couple of stitches over the alternatives.
      I will post a pic of the fused blade and brake in the next couple of days. It is really an incredible technology.

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