Adam Savage Explains His Scary Hand Injury!

Adam talks through how he recently injured his hand in a scary accident involving his workshop lathe. It was an intense experience he’s still recovering from, and even talking about it is unsettling!

Comments (13)

13 thoughts on “Adam Savage Explains His Scary Hand Injury!

  1. Thanks for making this video Adam. As someone who has plunged a metal spatula into their hand to the bone and then used superglue to put it back together I have many of the same feelings you have expressed. Knowing first-aid is a real necessity among makers. I am ordering some butterfly closures now so I wont depend on superglue so much.

  2. I run a lathe quite a bit through my job.. You’re right about the automatic cognitive function of super awareness while running lathes.. it’s exactly as you said it. The times when you think it’s not as important of a procedure, or process is when it is most dangerous. Its unfortunate but the personal guard of a machine worker simply gets stronger with time, and experience. It’s so hard to help a new machinist understand that. Great video Adam.

  3. Adam: My shop is an ever-lovin’ mess. Hold on; let me show you… [pans around]

    Adam’s Shop: [looks exactly like the hemidemisemi-organised chaos it always looks to me]

    Me: I… see?

  4. Sympathy. Adam, you perfectly describe that hyperaware I’m-about-to-get-hurt-but-I-don’t-know-how-bad feeling. For me it involved a table saw and lots of exposed hand anatomy, though with no long-term repercussions except the luckiest scar in the world.

  5. When I was a teenager, a very long time ago, I not only let my guard down but also my I.Q. when I was disassembling my motor scooter. I emptied the gas tank and set it aside for a minute. I when decided that I needed to take a look inside to see if there was any oxidation, it was dark in the tank and I did not have a flashlight so I used the only source of light I had, a lighter. Once quick flash of flame and I had second degree burns on almost 50% of my right hand. It could have been worse, but it was still bad.

  6. Adam, thank you so much for sharing this with all of us! This is one of those things that should absolutely get talked about more, but is 110% terrifying. I have definitely had similar experiences, though thankfully with only minor injuries (both, as it so happened, in my college theater’s shop), the first was but a minor cut with a box cutter, one of those evil non-retractable ones, after cutting some cardboard to size, I simply misjudged and picked it up the wrong way around, was but a small cut on my finger, but I was very shaken. The second was much more of an adrenaline pumper, I got kickback from a ~ 2′ x 2′ piece of 3/4 ply, thankfully hit me in the upper hip, but for sure could have been much worse, and the slowing of time as it happened was crazy scary!

    Please know that you have my support in sharing stories like this, as you say this stuff happens, and I (and I’m sure others) could always use a reminder to be safe out there.

    I hope you have a rapid recovery, and cheers from one of your neighbor in the South Bay!

  7. Yeah, that chain of event sounds more than a little familiar. Most accidents I’ve had happened when I was on the tail end of a larger project and started to let my guard down…and was tired.

    Over the years I’ve learnt to stop whatever I’m doing whenever I start to feel frustrated or tired enough to start losing hand-eye-coordination. But sometimes the urge to do “just one more thing” and “just quickly finish this project” still gets the better of me, and that’s usually when the accidents happen.

    I couldn’t help and look at my latest substantial scar while listening to Adam go through the chain of events and remember the moments that led to it. I was working on a piece of pipe isolation, cutting it to a shape with a utility knife. I had worked up a system where I’d make a series of diagonal cuts right next to each other, and then chipped away the material. It was working great but it was late, I had been doing this all day and was feeling pretty exhausted, but wanted to finish this one last piece before finishing for the day. I was just starting the final piece when I thought to myself “I really need to stop after this one before I have an accident”. Then I started doing my cuts for the final time. I was on about the fourth or fifth cut when I realized I had changed my grip for some reason and my finger was right on the path of the blade, and just as the thought passed through my mind I could see the knife cutting through my thumb. It was a pretty sharp new blade, so it went through my finger, including my thumbnail in one swift motion.

    It’s now been a little over six months, the nail has fully healed, but since the cut went diagonally through a knuckle, the wound never lined up just right, and there’s a pretty obvious scar as a result. And every time I see that scar it reminds me that you usually realize you’re about to do something really stupid before it happens, but it’s the times when you feel like ignoring that realization that are really dangerous. Seeing the scar has made me stop and continue the next day several times this last six months and likely spared me more than a few more injuries. So sometimes visible scars can be useful, they’re a reminder to listen to that inner voice of reason.

  8. My Dad taught me long time ago that you never resemble a larger machine project the same day you disassemble. You get tired and make mistakes and rush because you want to get it done. I injured myself in other ways plenty of times though.

  9. Not sure how long ago this was, but if that injury start to swell or you start to lose mobility, please do go the doctor.

    I got a very similar injury on a vertical band saw, sliced down the side of my finger. I cleaned it with isopropanol, anti-biotic cream, used butterfly closures, and wrapped it. Seemed to be healing for about a week, at which point it started to hurt quite badly and swell again. I had to go to an orthopedist who prescribed oral antibiotics, apparently it got *really* infected and I could have permanently lost mobility in the finger.

    The doc said it was pretty stupid for me to have avoided getting stitches when it happened.

  10. Adam, thank you so much for making this video. I’m sure we can all relate to the embarrassment and shame of accidents and other events that trigger those responses. It is so important to acknowledge and share those feelings to let people know it is ok and a normal response. If it can happen to you, then it can happen to any of us. In fact, some of my favorite parts of your videos is when something doesn’t go right to see how you deal with it (though not to this extent!). The nailer/stapler rack was a good example of a “dumb” mistake we all make and was so relatable.

    Glad you are doing well and thanks again for everything.

  11. Based on Adam’s description of what he saw when he looked at his hand, I had a very similar cut once from a broken window. Saw the bone when bending the joint, jagged cut, fat and sinew. Similar reaction too, first reaction was “this is going to be expensive” (I was in the US), then a wave of “what an idiot” and “you just hurt something very important”.

    I went to the hospital though, and got a bit north of 20 stitches. Also lucky to avoid nerve damage, though it does stiffen on cold days now, six years later.

  12. My college’s theatre shop was where I had my major accident as well. Circular saw through the hand. They wouldn’t let us use official school shop tools because the performance was supposed to be 100% sophomore produced. That included proper table saw use so we had to make due with a circular saw and walking.

    Is it a common thing to have college theatre shops so understaffed and restrictive to the point of danger?

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