That was the viewpoint of astute reader Martin G., who wrote in response to my blog on the benefits of 24-inch framing vs. 16-inch framing. I was so jazzed about finding a photo with 2-by-6 framing lumber (which goes along with 24-inch-on-center framing) that I failed to notice the saw in the background.
But Martin noticed: The guard that should have been covering the bottom of the blade was either missing or had been pinned back. This is a common and risky practice among framing carpenters, and among people working on some Habitat for Humanity home sites Martin has been involved with.
So why would the guard be removed? It can sometimes get in the way, especially when making mitered cuts. To swing it back out of the way when making a cut, a carpenter keeps one hand on the saw handle and uses the other hand to pull back the guard.
But this puts the carpenter’s fingers really, really close to a very dangerous blade. And the hand pulling the blade back (usually the left hand) should be used to steady the piece of lumber, far away from the blade. So some carpenters just move the guard permanently out of the way, which then exposes the blade all the time.
So this is a good time to mention a new device, called The Original 3rd Hand, which was developed by two Camarillo contractors, Jim Larkin and Jack Tracy. By attaching the $50 device to a "worm drive" circular saw (which is the type of saw used by professional carpenters here on the West Coast), the blade guard can be temporarily moved out the way using the thumb of the hand holding the saw, leaving the other hand for holding the wood. Thus, three hands!
You can see a video of the Original 3rd Hand at work on the Fine Homebuilding website. Also, I saw the Original 3rd Hand win new product of the year honors last year at the Remodeling Show in Las Vegas.