Toolmaker Killed in Workshop Accident


Raney Nelson, 44, a woodworker, toolmaker and father, was killed Saturday by a piece of flying debris in his Indiana workshop.

While medical authorities are still working out the details, Hancock County Coroner Tammy Vangundy told the Greenfield (Ind.) Daily Reporter that Nelson was struck by several jagged pieces of wood that looked like they came from his workbench area.

According to Hancock County EMS reports, when medics arrived on the scene, they called the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office because it appeared that the workbench had “exploded,” though the Daily Reporter said no explosives or accelerants were found at the scene.

Though I saw Nelson briefly at Woodworking in America, the last time I got to talk with him at length was during the French Oak Roubo Project in Barnesville, Ga. We built our workbenches side-by-side during the week, and it is a bit unnerving to think that Raney was killed by his own workbench.

We all knew the moisture content in our benchtops was high, but I had no idea that a bench could rip itself apart to the point where it would become a porcupine of deadly projectiles. I suppose this is why the slab-top workbench was abandoned more than a century ago. It’s just too risky to human life.

Remember kids: Sjöbergs save lives. It’s not just a marketing slogan.

— Christopher Schwarz

The following is my photo tribute to Raney and his bench.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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98 Responses to Toolmaker Killed in Workshop Accident

  1. My condolences to his family.

  2. ajsikes says:

    This is awful news. My sympathies and condolences, Chris. And yikes about the benchtop blowing apart. Is it a case of moisture and wood movement, combined with…I’m trying to imagine what kind of normal use would make a slab of wood fly apart with enough force to be lethal.

  3. Ben St. John says:

    Uh….I thought it was December, not April. Am I that far gone?

  4. tman02 says:

    Must give you pause since your own workbench has been moving lately.
    Can you give us an explanation as to how such a bench can “explode”?

  5. gburbank says:

    A lighter may have been used in the above photograph. Natural gas (methane) leaves no trace of accelerants. but is highly combustable. Let us know if your bench “just blows itself apart”.

  6. John Rowe says:

    I’m confused. Raney posted (at least it’s marked as such) today at 4:43 on your Flat-out Bad Time blog post, Chris. Are timestamps not accurate?

  7. tpier says:

    So that means tools he has made are worth more, right? I am asking for a friend.

  8. Kim Johansen says:

    Are you serious? This seems bazaar.

    Sent from my iPhone


  9. acanthuscarver says:

    Does this mean I can get my band saw back? And I may have a few early Raney planes for sale for the right price…I mean, it’s such a tragic loss.

  10. The 144 Workshop says:

    Tammy Vangundy hasn’t been the coroner there since 2012, so something is up.

  11. fitz says:

    You know that bridge you’ve at times asked me about? It exploded.

  12. daltxguy says:

    Shame about the workbench.

  13. Darn! I was ready to start the FORP dead pool contest!

  14. lostartreader says:

    How awful. This is tragic. No matter exactly how or why it happened.

    I wonder if the bottom dried much faster than the top of the slab, maybe with assistance of a space heater, baseboard radiator, etc. Since movement of the slab is restrained by the joinery and stretchers, if the upper side of the top is still fairly wet, could the difference in shrinkage rates create enough stress to bow and snap it?

  15. Tim Ogden says:

    Phew. When I saw the headline I was worried Chris Vesper paid the ultimately price for not having indoor plumbing.

  16. “You should…” definitely tell us whether or not this is a joke, because I’m actually kind of shaken up by this.

    • lostartpress says:

      Well somehow Raney managed to respond to my post. So I suspect it is a comedy joke thing.

      • I couldn’t catch if it was a joke or somehow it was real. Didn’t have time to do any fact checking on my own and wasn’t sure if Raney’s comment was legit or not (you know, with this being the internet and all). The bench exploding itself seemed way beyond reality, but then again reality is, more often than not, more surprising than fiction.

        You got me on this. I won’t be unsubscribing, but wow, that was pretty crazy…

  17. I can’t believe that the natural wood movement caused this unfortunate guy’s death. Something else, more explosive, must have caused it.

    • tpier says:

      I bet it was oily rags that caused it. We will probably know more when the coroner sobers up.

      • Jason Weaver says:

        I too saw her DUI and resignation when I googled it, and that her predecessor was just arrested three days ago for shoplifting toy monster trucks! That Hancock County’s Coroner gig must really take a toll…

  18. nickbrak says:

    It seems that Chris decided to get even for the “it looks better without the damn finish” comment, or else he is sore about the glue joint opening up and Raney calling him on it. Didn’t Chuck Norris go through this a few years back? Maybe Raney needs to contact him about how to go about re-animating himself.

  19. I guess this shows me I’m a lot more gullible than I thought, but I saw this post by e-mail (sans comments) and was really upset believing it true. I haven’t quite reached the point of finding it funny yet, but I’m very relieved that Mr. Nelson is still with us. Might I request, on behalf of fellow loyal but gullible readers, that the death of a talented woodworker be off limits for future hoaxes?

    • texasbelliott says:

      Agreed, Jay.

      I’m still a bit shaken up, having met and corresponded with Raney in the past to think something so horrifying could’ve happened to him. I read the post out loud to my wife and I could see the wheels turning in her head. I’m sure I’ll be mother-henned for a few weeks.

    • Rick Lasita says:

      Or the death of anyone, woodworker or not

    • Victor Ghiga says:

      As a not-so-talented woodworker, I strongly object to the implications of the above request :D.

  20. I’m pretty sad about Raney. That said, always look for the silver lining, right? Guess the market is open for someone to move away from those wooden bodied planes that are priced WAY too high for any self respecting internet woodworking forum member into the elite mitre plane level. Respectability, here I come! Thanks for building that bench of death Raney!

  21. Rick Lasita says:

    Actually a pretty sick joke. Probably the last post I’ll read from Lost Art Press. Bye

    • I am in agreement with you. My patience has been exhausted with Lost aArt Press; and with Chris Schwarz in particular. There is a fantastic amount of good, historical information here, but the absolute childishness has worn me too thin to continue to be here.

      I believed this post to be try and had true concern for the man’s family and was going to ask my church to pray for the family. When I found out that it was all a “joke,” I felt like a fool. Call me crazy, but I just don’t find this kind of thing funny and don’t appreciate being made to feel the fool

      • Rick Lasita says:

        Thanks Brian. I met Raney at WIA, nice guy, good toolmaker. I guess if you are one of the really cool , inner circle woodworking guys, or wannabes, and both are obvious, then this story would be funny. Post something educational and worth reading, not this BS.

  22. dodies says:

    Did you guys see Tammy Vangundy’s mug shot? And I thought it was a fake name! Good one. heh

  23. psanow says:

    And here I was about to place an order with Raney. Sad really.

  24. Mark says:

    Poor taste….really.

  25. Bob Miller says:

    Brilliant post. The body of the text draws you in while confusing you and then the pictures and slogan give away that it was a joke. A+++ Dibs on his tools.

  26. Narayan says:

    Chris, it is fact that your post resulted in at least one death. Of the white coffee mug I dropped (in public) when reading the first few sentences.

    It was a nice mug. High moisture content–a double latte. It dried out real fast after it shattered. Kinda like Raney’s bench. Or Raney.

  27. Jon Quinn says:

    Brilliant? More like unstable. And it doesn’t look like it was a bench that blew up, but a bridge was destroyed in a kamikaze style attack, not just burned.

  28. Kevin says:

    It was because he didn’t alternate heartwood to sapwood, wasn’t it? I knew you guys should have ripped those slabs down to 2″ strips so you could do that…

  29. phhortress says:


  30. Subscription cancelled. This was too stupid and tasteless to risk any more such cr@p in my inbox. Dolt.

  31. TheCreativeHand says:

    Isn’t it obvious what happened? When Raney donned his smart trousers, he was overcome with a thick British accent and his Hoosier English vanished. The moment he stepped foot in the shop, wearing his smart trousers and speaking about his sudden urge for crumpets and tea, the FRENCH oak instantaneously reacted and it simply self destructed. What an unfortunate accident. Any time you purchase wood from France, especially in thick slabs, there should be a warning label that comes attached.

    This phenomenon of French reaction wood is a historical fact. The French used to sneak Bouvets (wooden hand planes) onto enemy ships which would act as a sort of explosive device to sink the ships. See the Wikipedia article about the “Combat du Bouvet et du Meteor” for pictures and more info.

    Seriously though, at the first moment of reading this post I was shocked and truly saddened. I’m glad it was just another one of Chris’s humorous ideas and not a real tragedy. I’m not sure which scarred me more deeply, this hoax, or the time he told us about the sea turtles mating ritual (with re-enactment! Seriously, I have it on film). You will have to ask him about that one. : )

  32. Dave Reedy says:

    Ok, now I don’t want the Schwarz bobblehead. Totally tasteless.

  33. Bob Miller says:

    Is one of the big perks of working for yourself being able to have a sense of humor in public? That alone would be worth leaving the mainstream job market. Plus you get to hang out with all the cool woodworking people.

  34. scribe6 says:

    Pity. Too bad he didn’t invest in the Sawstop Roubo workbench. It has a replaceable cartridge that prevents airborne smithereens in the event of moisture-related slab-top detonation.

    This didn’t have to happen.

  35. Robert Nimz says:

    I have enjoyed your posts for some time, but this was immature and rather repulsive.

  36. dfishercarver says:

    By the end I thought you must be joking, but I couldn’t believe you were actually joking. Still can’t.

  37. steveschafer says:

    It should be obvious by now that you need to get rid of your oak bench and replace it with something more practical. I suggest a Baltic birch torsion box filled with sand.

    I just happen to have an armored vehicle that can be used to safely dispose of the oak bench. I’ll be by this weekend to pick it up. Rest assured that the bench will be handled in as safe a manner as possible, although you might want to advise your neighbors to go see The Hobbit while we move the bench. Once the bench reaches the disposal facility, it will be converted into harmless pen blanks.

    • Jason Weaver says:


      While sand would work, it is a lost opportunity. Instead, fill it with silica pellets that will absorb the room’s excess moisture – reducing the risk of rust on your tools.

  38. hikerob says:

    Very droll and funny! I can believe some guys got bent out of shape because of some cool guy humor! Very funny! Porcupine of deadly projectiles from the bench of death. Ha ha ha ha ha.

  39. dndculp says:

    “Truth has never been an essential ingredient of viral content on the Internet. But in the stepped-up competition for readers, digital news sites are increasingly blurring the line between fact and fiction, and saying that it is all part of doing business in the rough-and-tumble world of online journalism.” From the NY Times 12/10/13
    How true, but it is still funny

  40. JMAW Works says:

    While not as livid as some of the other commenters, this was a cheap punch in the gut. I generally 95% like your sense of humor, and think this could have been funny if only you had clued us in that it wasn’t real from the get go, as it was I was genuinely pained by the headline, which should of at very least said “Toolmaker found Daed” to give a heads up that it might not be what it seemed. I think this is the equivalent of Roy’s sheep joke story, take a lesson.

  41. dzj9 says:

    When I read the title, I thought that the poor guy must’ve drowned.
    With all that soggy oak around, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

  42. Tadd Wilson says:

    I hear SawStop is coming out with a workbench that stops exploding when it comes in contact with skin.

  43. johncashman73 says:

    If you take a look over your shoulder, you should have a pretty good view of the line.

  44. Mike Siemsen says:

    I expect the explosion was caused by a microwave effect in the wet wood created by constant exposure to loud punk rock music. The steam pressure must have been enormous. Think about how your head feels when you listen to that stuff. I guess he should have taken that coffin when I offered it to him at Handworks.

    • gburbank says:

      If you can’t handle Minor Threat, stay outta the workshop.
      If your delicate sensibilities can’t handle the standard level of workshop humor,find another blog to follow. Clearly you haven’t paid any attention to Chris’s level of lowbrow comedy. It is why many of us bother to read the daily posts, anyway.
      If you can’t handle your reader’s lack of command of the english language, take up editing all replies posted here in your spare time ;<)

  45. rondennis303 says:

    So much for free speech. Perhaps there is something to be said for poor taste.

  46. Damien says:

    Tragic, a way to warn us workbench lovers of one of the many dangers of twerking at the workbench.

  47. Reinhardt says:

    Reblogged this on Anarchy Woodworking and commented:
    Please keep Raney’s family in your prayers today

  48. Doug Norris says:

    Chris, WAY too subtle a humour for guys who are half-baked on cocobolo fumes much of the time. Please correct the news before our tears corrode our (plane!) soles.

  49. tergenev says:

    I read it and thought, “This must be a joke, but it’s sure in poor taste.” I’m relieved to find I was right. I won’t stop reading, but I think the author might want to be careful about punking his readership during the holiday season. He’s going to end up hurting his business. But hey, it’s your company and you can do what you want. Over the years, anarchists have shown a tendency to publicly self destruct in a manner similar to the purported workbench. Working within social conventions can be so confining, after all.

  50. Mike Siemsen says:

    My grandfather told me me that he was killed in a similar incident in Northern Manitoba involving a railroad ties, a combine, and a girl of Scottisch ancestry.

  51. Clay Dowling says:

    And I’m in agreement that this was in rather poor taste. That could be personal stuff making me more sensitive to it at the moment though.

  52. Chris,
    While your blog has never exactly been known for good taste, this time you have definitely gone too far. Before you think of going too far again, you might want to consider the cautionary tale on this website:
    After that, “… nobody has ever gone too far again.”

    • jessamyn says:

      Fun fact: that story is on my website and I’m Chris’s cousin. But I’d never have the guts to troll my audience like this. Damn!

      • tpier says:

        I actually like this website because he is willing to try stuff like this post. Sure some people got bent out of shape by it, but you probably wouldn’t want to eat ribs with those folks anyways.

      • Interesting. I simply Googled the first line of the story by Don B. Your website came up first, so I used it.

  53. Didn’t Jonny Cash’s brother die in a table saw accident? I still would like to know how that could actually happen.

  54. isaaclayman says:

    I don’t think this is the first line of a good joke.

    “Raney Nelson, 44, a woodworker, toolmaker and father, was killed Saturday by a piece of flying debris in his Indiana workshop.”

    The post about the plane shattering after hitting the epoxy was funny, dead father with this delivery isn’t.

  55. When I first read this post I thought it was almost as dorky as the how to break in a book video. Now that I’ve read the comments with each outraged person it’s gotten funnier and funnier for me. Also, that how to break in a book thing works, I’ll never doubt you again Mr.Schwarz!

  56. Sean Hughto says:

    You’re in good company, Chris. Shades of Swift’s Modest Proposal or Well’s War of the Worlds.

  57. fubfcribermike says:

    Some of us scored higher on ‘reading comprehension’ than others. Please don’t change a thing.

  58. Now I’m really glad I didn’t join in on the Roubo build! I’d be dead for sure!

  59. Oh, and I almost forgot. “Rectum? It nearly killed ’em.”

  60. Niels Cosman says:

    God Speed Raney, Unicorn loves you.
    My only regret is that wood movement hasn’t destroyed this photo, maybe next spring.

  61. You should be ??????

    This is exactly why all LAP blogs go to SPAM,to allow sorting. Very few pearls among the swine!

  62. djmueller says:

    Jeez, I can’t believe this was a ruse. While I’ve come to appreciate the professionally presented content of the Lost Art Press blog, and often its wrapper of off-color humor, this is too far in to the macabre. I have two young sons who met Raney at the Lie-Nielson Toolsworks event this past year at PWM in Cincinnati. They became quite endeared to this fellow; he spent a good amount of time with them, explaining hand planes and his bench, and the boys even kept the shavings from their efforts. They were crushed at the news of Raney’s death. I’ll have to do some repair work to make this right. At least I’ll still be able to keep my promise of purchasing a Daed Toolworks plane before they leave the nest, provided some mishap of life doesn’t truly foul the gear-works. My suspicions came when no other woodworker from the Roubo Project posted condolences.

  63. Marty Backe says:

    The title drew me in, and the picture made me laugh. The comments are classic. Boy, some people take life way too seriously. Keep ’em coming Chris.

  64. rwyoung says:

    Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

    — Abraham Lincoln

  65. Mike Homer says:

    dude, your such a dick. just kidding, really though man, wow. hahah

  66. markhochstein says:

    So there I was…one hour into a six hour flight. I pulled out the iPad and fired up Pocket to get up to speed on my woodworking blogs. When I read this post I just sat there dumbfounded. I read it again and again. Hmmm, seems weird and the picture was certainly an odd choice and well, it was Chris. With not Internet access to confirm though, the next five hours I was left pondering and recalling my memories of Rainey. Of course as SOON as I was able I got online and came straight to this post to find the truth. Glad Rainey is still kicking, but as my father always taught me if you have to ask if you’ve gone too far you’ve already got your answer…but you already knew that.

  67. Jennifer Loe says:

    Why do people think that accidents only happen to someone else? One of the best reasons is a person may have worked safely for many years without an injury and truly believes that an accident will not happen. Well accidents can happen any time. I am suggesting you to use this application SafeKidZone, it’s a safety management device. Whenever you’re in trouble you can actually press that Panic Button and your exact GPS coordinates will be sent over to their system and they will know where you are. They also got what we call a Safety Profile wherein you can upload your recent picture and any information about you. Whenever there is a real emergency, they can route it over to the nearest 9-1-1 center based on your GPS location. So essentially, responders will take less time in getting there because they know where you are. And of course, they will know what you look like. Check this link:

  68. cmhawkins says:

    Chris, this was fucking stupid. I hope you don’t do anything this mean again. How could you think that it would be a good idea to make hundreds of people believe for a few seconds that a fellow woodworker was tragically killed? Not cool.

  69. People. He said a WORKBENCH exploded. A bench made of WOOD.

    Cut wood does not explode. Repeat after me. Cut wood does not explode. Cut wood does not explode. Cut wood does not explode. Cut wood does not explode.

    Trees can “explode.” Sorta.

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