It’s doubtful woodworkers would use a surgeon’s scalpel to cut a board, but apparently doctors might make use of something you have lying around the shop in a pinch.

Although I confess I’m not as skilled as most (eh, better make that any) of our regular readers, my occasional foray into a home improvement projects has shown me the value of a good pair of pliers. Woodworkers throughout the country probably regularly use the tool to get a grip during both the manufacturing and installation process for many wood products.

I recently received an interesting press release about an Irwin Industrial Tools contest where users of the company’s Vise-Grip locking pliers wrote about unusual ways they’ve used the tool. Visitors to Irwin’s site voted on the testimonials, and the winner was a doctor who used the pliers to remove infected bolts from a patient’s spine during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to the release, Dr. Bryan Fox, an orthopedic surgeon for the United States Navy, needed to perform emergency spinal surgery on a soldier who had a combination of pins and rods that had been implanted in an infected spine. Dr. Fox didn’t have access to specialized tools needed for the operation, so he sterilized a pair of locking pliers and used them for removing the rods and screws, effectively saving the soldier’s life.

Pictured left to right: Jeff Hammond, NASCAR commentator; Dr. Bryan Fox; and Jamie McMurray, driver of the #26 Roush Fenway Ford, posing in front of the custom chopper Dr. Fox won in the contest.

Paul Schraps of San Rafael, CA won second place for his story about using pliers to hold his truck’s exhaust system in place while driving his mother to receive cancer treatments in Mexico. According to the release, the pliers are still there holding Schraps’ system in place.

Those are some pretty far out tool stories, and it got me wondering if any readers had any to share? Have you ever cleaned off the bandsaw and cut the Thanksgiving turkey when your electric cutter went on the fritz? Or have you used any unusual tools to accomplish your woodworking goals?

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