A good quality jigsaw like a Milwaukeed or Bosch, with a good quality
blade (IME Bosch are the best) could make this cut; I have used mine
to trim doors. But, for 2" thick maple I believe the circular saw
would be better suited. get a straightedge somewhat longer than the
70" length of your cut and clamp it to the slab so that it guides the
saw in a along your cutline. Since you imply that you have a smaller
than standard tablesaw at the moment, you probably would benefit from
making a more permanent saw guide. Google for "saw sled" and you
should find some good ideas. The classic source for the straight edge
is the factory edge of a piece of plywood.
Thank you for all the timely responses.
A circular saw using the factory edge of a piece of plywood
will be my choice.
As a hobbyist I choose my tools to balance entertainment
value with quality. Sending the top out for cutting and sanding
is mentioned in most if not all of the workbench books. This would
greatly diminish the entertainment value for me so is something
I would avoid.
I choose not to own a planer or jointer. These tools are certainly
available to a hobbyist but don't fit into my view of entertainment.
These two tools are also cheaper than the alternative hand planes
that I use (Veritas). If I bought a planer or jointer, I would use
them and miss out on the joy (zen) of using the hand planes.
As an example, the design calls for 1/2" stock for the bottom of the
tool try. Plywood is suggested for this. I choose to use regular 4/4
stock and hand plane it down to 1/2". I also now buy unsurfaced stock
except for one edge and hand plane the finsihed surface onto it.
Using hand planes is not a practical alternative because of the
time (and cost) involved but it has the most entertainment value for
me and the results are acceptable. I really enjoy using my hand planes
so they are usually the tool of choice for me. I'm sure other people could
certainly have a different view on this.
For me, a workbench is a special kind of project. Speed on this
project is never an issue where it might be if I were building
my kitchen cabinets. I wouldn't buy unsurfaced stock to do my
kitchen cabinets either. If I had the skill to use hand saws to trim the
slabs I would use them.
Skirts and end caps will be attached to the slabs so the edge produced
by the circular saw should be ready to go.
Thanks again for all the responses.
You are going to miss out on part of the Zen experience by using the
circular saw and straight edge... You might want to use a hand rip saw and
then plane the hand sawn edge straight and square and parallel to the other
edge. It's certainly doable! Pick up a couple nice panel saws (e.g., taper
ground and breasted crosscut saw, and taper ground rip saw) and go at it! It
certainly will add to the entertainment and satisfaction factors... and to
the enjoyment time!
I recently taught my 8 and 10 years old sons how to resaw boards with a hand
rip saw and then hand plane the sawn surfaces flat and parallel to the other
side. My 10 year old has made the comment "Wood is magic!" a number of times
as I've taught them how to use hand saws, coping saws, block planes, bench
planes, and various marking and layout tools to make things. I've even had
them do handcut dovetails and their first attempts were very good. I've got
them scribing sleepers to the concrete floor (above grade due to rock) in
the family room so we can put down insulation and an oak strip floor. Their
scribe work is so good I don't check it before cutting... the sleepers fit
fine the first time!
What really got them fired up was spending a few hours with Roy Underhill.
Prior to that they were of the opinion that you NEEDED all the big
stationary tools like Norm. (In hind-sight maybe they should have met Roy
before they met Norm??) I've got a good assortment of large stationary tools
and good quality hand tools. I've purposely been using hand tools more
lately (even on the renovation work I'm doing now) so that the boys see how
tasks can be accomplished with hand tools. It keeps them engaged by letting
them know that hand tools are NOT inferior tools, i.e., they understand that
just because I don't let them use the 3 HP table saw and 8" jointer doesn't
mean they cannot get to the same place with the hand rip saw and hand
That's ok for you young dogs, but those of us that are long of tooth, oh
well. . . . .
The only place I know to get the saw's you describe is on E-bay (which I
Very well said! I have a nice 10 pt Disston crosscut saw that does quite
well. It is often my tool of choice when cutting a piece of rough lumber to
length. I also have a 1940's vintage Crafstman taper ground saw that I
converted to a 10 pt rip saw. It was my Dad's saw. It will rip or cut cross
grain (shades of Tage Frid). I can't imagine a chairmaker not having such a
saw when cutting seat blanks.
Sounds like a good workbench would be helpful in planing the edges of those
I'll give the hand saws a try for the 2nd bench (maple). I'm near assembly on my
first bench (pine) and would like to get it together to help build the maple
The Veritas design has trestle legs with butt joints and truss rods. I changed
the butt joints to mortise and tenon. These I cut by hand. Doing the mortises by
hand is great fun. One of my reading sources said after the initial mortise cut
is started to just _wail_ away at it. Wail is what I did. Felt great and gave a
mortise. The tenons taught me that I could use better saws and better technique.
I'll need to practice my hand saw work before tackling the bench slabs but that
is something I would definitely like to do. Thanks for the good advice.
It would be helpful... It's kind of like the "How did they forge the first
hammer?" question. ;~)
You can use saw horses with some 90 degree fixtures clamped to them. The
fixture can be made of 1X stock with a diagonal brace. Clamp the board to
the fixture. The weight of the board is born by the saw horse and the
fixture serves to hold the board on edge. It will probably be a little low
if you have 24" high saw horses so you may want to either put the horses up
on blocks or make some taller saw horses.
I often do skill building exercises with my boys, e.g., sawing to a line.
When I taught a handcut dovetail class at my club recently there were
dramatic improvements from the practice boards to the boards for the pencil
boxes. The student's eyes lit up just like my boys eyes do when they develop
a new skill. It's cool!
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