I'm starting to wonder how much of all the "objective", "technical
specs", "special manufacturing methods" really tells you about
how well a hand powered cutting tool will perform (and maybe
how long it will continue to perform that way in use over time)
RC 52 vs 54, induction hardened, bi-metal, laminated,
titatnium coated, chrome molly, special teeth grinds,
3/32nds vs "a full 1/8th inch thick!" - impressive
but is this info really significant when it comes to you
using the tool.
Graham Blackburn is, shall we say, "partial" to handtools
for many common woodworking functions. He points out
that the right choice of tool for a task, proper preparation
of a handtool, and proper use of it have a greater effect
on the end result than all the techno hype the marketing
departments come up with to get you to buy their stuff
rather than a competitor's.
Since it's saws we're discussing, let's use one as an
example. Handsaws have been around for a long time.
Before high carbon steel, before high speed steel and before
induction hardening came along, craftsman were
making pretty fine joinery using what today's
marketing departments would call "primitive" saws.
How'd those guys get by with crappy saws?
Let's skip technique, learned probably via a long
and riqorous apprenticeship, and focus on the tool.
Do you know the difference between the teeth on
a rip saw vs a cross cut saw vs a combination saw.-
the angles, the tpi and set - and why? What happens
when there's too much or too little set to the teeth?
How significant is it if a tooth or two is set out
too far or too little? Did you know that tuning
a "western/push" handsaw, assuming it isn't a
50 TPI, isn't all that hard - though it can be
a little time consuming if the tpi gets up above
20 or so? (I'm excluding japanese pull saws
because they are far more complicated than
Back to Graham Blackburn. In one of his
presentations, he takes a $14 gents saw
and tunes it. The set on this one is too
big. Too much set means a wider kerf,
more work, causes a tendency to wander
in the cut and leaves a bad surface behind.
A minute of tapping the teeth on a steel
plate with a small hammer, frequent
sighting down the blade, more taop and
that problem's taken care of.
A close look at the tips of the teeth
show that their not sharp points.. Clamp
the saw between two pieces of wood,
run a mill file over the tips until they're
all flat - just a little - and in a plane.
Next, a small triangular file, a few strokes
on the cutting direction side of every other
tooth, stroking at a slight angle to the long
axis of the saw blade, and the flat tip
becomes a sharp point. Down the blade he
goes, stroke, stroke, skip a tooth and repeat.
Turn the saw around and he does the other
Before removing the saw he checks for
any flat topped teeth that might have been
missed. A stroke of the file here and
there and he's done.
Next he grasps the saw handle - lightly,
index finger pointing down the side of
the blade, hand relaxed. The thumbnail
on the opposite hand is place on the
far edge of the board and the saw blade
is set against it - a short human fence.
Two or three light pulls on the saw
and then s push stroke - letting the
weight of the saw determine the depth
of cut of the saw pass, the hand merely
steering it. No white knuckles, no
forcing the teeth down into the cut
by white knuckling the handle - but
a relaxed, hold a baby chick, grip, the
heel of the hand doing the pushing.
The saw cuts a nice, clean straight
line almost effortlessly. Thumbnail,
set the saw, pull, pull and stroke.
another cut is made. No hand cramps,
no clenched teeth, no furrowed brow-
the hand and the saw do what they're
suppose to do - no sweat. It's all
tool prep and the right technique.
Great technique can compensate
for a less than perfect tool. No
expensive hand tool will compensate
for crappy technique.
Knowledge is power. Skill is
earned, not purchased. Patience
is a virtue. And "it's not the
meat but the motion".
ramble mode off