I think you may have hit on a revolutionary explanation here. After I think
about it, that is exactly what happens. When the impulse strikes....I flip
the big switch and a 3hp TEFC motor with an attached 10" blade jumps into
The body then totally relaxes and the mind focuses on making sawdust.
Sorry...couldn't resist but your explanation of "impulse sawing" conjures up
a pretty funny body motion technique in my minds-eye.
I have always practiced a similar technique, based on my observations of
concert violinists. My father was a concert violinist, and was heartbroken
when I showed no aptitude for the instrument. "Du bist ein dummkopf, Ernst!"
he would say to me. Only much later when I took German in college did I
realize it wasn't a compliment, but by that time Dad had been sent back to
Nuremberg to stand trial for war crimes and I couldn't make a proper
rejoinder without attracting the attention of the military censor.
But I digress. Although I had no aptitude for the violin, I learned that the
arm movements used in sawing were very similar to the arm movements used in
playing the violin. For simple cuts I copied the technique of Fritz
Kreisler; for more complex, the strokes of Mischa Elman or Jascha Heifitz. I
reserved the masterly style of Niccolς Paganini for double compound miters
and similar complex work. Sure, the other guys on the work sites all laughed
when they first watched me hold a 2x4 under my chin to make a cut, but the
laughter soon stopped when they saw perfect hip rafter bevel angles done
Alas, in my enthusiasm I was carried away one morning whilst sawing a double
blind concave fox tenon, and before I knew it my left arm lay severed on the
ground next to the perfectly executed cut. To this day I cannot hear either
the sound of a hand crosscut saw or one of Paganini's "Caprices" played on a
vintage Guarneri without shuddering and suffering shooting pains in the
That's a keeper!
Try a japanese pull saw and/or more teeth per inch (smaller bites
take less effort though it takes a little more time to do the
cut). It's often easier to pull someone foreward than to push
While you're at it, let the saw do the work. You only have to
provide the foreward/back force and not the "push the teeth into
the wood force - the latter causes the teeth to try and bite off
more than they can chew".
And that gets to the "angle of attack" thing.
(fig. 1) (fig. 2)
+----+ +--/ /
| | | / /
--------------+ |/ /
| / /
| / /|
----+----+----+ / / |
| | / / |
| | / / |
If you cut square to the board's face (fig. 1) you'll have
fewer teeth in contact with the wood than if you angle the
saw (fig. 2). More teeth in contact - smaller bites. You'll
also find that the blades less apt to wander as you cut
since the longer kerf acts as a better guide.
You're post does remind us that if we pay attention to our
tools AND our bodies we'll know when we're doing something
wrong. Now if I can just stop cutting on the "good side of
I agree strongly with your Japanese saw suggestion. I was thinking the same
thing when I read the original post - it sounds like the saw is not sharp.
Several years ago, I got one of those Japanese saws (250 mm crosscut if I
recall correctly). IMPRESSIVE SHARP!!!!! Cuts through purple heart and
cocobolo like my old saw did through pine. I had trouble controlling the saw
on the pull stroke and finally got tired of trying to figure it out. I went
back to my old saw and tried to sharpen the teeth something like scarysharp
with a couple of Arkansas stones and some wooden fixtures - don't try this
at home. It was a big time sink and I didn't get good results. Eureka - I
cut a normal saw handle out of some scrap walnut, drilled three holes
through the handle and blade. Some small machine screws hold it together. I
drilled a small hole near the tip so that I can hang the saw between uses.
Works like a bloody charm!!! Keep in mind that this saw is only about a foot
in length - so it is not going to impress the neighbors. This is my primary
hand saw and has been so for several years. It is a little weak in the rip
department - I need a better solution for that.
It took a little practice to get used to the saw in the push mode - the
blade is significantly more flexible. Early on, I had to concentrate on
keeping the saw in line with the effort, now it happens automatically. I
like that it cuts a narrow kerf - nothing special, but it seems frugal with
the expensive woods. And because less wood is being removed, the cut goes
I'm on my second blade and will get the third before too long. Replacement
blades are only about $8.00 or so at Woodcraft. So it wont cost you much to
give this suggestion a try. You can make the handle in less than an hour
with a coping saw and a round-over bit. Cutting the slit for the blade is
kind of tricky - I used an exacto razor saw. A little bit of the blade might
stick into the handle cutout - use a stone in the dremel tool to grind that
flush. You can quickly ruin a drill bit when drilling the holes - use a nail
with the point cut off. Position the blade in the handle and use a drill to
spin the cut-off nail against the hardened saw blade. This will "spot
anneal" the blade and make drilling easier.
So, Mike, I think if you use a good saw the resistance and unpredictable
stopping points will drop below the "noise threshold" and a smooth swing
will be easier to master. There is no need to apply downward pressure on a
saw - gravity provides plenty (and sometimes too much). I make sure that my
eye, shoulder and the kerf are all in the same plane. Because the saw is
small, only arm muscles are needed. If you find that you are gripping the
saw tightly - employ your favorite behavior modification technique, take a
short break then get back to it.
I hope some folks give this saw idea a try. It may not be the right thing
for everyone, but I'm confident that it is a good solution for many of us. I
need to remake my saw because the original was a little crude (it was only
an experiment). Not sure wher to get or how to fit the normal type saw blade
bolts that would be the appropriate size. When I do remake it, I'll probably
get one of those replacement rip blades too. So, how about it JOAT, got any
of those "inspiration images" for a nice saw handle?
My old saws are dusty, I'm not sure how much has accumulated because I
haven't touched them in many months.
Indeed, as though sawing should come as easily to the muscles of a
neophyte as a craftsman of decades standing. I have just spent a couple
of weeks in bursts hand ripping 8mm thick boards of the face of about 2m
of metric 1 1/2 X 2 with a panel cut hand saw. The first one was damned
hard work, required lots of rest stops and the saw strayed too close to
the cut line. The last one took almost no time and was cut so straight I
cursed at the amount of planing I had to do to get down to the line.
Whenever I have a load of tenons to cut I spend an evening practicing a
few days before hand.
To the OP: have you ever considered not tensing the rest of your body?
Get yourself lined up with the cut, get the saw started and then aim for
even, steady cuts. If you feel your body tensing will it to relax. If
your arm burns too much, stop and rest before continuing. Repeat until
you can cut a board dead square without breaking into a sweat. Then
choose another skill to master.
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