Taking Up the Challenge

Earlier I posed the question “what would I need to do–what skills would I need to develop–to allow me to get rid of my radial arm saw?”  This beast of a machine serves one purpose in my shop: it makes a nice, clean crosscut.  When making furniture, that’s an important result to aim for, but artisans have been making clean and accurate crosscuts for centuries, and with much simpler tooling that didn’t take up as much space as a horse. 

So here’s what I came up with.  Over the next six months, I’m resolving to crosscut exclusively by hand.  I own a few crosscut hand saws, and I know how to sharpen them. Along the way, I’ll build a pair of saw benches to get the work down to the right height, and I’ll build a better saw vise to speed up sharpening.  I’ll experiment with more saws: coarser teeth to go faster, finer teeth to get closer to a final finish with less planing of end grain.  With six months of focused, intentional practice, I should get pretty good at it.

I’ll start here by recording a baseline of my skills. 

sawing to the line
Here I’m about 60% through a crosscut in a hard maple board. I’ve come close to sawing to the line, but there’s definitely room to grow.
a little ragged

I'm a couple of degrees away from my line by the end of the cut, and I was a couple of degrees off from plumb. Those inaccuracies left me with some planing to do to get a nice finished surface.

nearly finished surface

Since this will be the tail board for blind dovetails, I didn't need the edge grain to be perfect, so there are a few marks from the saw remaining.

I suspect the saw benches will make a significant difference.  I’ll get to those once I clear out a backlog of other projects.

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