It’s been nearly five months since I committed to become a better crosscut sawyer, and it’s past time for me to post some details on my progress. The photo above shows the results of those months of practice: I’ve improved in my ability to saw squarely in the vertical. It also shows off the surface left behind by the 12pt crosscut saw I purchased last fall. I’ve been working mostly in hard maple the past several months, and I find this saw to be a pleasing compromise between a faster cut and a cleaner cut.
One technique that’s helped quite a bit overall is the “reflection” trick. Several people have discussed it, but the gist of the idea is that with a sufficiently reflective saw plate, the reflection of the board should extend a straight line from the reflected arris. It’s easier to see than to describe.
The photo above demonstrates the reflection.
I haven’t built a saw bench yet, but I still plan to. I’ve been using whatever low surface is available, and there are pros and cons to that approach. Using a full-length hand saw at a low height, you run the risk of stabbing the tip of the saw directly into the floor. This might explain Chris Schwarz’s advocacy of the 20″ panel saw. I happened to have a user-grade 26″ Disston that was clean along the first 20″, but severely pitted beyond that mark. I cut it down to 20″ and sharpened it. I’ll share my results in a future post.
Even before all of this practice, I was pleased with the results I was getting. No, my crosscuts weren’t as clean and precise as the radial arm saw produced, but that’s okay. I knew I would improve, and until I did, I knew I could clean up with a block plane. I took the leap a few months ago by getting rid of the radial arm saw and the platform it sat on. The 15 square feet of shop space I got back was well worth the change in my methods of work.