Episode #40: Sawing to a Line

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17 thoughts on “Episode #40: Sawing to a Line

  1. Fantastic! Sawing to the line has a whole bunch of new meanings now, all of which are much more obvious now that i’ve seen your examples. Now all I need to do is practice…

    Which leads me to my next question: I need to buy some lumber, i’m planning on making boxes to hold books, and have heard I should consider buying lumber from somewhere other than a big box store. Umm, I have no idea what to look for, or what I’d be looking at! Any tips would be appreciated, even though i’m sure to bring a friend who knows more than I do 😉



    • a quick suggestion would be to look for a hardwood dealer in your area, ask people on Lumberjocks.com , and just get out the phone book. Depending on where you live it may be easy to find a good local dealer, or you may end up buying wood online from bellforest or another online hardwood dealer. beware of the many hardwood flooring places out there, they will pop up on all of you searches. any questions shoot me an email .

    • There’s nothing wrong with the pine, poplar and oak (and occasionally soft maple) from the big box stores if you don’t mind paying their prices. It’s the same stuff you get from a hardwood lumber yard, it just happens to be already surfaced to S4S. I buy most of my pine from the big box stores because it works out cheaper for me vs. buying rough sawn stock from the hardwood dealer.

      The benefit of going to a hardwood lumber yard is variety, knowledge, and you can buy your stock unplanned. This means that you can squeeze more thickness from a board if you have the means to face it yourself (either with machines or with hand planes). Most yards can plane it for you but it costs extra; sometimes a lot extra. When you factor this in, the price may not be much different than the big box store.

      Try checking wood finder.com for places near you. Keep in mind that Woodfinder will only list places registered with them, so there are likely to be others not listed. Check with other woodworkers local to your area. Post a message on Sawmill Creek, Woodnet, or Woodcentral. Check with any local woodworking clubs or guilds.

      Buying rough sawn lumber from a mill or lumberyard does open up new choices in thickness and species if you have the ability to process that lumber. The big box lumber really isn’t that bad though for small quantities. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it. It is more expensive though because you are paying for the convenience.

  2. Great video Bob. Reminds me on a night of 100 cuts. repetition is always the way to consistency. But, we must all remember that perfect practice makes perfect performance. To many people push through brainless practice sessions without realizing that how they rehearse their cuts/techniques will be how they perform those techniques on their real work. As a classically trained musician I have been know that techniques should always be practiced when you are fresh and alert. This helps you focus all of you attention and effort on the technique at hand. Once you get tired you will not have the same level of concentration and the result will be that you train your body to do thing improperly. Resulting in bad habits and no one likes bad habits.

    That’s my dimes worth 🙂

    Keep up the good work Bob.

  3. Bob can you talk a bit about starting the cut. I notice you get right into it without chiseling a notch or using any scribe line to get the saw on the right track from the word go. I know too much saw set doesn’t help with a smooth start, but is there anything else you can mention? Thanks.

    • Hi Paul,
      Mostly it’s just practice and getting a feel for it. I like to tell people to try and saw without sawing. In other words, move the saw through the motions with the teeth barely scratching the surface, but without actually cutting. When you can saw without sawing, that’s the feeling you are looking for when starting the cut. Other things I do include starting at the near corner rather than straight across the end grain. Also, make sure your grip on the saw is very loose. You can’t start aggressively with a really loose grip. The saw will slide from your grip if it bites too much. The loose grip forces you to take the weight of the saw off of the wood to start the cut and saw without sawing. Like anything else, it just takes some practice.

      Some things that we see done to the saw to make it easier to start a cut include finer teeth at the toe, more rake at the toe or over the whole saw, adding fleam to the toe of a rip saw, and I’m sure there are others. I don’t really find any of these things necessary with just a little practice. They can be helpful if you don’t do a lot of hand sawing, but with practice they become unnecessary and only serve to slow the saw down. My dovetail saws have 0 degrees of rake and start just fine. I spend a lot of time with my hand saws though. I really believe that working with the big saws improves the cuts with the joinery saws. Once you get a feel for starting a 5-1/2 PPI rip saw in hard oak or ash, starting the dovetail or tenon saw is a piece of cake.

  4. Bob,

    Very interesting video. This holiday, I’ve been cutting a practice dovetail every morning. Improvement is slow but sure. My biggest challenge with sawing to the line is that my joinery backsaw for rip cuts has no set so you have to be dead accurate from the start. Any tips?

    Based on your plan for the year, I will look forward to more videos like this. It still seems to have a fair amount of editing, which makes for a more polished result, but, as far as I am concerned, isn’t essential. Hope you don’t let limited time for editing get in your way. As I understand it, The Woodwright’s Shop is filmed straight through. Think of it as analogous to going straight to assembly from the saw! 🙂


    • My biggest challenge with sawing to the line is that my joinery backsaw for rip cuts has no set so you have to be dead accurate from the start. Any tips?

      Add more set? Seriously. I never understood the fear of set on a saw. As long as the set is proper for the type of wood used and cut being made, there’s nothing wrong with set. I see more and more saw makers trying to use less and less set like it’s some kind of competition to see who can use the least. I really don’t see the advantage to it. A saw needs set, unless it is heavily taper ground like the old Disston Acme No-set models. Without a heavy taper grind, a saw with no set will be hard to correct (as you have found out) and will likely bind in the cut.

      I have a case dovetail saw that I made (the one I used in this video actually) that I originally filed without any set at all to see what the hype was all about. I hated it. It would bind in a very short dovetail cut in 3/4″ thick stock. Wax didn’t help. It also couldn’t be corrected if I started the cut a little bit off. I added a very small amount of set and it was like night and day. The saw cuts beautifully, tracks straight, still cuts a very narrow kerf that it doesn’t wobble in, and can be corrected if I start the cut a little off.

      Seriously, add a very small amount of set (like the lowest setting on the set, regardless of what the PPI of the saw is) and I’m sure you will have better results.

  5. Bob,

    Curious at the grip you used to hold your dovetail saw. Seems like you are grabbing the whole handle, Gents saw like, and not like a panel saw grip. just curious.

    Good info. thanks!


    • Not sure what you mean. I’m using the same three fingered grip I use for larger saws with my index finger pointing down the side of the saw.

      • @14:22 I thought I saw an over-hand grip as well. Then when I looked at it in slow motion, it appears as though you are using the handle conventionally. I think it is just the angle of the camera and perhaps the steep hang angle of your saw’s grip.

  6. Rob,
    Thank you for your efforts to help others “understand” basic but powerful concepts of woodworking. A teacher once told me, ” Don’t teach so they understand, teach so they can’t “misunderstand.” A well-crafted lesson. Thank you. Mark Hays P.S. Happy New Year to you and your family.

  7. Bob another great demonstration, I have struggled some my self self and still have a little problem but getting better. I do start off with some practice cuts on scrape wood before I start cutting and find it does help tremendously, especially if there has been a lapse since I did any cutting.

    Thanks for another fine demonstration !


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