Fair Woodworking

June 27, 2012

Starting a square cut with a hand saw

Filed under: Skill development — fairwoodworking @ 8:30 pm

The first difficult task of cutting a dovetail seems to be cutting the dovetail…

Recently while talking to a friend, he mentioned that trying to start the cut while keeping it square was giving him trouble.  It’s 4 very VERY  long days drive to his house, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to try making my own video. Yes I know I wrote about this before, but I think seeing it in action may make it a little clearer.

Always the perfectionist, you will be glad to know that I opted to use my blackberry to film this, and my left hand is playing the role of tripod.

I’ve never tried to cut (with precision) with only one hand while filming with the other before, and you will see at the end of the clip that this was my 3rd take.

I’ll try to talk through what is happening. The saw is tipped slightly forward so that it will cut first into the back of the board. As soon as the kerf is started, I start tilting back on the saw. The goal is that the kerf at the back deepen as little as possible until the kerf has extended the thickness of the board. The reflection is all I am using to determine square. If the refection of the board is in line with the board, then the saw is square to the board. As I start you can see that I wobble a little. That is me steering as I start the kerf. Once it is started, it is as square as it’s going to get. Now I focus on not letting the saw wobble through the sawing motion. Less wobble = straighter cut.

If you find your saw cuts wander you really need to try this trick. Chances are that at some point in the motion, you are pushing the saw either to the left or to the right. It will instantly become obvious if you are watching the reflection. If the reflection jumps, your saw will wander as well.

Final note, I’m a big believer in keeping the saw totally level when finishing this kind of cut. In the video I clearly stay tilted forward a little. It’s hard to say if I always cut like this or if it was the unusual posture, and distraction of filming. Either way, in my opinion, I should have had the saw more level while cutting.




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