Fair Woodworking

September 10, 2016

The Man in the Mirror

Short story, I’m a lame techno geek, and I’m too easily obsessed with things that probably were intended to just be fun.

See? That wasn’t so painful?

Ok. Long story?

Hand tool skill is the culmination of many finer, smaller skills that can really be a trick to pull together. As a beginner I was just happy if I didn’t cut myself. As you improve, your internal skill monologue grows, and good motions are obvious in a sea of bad motions. That is if you can remove yourself from the task at hand and watch yourself working. Unfortunately, that level of self awareness is pretty much impossible so you really only have two options. Get someone as skilled as you or better to watch you work, or film yourself with your handy digital camera as God intended.

For the past week I’ve been practicing cutting fast dovetails to compete in the Handtool Olympics at the upcoming Popular Woodworking in America, and I’ve found right off the bat it was less about working fast as it was removing every best practice that was not absolutely necessary.

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No Marking gauge

No dividers

No Dovetail markers

Marking knives are a no, and…

My beloved shallow rebate on the back of the tails?

Gone.

Heck! Tails first is even out the window since I’m pretty sure pins first is faster.

All I’m left with is a Dovetail saw (no crosscut saw), a fret saw, one chisel, a pencil and a mallet.

I feel like such a minimalist!!!

Once I got comfortable, I was sure I could be faster, so I tried to work quicker, and wouldn’t you know it? My times got slower… How could that be?

What I’m coming to realize is that speed is not about rushing so much as it is about removing the slow bits. The hesitations, the missteps. When you make a mistake or are inefficient with your movements the penalty is wasted time, and possibly the need to fix a mistake.

So I got out my camera and shot this little video. It’s pretty easy to see where I’m loosing time.

How I handle the wood, keeping track of what side is the inside, and what is the show side. – If you always place each piece down exactly how you will need it, you don’t have to rearrange later.

Hesitations and lurches with the saw. – I’d thought my sawing skills were pretty solid, and they aren’t really that bad, but it still isn’t a true extension of my arm.

Transferring the pins to the tails. – What a mess, I really need to relax at this point.

How I handle the chisel. – I’m actually pretty happy with it. I feel I’ve really improved in that part although I totally blasted past the base line on one spot of the tail board.

Anyways, feel free to have a look and see if you can pick out some of the flaws in my actions, then chuckle to yourself when you see that I split the pin board.

Ah well. It happens some times.

Who would have thought I’d have so much fun practicing?

 

If you want to see how the pros do it, watch Mike Siemsen go head to head with Frank Klausz.

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1 Comment

  1. Great job ham hands! And best of luck representing the Maple Leaf at WIA!

    Comment by holleywoodshop — September 11, 2016 @ 3:18 pm


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