Hand saw techniques (depth stop, guides, etc) - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 17 Old 02-23-2013, 02:58 PM Thread Starter
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Lightbulb Hand saw techniques (depth stop, guides, etc)

I'm a big baby. I own two circular saws, a table saw, a chop saw (not the sliding kind, unfortunately), and a jig saw. I use them all, but for quick, small cuts, it usually seems like a lot less work to grab my hand dovetail saw or longer carpenter's hand crosscut saw.

My shop doesn't have a ton of space, so I keep the power tools on shelves most of the time. Getting them down and setting them up is a bit of work. Hand saws are light, and unless I have a lot of material to cut, they're my first choice. It helps that they are quiet and won't disturb anyone else in the house. I like to work late in the evenings sometimes and the kids are often asleep.

Clearly I don't do production work.

Anyway, I've been reading about hand saw technique. There is a lot of skill involved. I have very little of it. So I've been cheating. Let's see... Various tricks I've read about or used for crosscutting:

- knuckle guide - I place my knuckle against the saw and attempt to use it as a guide as I cut. Not very effective, usually, but if I go slow I can get good results

- clamped wood guide - for longer cuts I take a piece of straight wood and clamp it on my cut line. Just like using a knuckle, but I can concentrate on sawing instead of holding my knuckle steady. This is similar to using a clamped guide with a circular saw. Seems pretty effective, and all I need is a nice straight piece of wood. Can be reused without modification.

- L shaped guide - like the clamped guide, but you just slide it onto the wood you are cutting and hold it in place by hand while cutting.

- knife wall - I just watched Paul Sellers do this in a video today. Cut a deep knife line, then chisel up to the line so there is a nice clean wall. This way no guide is necessary. Possibly slower than clamping, depending on the length of the cut (repeated chisel cuts).

Ok... What about depth management (like for dovetails, dados, cuts to aid in material removal while chiseling, etc):

- eyeball it - this is difficult for me. The sawdust obscures the cut line, my blade is not perfectly flat while cutting, so I usually undershoot the mark or overshoot it. Lots of skill and practice involved. Difficulty increases as the length of the cut increases.

- depth guide clamped to the saw - basically a C clamp holding a strip of wood to the saw. alternative method is a piece of wood fixed with double sided tape. Seems like it works best if the piece of wood is cut precisely as wide as the depth of the cut. That seems like a lot of work because you'll need a new piece of wood for each cut. But maybe you can use a thin piece and lock it in place with the C clamp, allowing reuse for different depths. I haven't tried this yet. Seems interesting.

- custom saws with depth guide attachments etc - seems like overkill to me. I saw an article from a magazine in 1981 where they recommended drilling holes in a saw for mounting sliding depth guides. I've also seen Japanese dovetail saws with jigs attached from the factory.

Did I miss anything? Do you have a favorite tip or trick?
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post #2 of 17 Old 02-23-2013, 03:34 PM
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this idea just came to mind: how about rigging up some sort of clamping thing on the saw itself to keep the teeth from going too deep?
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post #3 of 17 Old 02-23-2013, 03:39 PM
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I'm just really beginning my hand tool journey. I used the knife wall trick for cutting the tenons on the saw bench I'm building (hope to have it finished tomorrow) It works great. As for depth, use a marking gauge and scribe a line where you want to stop. As for over/under cutting depth, slow down as you approach your depth and pay more attention to the level of the saw. As for guides for keeping straigh cuts, I find even this early on I don't need them. It's more about technique; keeping your arm and saw in line and standing a little staggered. Take a few cuts and it becomes second nature.

Chris Schwarz was on Roy Underhills show doing an explanation of 3 classes of saw cuts. Very helpful.

That bowl was perfect right up until that last cut...
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post #4 of 17 Old 02-23-2013, 06:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sawdustfactory View Post
As for depth, use a marking gauge and scribe a line where you want to stop. As for over/under cutting depth, slow down as you approach your depth and pay more attention to the level of the saw.
+1 This is the biggest thing you can do with your cuts, slow down - you get into a hurry and it's very easy to over cut your depth.

I wouldn't clamp anything to your saw or God forbid drill holes in the blade for a stop. Anything clamped to a saw is going to throw balance off and really mess up your stroke. I personally think that drilling a hole in a saw is as bad a sin as drilling a hole in a plane.

As for keeping angles correct, I've never used any kind of guides and never will. Don't watch the teeth of the saw moving through the wood, instead, watch where you want the cut to go. Similar to learning to drive, you don't watch the road 20 feet in front of the car or you will be swerving back and forth in the road, rather, watch much further down the road and you will be driving straight.

If you have problems stopping a cut on your marks, put your thumb or finger right on your stopping mark, it will make you slow down and it will only take one cut finger to correct your technique.

"Good Behavior is the last refuge of mediocrity" -- Henry S. Haskins
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post #5 of 17 Old 02-23-2013, 10:41 PM Thread Starter
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Chris has some interesting hand saw rules: http://www.popularwoodworking.com/wo...log/how-to-saw

This one looks useful:
9. Lifting the saw a tad on the return stroke clears your line of sawdust.

I scribed my depth lines and tried to slow down, but I found the saw strokes removed unpredictable amounts of material. Also, i found I was frequently frustrated by the saw being not level, despite my best efforts. Maybe these are just experience things.
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post #6 of 17 Old 02-23-2013, 11:47 PM
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For all of them... practice.

When making long rip cuts, don't worry about whether the cut is straight. That's what a jointer is for... to clean up after you've make your slightly ragged cut with a saw. When making cross cuts, that's what a shooting board is for. That said, I've watched people make four foot rip cuts right on the line, with no need to clean up the cut. I may have said some rude things about their parentage when they were done, but I don't think anyone heard me.

For depth of cut, it really is practice: I'm just starting to get good at it. A good dovetail/gents/carcase saw makes it a lot easier to keep the saw level, I find. With a standard panel saw, I find it almost impossible.
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post #7 of 17 Old 02-24-2013, 12:41 AM
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Come to think of it, I have and use half a dozen hand saws of one kind or another. All of them for carefully removing chunks of wood from carvings. I go like Hello until I am nearing the cutlines when/then I take one cut at a time, clear the slot and measure if need be. Tomorrow, a bunch of carvings go to the dump = missed the cuts, can't save the wood, it's all over.

I own a real General Tools depth gauge. I use the tang that sticks out of the end of a caliper as well.
Last stroke is a pull-cut to try to clear the slot of crumbs as best I can.
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post #8 of 17 Old 02-24-2013, 09:02 AM
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Practice practice practice. Blow the sawdust every second or third stroke, make a saw hook. The saw hook is really helpful for crosscuts and miters. Jiggery is important in sawing too. But in the end, all the jiggery in the world will not replace practice practice practice. Don't worry about failing. And learn how to sharpen if you don't already know. That way you can make your saw cut how you want and fix any potential issues of drift, dullness, etc. Did I mention the practice aspect? It's important.
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post #9 of 17 Old 02-25-2013, 11:37 AM Thread Starter
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When you mentioned "saw hook", it made me remember the term "bench hook" and "shooting board". I think making a few of those will solve a lot of problems.

I will of course practice.

As for saw sharpening, I've read about it. I need to buy the files, jointers, and saw sets. It's on my to do list, for sure.
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post #10 of 17 Old 02-25-2013, 12:34 PM
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I've had an easier time learning how to hand plane well than hand saw well, I'd think roughing it with the saw and finishing with a plane would be a good way to go.
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post #11 of 17 Old 02-25-2013, 02:56 PM
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Hooks are a must but for cutting stops such as for a sliding dovetail it's hard to beat a staircase saw.



I've been trying to get my hands on a Bishop adjustable saw for some time now though I suspect it would be rather lacking of performance, just haven't found one to test that out yet.

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post #12 of 17 Old 02-26-2013, 11:07 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I've seen staircase saws. Very specialized. Fixed depth. I see the utility if you had a number of saws with different depths, or modified designs to favor the depth of the saws you own.

I'm into developing skill. I also enjoy seeing machines that require less skill to operate. There will always be room for innovation and specialization in hand tool design.
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post #13 of 17 Old 02-26-2013, 11:19 AM
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Hmm... Jean may be onto the next hand tool revival, just get Chris Schwartz to write about it and we'll all have drawers full of number 1-8 staircase saws and TFWW will have new $400 hand ground saws with pewter split nuts.
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post #14 of 17 Old 02-26-2013, 11:45 AM
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yeah, why not something like this for dados and rabbets and maybe even dovetails?
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post #15 of 17 Old 02-26-2013, 12:17 PM
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Hot damn! I thought for a second that TFWW actually had a kit when you posted that! I googled and it looks like some guys selling those kits smallscale?

For dados are you thinking a fat blade or two thin blades with rods between and then you chisel or rout out the center? I've envisioning a saw version of a plow plane with a blade on the skate...
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post #16 of 17 Old 02-26-2013, 12:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gilgaron View Post
Hot damn! I thought for a second that TFWW actually had a kit when you posted that! I googled and it looks like some guys selling those kits smallscale?

For dados are you thinking a fat blade or two thin blades with rods between and then you chisel or rout out the center? I've envisioning a saw version of a plow plane with a blade on the skate...
Something really simple ... I was thinking I could do one side at a time, holding it against a board used as a fence to delineate the edges, and then use a chisel to clean out the center.
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post #17 of 17 Old 02-26-2013, 02:17 PM
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The side by side isn't new idea, it's been done varying degrees of success. The problem is it becomes very difficult to manage / operate two saw plates simultaneously.

The exacting tolerances of the saw plate's sharpening and set in order to keep them from binding is astronomical.
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