Friday, 7 November 2008

Need help with the basics - Updated...

Confronting my dilemma as to why my dovetail saw cuts were bowing half way down I ended up spending the afternoon studying a few videos on the web as well as my saw movements. Both comments left by Luke and 197 were a big help in solving the problem for me, at least I think its solved.

I first watched the video that 197 suggested. In it, Charles Neil (you gotta' love that guy) made a comment about half way through about how some people tend to only be able to work at only one angle when sawing, and that perked up my ears. I have been mounting the tail pieces in the vice straight up and trying to modify my swing to the different angles for each cut.

I then took Luke's advice about taking some photos of myself, which, on the one hand was a disaster, but on the other pointed out what I should be looking at. 

The disaster of the photo session with myself is rather embarrassing. It was like a Keystone Cop movie. I was a professional photographer for over 30 years and I currently teach digital graphics at a community college. You would think I would know the in's and out's of working a digital camera, wouldn't you? Well it seems I don't. I set the stupid thing for a 10 second delay, ran around into position, picked up the saw, reached over and hit the shutter button, then tried to set up the saw - click. I set the stupid thing for a 10 second delay, ran around into position, picked up the saw, reached over and hit the shutter button, then tried to set up the saw - click. I went through this at least 10 times and have at least that many photos of myself in every position one can be in holding a saw except the one that shows me my alignment. What I did discover through that disaster, though, was that I was standing way too close to the wood.

I then took my thoughts inside and started to view videos about cutting dovetails that I had seen in the past. Over on Woodtreks.com I started to go  through Craig Vandall Stevens' section and viewed his two part series on How to Hand Cut Precision Dovetails: The Pins (Part 1) , The Tails (Part 2) , and then went through his video Accurately Make Rip Cuts Using a Handsaw . I also discovered a video I hadn't seen before and wondered how I missed it. Little did I know Keith had just added it and little did Keith know that I really needed to see it. It is entitled 5 Essential Tips For Hand Cutting Better Dovetails - What Do You Think Is Important? Needless to say, I think learning how to saw is pretty important right now.

Anyway, I watched each of these movies twice - once with the sound and once without. Without the sound I was able to concentrate more on Craig's body and arm movements and that is were I confirmed my thought that my positioning was all wrong. I was crowding the wood and not allowing myself proper arm movement. I also wasn't angling the wood so the cut was perpendicular, but instead, trying to cut to match the angles. And finally, I was starting all wrong. I was laying the saw across the end grain line and trying to align it will the face mark. Craig, angles the wood so the cut is straight up and down and then angles his saw to align with both the cross grain line and the face line.

All of these points make sense and point to why I was having trouble cutting straight, even cuts. Before a class late this afternoon I headed out and did a couple of tails and while they weren't perfect, they certainly were far better than any I had cut before.

Thank you Luke, 19711007 and Keith. And a special thanks to Mr. Stevens as well.

Peace,

Mitchell