I prepared to start the challenge by picking up some cheap pine at a big box store and cutting it into 2’ lengths. I took my sector and used it to divide the board into equal parts with a pair of dividers. With the dividers set I can use this setting for all the pieces. It isn’t necessary but I figured that if I’m going to practice I might as well practice everything.
The next step was to set up my marking gauge to scribe the base lines. Then I attached my Moxon vise to the bench and set up my work light. I can’t underestimate how important good light is. In fact I’m thinking seriously about other options for lighting. The truth is that if you can’t see the line you can’t cut to the line.
Once I had things in place, I started laying out my straight cuts. I don’t have a straight guide so I used a small square. This was more time consuming and I seemed to have trouble keeping the end and face marks aligned—even when setting the blade of my knife into the line and moving the square to it.
Finally getting things laid out I began cutting. Kind of. I found that the first hurdle to get across was just getting the saw started. The problem was that I was squeezing the life out of the saw. Not only does this make you tired it also makes it near impossible to get the thing going. Holding the saw loosely and barely making contact with the tips of the saw teeth are the way to go. I even went so far as to use the thumb on my left hand against the saw back to hold it off the material.
Cutting across the boards wasn’t so bad. Apparently, I’m capable of keeping the saw 90 degrees to the work. It also helps that I have a shiny saw plate to watch the reflection in. Sawing down the line proved to be a different problem. The cut kept going to the right. I finally figured that it was because I was putting too much pressure against the saw with my pointing finger. The solution was to put equal pressure against the saw plate with my left thumb.
After the fifth set I really couldn’t see that much improvement. I was cutting down the line and the bottom third was always to the right slightly. I started to blame the saw. But really it wasn’t the saws fault. Then something interesting happened. I quit thinking.
I wasn’t making a conscious effort to not think about cutting. But my mind drifted into other things and my cuts started to look a lot better. The ironic thing to me was that I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t thinking about cutting until after I had made about 10 cuts. That’s when I knew I had some muscle memory established. Just like driving a car.
I finished off day 1 with 100 straight cuts. And a lot of knowledge of what I want to change about my gear, how I should stand, what it takes to get the saw going (and keep it going). The time spent was worth every minute.
The second day was about the same with one caveat, I had to cut on the left side of the line which is harder to see. I was having trouble with the first set and then my wife interrupted me on her way out to work. As she left, she accidentally shut the lights out (hopefully out of habit and not anger) and it was awesome. With just my work light on the work and no overhead lights I was able to see the lines much better. I don’t know if this means I will be working in the dark from now on or if I just need a brighter work light.
Something else I noticed was that on the second day I was cutting angled cuts to the left and straight down, just like you would for the left side of a pin. The cut was so similar to the previous days cuts that my mind began to wonder more quickly allowing my subconscious to take over my hands. Reaching this stage quicker allowed me to get through the exercise in about half the time of day 1 with better results.
Now it’s off to day 3!