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A Sawing Exercise Hits the Road

I envy the carpenter. He can take his show on the road anytime. If I leave my shop and bench and tools, I am useless. Sometimes, even changing tools I am useless. I’m sure you know what I mean and if not, try cutting a set of carcass dovetails with a saw, chisels, and marking gauge you have never picked up before. This weekend my skills were put to the test as I was dragged from my shop to do a project in the wild.

It’s back to school time and the gloom that has settled over my wife in the last few days has made that blatantly known. After finally accepting the inevitable, she tells me that we need to visit her classroom on Sunday to do some organizing in the classroom. I also needed to deliver the Hepplewhite book case to it’s place of honor. Heather told me that I needed to build some shelves for an existing book case to store sheet music. Basically she needed 3 more shelves and to replace 2 of them that had bowed beyond belief. (I’m not sure who decided un-laminated particleboard over a 40″ span was a good idea for shelves that would hold books) The good news is that there is already some shelving material on campus that we could use and that I would just need to cut it down to size. I was dubious at this last statement since no further details were given. She assured me that they didn’t need to be pretty, just fit in the space and hold up to boxes of sheet music.

Here is the case after I pulled everything off the shelves.

I took a quick measurement of the sheet music boxes (the black boxes to the right in the above picture) and spaced out the shelves to be somewhat consistent from top to bottom. I then went in search of the aforementioned shelving material. I found it upstairs in the stage scene shop and was happy to see it was a good quality plywood with maple veneer and what looked like a few coats of poly on the surface. The edges had been banded with maple as well. Things were looking up, but I still had to deal with the size. The smallest piece was 24″ wide and 72″ long. My shelves needed to be just under 12″ wide and 40″ long. I knew going into this excursion that I would need to be sawing and I thought it would be great justification for the nice collection of Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Toolworks refurbished hand saws. Since I was traveling I thought I would take my “toolbox” saws AKA panel saws because they are 19 and 20″ long and make for easy travel. They are sharpened for a cleaner cut as I normally use them at the bench for final dimensions of panels and such. I also took along a few clamps, a square, and a block plane.

Woodworking on the road is not so much about having the tools, but having adequate work holding. This is where my clamps came into play. Using the chairs in the classroom I set up a sawing bench of sorts and clamped my pieces down. I was able to use an existing shelf as a template and went to work cross cutting the boards to the right length. My little panel saw performed admirably and soon enough I had the boards to length (and perfectly square, if I do say so myself)

Now comes the fun part. It was time to rip these boards in half to make 12″ wide shelves. Ripping scares a lot of people because you have so much real estate to cover and keeping a straight edge only gets harder over that long distance. Ripping over a 6 foot distance is not only intimidating, it sounds a whole lot like work. To these naysayers, I say, maybe you need to tune up your saw! A bit of positioning with the chairs, enter the clamps, and off to sawing.

After a few careful strokes with the saw at a low angle I determined the path of my saw. I tipped it up to close to 60 degrees and started to work in earnest constantly puffing to clear the sawdust from my line and ensure I am tracking correctly.

I have not had that much time with this little Spears & Jackson saw since Mark sent it to me. The cuts I have done have been great but on a much smaller scale. If I were in my shop I would be using my 26″ saw for a cut this long so you can imagine how shocked I was that this little 9 tpi, 19″ saw was racing through the board. In about a minute I had 2 boards from one.
rip sawn shelf straight and true

A little block plane work to clean off the saw marks and a tiny chamfer to kill the sharp edges…
block plane chamfers the edge

…and I have 3 new shelves installed and ready to be loaded.
book case with new shelves

This “project” was hardly fine woodworking and with no fit and finish that I would expect from my normal furniture projects, but something about it was thrilling. Leaving my shop to build things rarely happens and to know that I can take just a few tools on the road and complete a job without making a lot of noise, mess, or needing an extension cord is a truly exciting prospect.

hand saws and tool bag

Road weary tools back home in their shop

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