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Getting Rift Sawn Figure by Hand

riftsawn leg stock

Notice the angled faces sawn to orient the legs in a riftsawn aspect. Can you spot the one bandsawn leg?

I’ll admit it.  I get lazy sometimes and rip out stock on my band saw.  I know how to saw a line at any angle and I’m confident in dimensioning stock using hand methods.  But when the lazy bug bites the band saw is a seductive short cut…assuming it is tuned and working properly.  The fact of the matter is I work by hand faster than my ill tuned band saw.

I was dimensioning some 8/4 Walnut to make table legs this weekend.  In order to get optimal rift sawn figure on all 4 faces I had to twist the 1 5/8″ square I needed outside the plane of the board on 2 of the legs.  Rather than set up my band saw table to match the angle I just dropped the 10″ wide Walnut board on my saw bench and ripped those legs out.  It took 4 minutes 18 seconds including the layout time. (I was filming so I’m sure of the time)

Then the lazy bug sunk his teeth in and I figured I would cut out the 2 remaining legs that didn’t have to be sawn at an angle on my band saw.  Apparently my fence has moved or something is off the way the blade is tracking because I gave up on ripping the leg after 4 minutes of crawling through the cut as the motor kept bogging down.  Add to that the time it took to wheel my band saw away from the wall, tension the blade, set the fence, and hook up dust collection and I easily spent more time to cut half a leg than I took to rip out 2 legs positioned at an odd angle.

draw knife rift sawn legsAt this point my tired arm had recovered so I went back to the saw bench and finished the rip then ripped out the last leg in exactly 1 minute, 32 seconds.  I guess I saw faster vertically.

I then trued up the odd angled blanks using my draw knife and the board secured in my leg vise.  That took about 20 seconds a piece and I was ready to plane the legs flat and smooth with the jointer plane; something I would have had to do with the bandsawn legs anyway.  Frankly anything I can do to use my draw knife is good because I really love that tool.  I derive an instinctual, almost visceral pleasure when quickly peeling away wood.  It never ceases to amaze me how one tool can remove wood so fast yet still be so accurate at refining a rough board to a flat and square block.

hand sawing legsTaking a time out to tune up my band saw is in order and I could have significantly sped up this whole process, but I wonder how much time I would have really saved.  For that matter, why is that important?  I can certainly use the exercise and at 38 years old I have no excuse to prevent me from doing this hard work…other than laziness.  I’m far from the physical condition I was in 10 years ago and what better way to get back in shape than using the tools I love.  For hand tool guys like me, using a power tool is often classified as “cheating”.  I don’t believe there is such a thing as cheating in woodworking, but I think it is fair to say I’m cheating myself.  Why have I hung on to my few remaining power tools that I don’t particularly enjoy using?  It seems no other reason that just laziness.  Maybe I won’t tune up that band saw after all.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I get into better shape and further hone my skills.

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