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Warm Up Joinery

11 years ago

As a podcaster I find myself duplicating work a lot. I try to integrate close up shots while I’m cutting a joint but still want to intersperse the video with wide angle shots and commentary. Until I can afford multiple cameras and a camera crew I end up cutting that joint several times to get all the footage. It wasn’t my intention, but I have found that this is making me a better woodworker.

I will often capture the wide shot on the first cutting, then do the close up on my second round. Inevitably the close up shot ends up being a better looking joint and I firmly believe that it is because I have “warmed up” the body and mind a bit.

Joinery, Mortise, Tenon, WalnutIt doesn’t matter how many times you have pushed (or pulled) a saw, I do believe that a few strokes are necessary to wake up your muscles and check that everything is running well and in alignment. Gary Rogowski endorses this idea with his “5 Minute Dovetail” series he has espoused at his school for years. Not only is it a good exercise to perfect your dovetailing skills, but it makes a very effective warm up mentally and physically.

This mental part is something to keep in mind. You could just head out to your shop clamp a board vertically and make several vertical cuts to warm up your sawing arm. This will remind your body what it feels like to saw square, but then you move on to your work piece and saw on the wrong side of your layout line and you are up a creek.

The best warm up and practice exercises are much more than just sawing a bunch of lines. Create a joint or at least complete a process. Lay out and marking is probably the most important part of joinery so why not get your brain working too. If sawing a straight line is something you want to work on then don’t just cut lines. Rip your board then go back and try the edge with a plane and analyze where you went off your line. Was the cut square and plumb? If it is off, where, and remind yourself where you were in your saw stroke and how your body was positioned.

This same thing applies to joinery in spades. The true power behind Rogowski’s 5 minute dovetail is completing the process. The fitting and fine tuning is probably the most powerful element of this warm up because it helps you diagnose what you are doing wrong (or right).

This time of year is always very busy so if you can’t get into your shop for long, use the time to practice cutting a joint. I think you may find that the warm up will make you a better woodworker and you might be surprised how it will help you outside of the shop. The focus that comes from hand cutting a joint will allow you to accomplish other non woodworking tasks with ease.

Now use this argument to explain to your boss why you need that miniature workbench in your office.

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