Tools of the trade 13: Saws

Others have written whole books about saws, tooth geometry, how to use, the various advantages of different types of saws… so instead of writing a book here I’ll tell you to go read a few.

Not even with a table saw can you get away with only having one type of blade. So you need to have a few Saws in your arsenal.



You need a good crosscut saw. these are for cutting stock to length.


You need a good rip saw, these are for cutting stock to width.


Now, a lot of our stock sizing is done with splitting and hewing. So maybe a ripsaw isn’t as critical as having a crosscut saw. But you will eventually find a place where you want to cut a slab of wood in the rip direction and cannot spare the waste of splitting and hewing. So when you get a Ripsaw make sure it is a good one.

For cutting tenons you will want a crosscut saw, you could use your big one for cutting stock down, but you will find that having a smaller one, perhaps with a back stiffener, to be very handy for this… these are called Back saws.


a coping saw is handy for small stuff and some curved cuts.


A Turning saw is good for large curved cuts.

So is a Felly saw.

and for resawing slabs to make thinner boards a big ripping frame saw or just your ripsaw can be used.

and the saw nib is just a decoration.

be well






Hi all:

I have just gotten permission to hold classes at Ft. Mifflin!!

They have a nice shady grove we can use in good weather:



and an interesting grotto to use during bad weather:


this is inside the walls of the fort, literally in the walls. the back wall used to be the forts bread baking ovens. the wood stove works for heat..

I am planning on a first class sometime in October, it will be a 3 legged stool making class.

my stool for the class

stay tuned for more information!!

be well



Hi: to anyone looking here!

I keep not writing, 😉 it’s almost amazing how much I don’t write!

been busy with stuff, mostly trying to set up to get back into doing craft shows. making small stuff of the sort that sells, and big stuff to take along to “show off”: rolling pins, nostepinne, cutting boards vs chairs.

so I apologise to any followers looking for “new”content here.

I only write when I feel like writing. And next week I head out to Pennsic, so I won’t be writing then for another 2 weeks… I will post after Pennsic about which craft shows I am going to…

be well

The New Wood Renaissance

OR new greenwoodworking renaissance or the new green wood culture etc and so forth…

Some people will burden anything with a great weight of philosophy and/or religion…

And I have been thinking about this lately due to the shear number of people talking or writing about “it”.

As a greenwoodworker, and as a teacher, people I meet want to know where I stand and what my philosophy is. So I thought that it might behoove me to do some thinking and condense my ideas into something I can talk about without sounding like I have no idea.


About 25 years ago I took a chair making class (Make a Sack Back Chair with Mike Dunbar at the Windsor Institute). I already had these crazy notions that I wanted to make “real furniture” out of “real wood”. [did you know that furniture stores are legally required to call particleboard with a printed paper face “real wood” and “Solid Wood”?] What I really wanted was to make the sort of furniture that you might find in an antique shop. And Here “IT” was! A real chair, made the real way… the way the wood “wants” to be worked!

I think that one thought is what struck me and stuck with me through all of my years of fabricating with particle board, plywood and formica… that there was a way of working that used the wood to it’s best advantage instead of trying to force it into rectilinear mechanical perfection and precision. Roy Underhill talks about using wood’s weakness to reveal its strengths. And there is was, all in one chair

AND these methods of working are not constrained to only making chairs! You can make tables, chests, and indeed anything you want or need in your home with the methods and ideas contained in this thing we call “greenwoodworking”.

So for a first philosophical point I would declare:

  1. This is a more natural method of woodworking. The trees lend themselves to it more readily than most modern machine oriented woodworking.

Crosscutting with a saw and splitting with an axe or wedge is the primary method of taking wood from the log or branch and rendering it into useful pieces. Many Sp. of wood seem almost designed to be split. The oaks for example have these large medullary rays that radiate out from the pith. They make the wood extra strong in their direction of travel but extra weak parallel to them. If we place the wedges right on the rays the Oak splits nice and straight (as long as we split by halves) right along the rays. This sounds like weakness bound towards failure. But the piece you get this way, be it board or post stock, is far stronger in the way it will be used than sawn planks ever are. So our parts can be thinner and more flexible than sawn and kiln dried builders use.


People are creative creatures. We all want to be allowed to be makers. Most of our jobs/careers do not lend themselves to allowing any creativity. Yet making things is good for use. (See my post about Creativity vs Talent.)  A great amount of literature focuses on how creative efforts are good for your sense of wellbeing…

2. Expressing your Creativity is good for you!  Woodworking is an easy way to get to feel like you have accomplished something and express yourself.


Getting into woodworking with power tools is excessively expensive. Getting into woodworking with hand tools costs much less.  A good low end table saw will cost you either $500 or $2000.  A hand saw, drawknife, spokeshave, auger, hand plane, and more, can cost less than $200.

3.  This is a much less expensive way to get into woodworking.

Anyone can do some woodworking. Right now the popularity of spoon carving is skyrocketing… you need a small pruning saw, a hatchet, a straight carving knife and either a bent spoon knife or a gouge. Just 4 tools and a tree branch and you are good to go! And it doesn’t matter if your first ones are any good, most people need to practice for years before they get really good at it. But even your first attempt will give you that feeling of “This is something I did!” THAT is a feeling that you cannot buy in a store. It’s a feeling of self worth that is so elusive in most of our modern world.

4. And lastly, As a woodworker and as a woodworking teacher I don’t feel that it is my place to be teaching religion or philosophy.

I’m here to teach about wood, tools for working wood, and how to put them together safely. Oh I may veer off into discussions about the stewardship of the land and trees… it’s a subject that a lot of woodworkers feel very strongly about. But that isn’t spiritual or religious to me. It’s more like taking good care of yourself by eating right and exercising.

I love trees when they are alive!, there is something astounding about a tree. “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree” (Joyce Kilmer)… and when they need to come down I and people like me are there to take the bones and make beautiful things from them. The Variety of lines and colors of the are always fascinating.

so: go get a stick and a knife and make something. making things is good for you.

be well



What He Said…

there are at least 6 “right” ways of doing everything.

one of my formen once told me after I questioned the boss about his idea for how to make something.. “Kohl, dere is fife vays hoff doink someting (he was from Bavaria) the right way, the wrong way, your way, my way, and the boss’s way. as long as we do things the boss’s way we can’t get in trouble.” then he laughed 😉 (Nicholas Raith)

later he explained there never is just one “right way” there is always at least 6 ways.