When it comes to woodworking, there’s no greater relationship than that of a carpenter and his (or her) saw. After all, a woodworker relies most on cutting machines to create works of art out of wood — even if it’s just a window frame. Woodworkers are always ready to try new ways of working faster and smarter in the shop. Great advice, tips and tricks on sawing are readily available, too. Below are 12 important ones to keep in mind during your next wood project.
- To crosscut safely, clamp a one-inch block of wood to the fence of your table saw before the blade, then make the cut length by setting the fence scale one-inch greater than the desired length. This way, the end of the board is free of the fence during and after the cut — and you can avoid getting a board kicked back directly at you.
- Stair gauges are an inexpensive way to make your own crosscut guide for circular saws. Usually used to lay out stair jacks, stair gauges are available at hardware stores or home centers and can be clamped on the same tongue of a carpenter’s square and used as notch markers. Make sure to clamp the square in place so it won’t slide around while you’re cutting.
- Use a drafting square for measuring accurate 2- to 3-foot squares. Drywall squares can be inaccurate and carpenter squares can be especially cumbersome because they have to be hooked onto the edge of the work piece. Drafting squares are accurate, as well as, inexpensive and can be as useful as a tape measure in the shop.
- If you’re always trying to find a level workspace, put your saw on a mobile base so it’s easy to move around the shop. Then find a convenient place for sawing where the floor is level and free of obstruction. Mark wheel positions on the floor with duct tape in a bright color. Now you can roll the saw to the same flat spot every time you saw.
- To avoid staining wood with oozing glue along joints, clamp the pieces together using tape instead of glue. Lay the tape down on the joint, then cut the tape along the joint with a sharp blade. Separate the tape pieces, apply the glue and clamp them together again, so the glue oozes onto the tape, not the wood. Peel off the tape before the glue dries.
- When you have to cut, shape, file, sand or finish something small, reach for your hot glue gun and glue the piece to a pedestal stick instead of fumbling with a clamp. When you’re finished, gently pop the piece loose with a putty knife. If this doesn’t work, try sticking the work piece into the freezer for an hour or so, freezing the glue, which will usually give way with little force. A third option is to try a hair dryer or heat gun to warm the piece slowly and soften the glue for removal without scorching the wood or damaging the finish.
- Install saw blades so the teeth face forward, because hacksaws are designed to cut with a forward stroke. When you do a lot of cutting, the blade will heat up and expand, so check and make sure the blade is tight in the saw, tightening when needed so it won’t bend.
- To use your shop space economically, raise the base for your saw about 3-1/8 inches higher than the bench top, so you can slip a short length of a 4×4 under each end of your work piece for support. This way, you won’t have to devote space to a long support table and you won’t have to clear the entire bench to make a cut.
- Whenever you raise and lower your saw blade, save wear and tear on your saw table by taping a wooden stop-block to the column of your radial-arm saw about 1/8-inch below the surface of the table. The block prevents the blade from digging deep into the table.
- Build a hold-down for your radial-arm saw like those available for table saws and router tables by attaching two screw eyes to the saw’s fence about 8 inches to the right and left of the blade. Make the hold-down out of 3/4 x 3-inch stock at a length that’s equal the width from the fence to the front edge of the saw table. Fasten on a handle. Position a roundhead screw in the end of the hold-down so it sits flush with the thickness of the wood you’re cutting. Make sure the fence is securely anchored so it doesn’t pull up when you push down on the hold-down.
- Make your own reusable sanding blocks from scrap 3/4-inch plywood. Cut 2-1/2 x 4-3/4-inch blocks for each sandpaper grit you commonly use, spraying adhesive on both a square of cork tile and each block. Stick a block to the cork and cut the cork flush with a utility knife. Spray the adhesive on a sheet of sandpaper and stick it on each block cork side down, cutting the sandpaper flush with the cork. Label each block.
- Stack your table saw or circular saw blades for storage or transport using plastic coffee can lids as spacers instead of cutting them out of hardboard or plywood. Spacers help prevent the carbide teeth from chipping each other. The lids of three-pound cans work great; simply bore a hole the size of your saw’s arbor in the center and place them between your blades.
Our expert staff is always on hand to help you plan your next woodworking project. From wood saws to clamps and blades, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.