Resawing and the damage done

This weekend I took some time to start prepping for the next box(es). I’ve got a fair amount of pine sitting in the workshop, but I was curious as to how some other wood I have would work. What set this forward was finally figuring out the board foot price that I pay for pine here. Low grade stuff is cheap, but it is miserable. After some looking, I found some decent quality pine from the USofA, but it ran me $5 a foot. There is a variety of South American hardwoods available here that cost much less.

I picked up a piece of amburana (also called Brazilian cherry, whyIdon’tknow). It’s a hefty hardwood with lots of interlocking grain, but it’s not incredibly hard, and I was curious if it would have any of the compression that pine does with dovetails.

My boards are all 1″ thick. Actually, closer to 1 1/4″. I hate to waste, and was feeling froggy enough to try some resawing. I cut to rough length and got the board 3 square. Then laid out my saw kerfs. There was a bit of twist. This will be important later.

Saw kerf
gauge line deepened with tenon saw

I winged it on this, trying to replicate what has worked for me before. The amburana wasn’t as difficult as cherry, but didn’t just melt apart like mahogany, either. Pretty much anything is going to be a workout with a handsaw, though.

one third down
a third of the way
the line
a closer view

The sawing took about 10 minutes, mostly with me being careful to track the saw kerfs. I do my best to start and keep going as far as I can along one line. While I’ve read that it’s good to flip the wood from time to time, that always seems to start a new kerf on the inner wood, and leaves some pretty gnarly marks inside. Maybe that’s just my crap technique.

both sides, only one nasty snag line

With the two sides in hand, I was pretty pleased that I’d only gone off about 1/16 from top to bottom. But heartache was in store. Remember that twist? I checked the flat side again, and man, was it twisted. Again. And, being a dumbass, I’d left myself with only about 1/8 of extra board to clean up. With the 1/16 that I’d veered off, this made further clean up an exercise in futility.

Oh well, what the hell. It was good practice. And it answered a question I’d had regarding whether it’s more worthwhile to resaw or just grab the scrub plan. In this case, scrub plane. This wood isn’t so precious that I want to save every sliver. And with the twist, it just doesn’t make sense. The scrub allows me a bit more control, and overall I think it’s less effort. It is certainly less heartbreak.

A lot of meh and then some perspective

Yesterday I was fired up to work on the dovetailed box since I’d managed to get the sides and ends ready. A few practice cuts, and then I dove in. And cut one crappy dovetail. Followed by a second. I took a break, did some stuff, and came back and cut an acceptable dovetail that I then botched with overzealous cleaning. The last one was no better than the first. Evidence of the carnage below.

Mind the gap

Looking at the “box” at the end of the day I was feeling pretty meh. Whatever excuses aside, I’d done some miserable work. And then I got some perspective. I’d just gotten to practice cutting dovetails 4 times in a day. The most I’d been able to do in the last year was 1 a day. And it wasn’t a complete loss. I now have a few boards for practice ready, and I’d worked on my muscle memory for the task.

This morning I took it slow, cut one practice dovetail after warming up and cutting yesterdays failure into practice sized bits.

Pretty tight with minimal clean up

And with some confidence coming back I kept the slow and steady pace and cut the first tail of another box.

good start

Perfect? No. But that’s not what I’m going for. At least not today. I try to keep in mind that focusing on where you want to be sometimes just reminds you of how far you have to go. Healthy perspective can come from realising just how far you’ve gone so far. Doing better than yesterday, and even yesterday was better than some of the butchery I’ve committed before.

Smaller and smaller

Yesterday I got more shop time than I’ve had in the last few weeks. I was able to make some good headway on dimensioning the boards for 2 boxes.

Sometimes it makes me feel a bit insane the amount of time I spend making big boards into smaller boards. For instance, this project requires sides that are 1/2 thick, 2″x12″. The ends 2″ x 5″ (or thereabouts). I live in the Dominican Republic, and there are no big box stores that sell s2s, s4s, or any other type of pre-dimensioned stock. I searched through the lumberyards – nada. Even finding pine of decent quality pine required a few trips. I may end up foregoing pine for some of the relatively inexpensive hardwoods available here.

Anyway, the point being that whenever I want to do anything, I start with pretty large, thick boards. In this case, the boxes are starting from 8′ of 3/4″ x 9″ lumber. I’d managed to saw to rough lengths, and I’d left them wide so that I could flatten and dimension the bigger boards before making the final cuts. So, 2 sides to a board, 4 ends to a board, you get the idea. I find that much easier to work with then thin boards when planing them down.

ready to rip
Pine boards cut to rough length, planed to thickness, ready to rip

I could bitch and moan about the time spent dimensioning the wood, but in the end it is a good skill. I’m getting much better at it. I only find it aggravating because I want to practice things like dovetails, but the more I focus on this as a worthwhile skill per se, the better I feel. It is also an opportunity to practice sawing and planing, among other things. In the grand scheme of things it’s pretty damn worthwhile. Now if I can just keep reminding myself of that.

Ripped and jointed boards alongside my make-do contraption

One think I really do like complaining about, however, is jointing. F**k me, I kind of suck at it. Doing it freehand, I am constantly getting almost square, when a single pass seems to throw it out of whack. I’ve practiced enough that sometimes I get it. Other times, fugazi. So, I went and bought me Veritas’ jointer fence. What a difference, and what a time saver. While I want to get to the point that I can do without it, I also don’t want to spend half a day getting a single piece square. Of course, after rip cutting, I was left with boards with one squared edge and one jagged edge and 2″ wide. The fence is just a bit wider, and so I couldn’t finish them in the vise. It took me longer than I care to admit to figure out the work-around (above). It worked, but man, my hands.

Starting with boxes

My attempt at serious progress in my woodworking, and this blog, start with boxes. Small chisel and pencil boxes in pine based on Paul Sellers’ designs, and working up to making Chris Schwarz’s schoolbox. Down the road this will all lead into a tool chest, design TBD.

What started as a distraction a year ago with whittling while I was a stay at home dad had, uh, grown. Monstrously. I thought I’d pick up whittling again. Did some as a kid and liked it. Seemed like a good hobby while the kiddo was napping. But that was the first rabbit hole. It tripped quickly into carving and joinery.

But, lack of time, space, experience, etc meant slow going. I’d guess I got about 4 to 5 hrs maximum in the first year. Enough to get a bit of blood on my teeth and hungry for more.

Now I am fortunate enough to be able to dedicate a few hours a day to woodwork. The kiddo is out of the house part of the day, I have a bit more space (much better than in the middle of the living room in a n apartment), and a very flexible schedule as a freelancer.

And on that note, there is a pine board in the shop waiting for me to break it down.