8.6.12 (Techniques: Saw 3, guides)
A February post talks about saw teeth, how they are all set at a tiny angle, one to the left, the next to the right, off center. The teeth, then, are wider, just a little little bit, than the rest of the blade.
Some cuts are made with guides. Starting out, I used a guide for almost all my cuts. Now I use a guide for miter cuts only. Guides are wooden because it’s easy to run the saw into the guide, and a metal guide would dull or chip the teeth. The downside to a wood guide is that a wonky cut can tear up the guide and ruin it. That’s okay though, a quick pass on the table saw fixes it right up. I guess that puts guides in the long-term disposable tool category, like how edge tools get sharpened away to a handle. Very slow ice cream bars. All guides have two parts: a long flat part with an edge to ride the saw along, and a short, wide part to hold the guide steady against the work. The shape of the long flat part and the relationship between it and the short, wide part determine the cut.
When I started using guides I tried holding the saw firmly against the guide’s edge because I thought pressing would keep the saw’s path regular. The saws have flexible blades though, even the dozuki noko, with its metal spine—and the fact that the blade is flexible, together with the fact that the blade is skinnier than the teeth’s set, means that pressing the saw blade against the guide causes the teeth to curve. The blade bends away from the guide and the kerf ends up an arc or a diagonal.
The guide’s not for pressing I guess, it is more like a quiet suggestion. The saw almost doesn’t touch it. Almost? I don’t know. I think the saw-guide gap is like a magic place, it only exists a little bit, like maybe if you wanted to get to a fairy kingdom you could try going by way of sawing with a guide. (That sentence’s syntax is b/c my dad used to read me Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! by Dr. Seuss: “If you like you can go by lion’s tail, or stamp yourself, and go by mail!”) I guess you hold the guide at the line, position your nose along the saw’s path, hold your sawing arm at your side, place your hand near the saw’s handle’s end, go for it trying to keep the saw straight and bounding that crazy gap, and then hope for the best.
Ugh, I don’t want all these posts to just turn into like “Something about woodworking! A metaphor!” but that is how it feels a lot—sawing with a guide is a good lesson for me about how trying should be. My tendency is to think that trying harder will get better results, or pressing harder will keep the cut regular. I think what I am learning is—not profound!, simple and obvious but learning it is helping me…—strength and looseness can work together. Or, Taylor and Joshua both’d say, “Hurry up and slow down!” That sentence is like a line in a Donne poem I read this morning called “The Good-Morrow”: “My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,”. I think there are four experiences in that sentence? He sees his face reflected in her pupils, she sees her face reflected in his pupils, he sees her face, she sees his face? Then though, there are four terms: my face, thine eye, thine, mine—and the four terms aren’t the four experiences. Maybe what I want to learn is like what that space is between the four terms and the four experiences, it feels a lot like the saw-guide gap.
10:21 pm • 8 August 2012 • 1 note
8.2.12 (Techniques: Saw 2, transfer)
Sawing technique is transfer work too. The board has four faces to saw through: a far face and a near face, both vertical, a top face and a bottom face, both horizontal. Each carpenter has his own sawing algorithm, but all the algorithms have the same start. The cut always starts at the far upper corner and the first steps go: follow the drawknife line with a shallow cut on the far face and the top face, making two kerf lines, then cut diagonally, using the kerf lines as guides, until the cut is deep enough to connect the far bottom corner with the near upper corner.
Here’s where the algorithms diverge:
One carpenter pulls the cut down the near vertical face and through the bottom face from inside, without changing his position or the board’s.
One carpenter cuts shallow kerfs through the near face and the bottom face—it is hard to write about the algorithms with board turns because “near far upper lower” change when the board’s position changes—and makes a second diagonal cut through those new kerf lines. The two diagonal cuts meet in the middle.
The algorithm I am using, the one Tateshita-san taught me is: new kerf down the near face and a second diagonal cut connecting the far upper corner with the near lower corner. A cross-section here, looking at the kerf you’d see a capital w with parallel vertical outside lines and a horizontal line connecting the two highest points, or a rectangle, both diagonals drawn to divide the rectangle into four sections and the bottom section missing. The last step in my algorithm is to saw straight down through from above, through the rectangle’s last section or the little mountain shape in the w. Great white shark man surrendering, cut off his head.
I think there are two hard parts to sawing. The first is following the drawknife score: each tooth is pulling through and slicing fiber, there is a tooth-by-tooth feeling, plus each line is several saw pulls, pull-by-pull feeling—hard to regulate the line when the line is made up of pulls and the pulls are made up of tooth slices. That problem’s made trickier by the fact that the hardest place to stay regular is the cut’s start—later in the cut you can use the so-far kerf to guide the line to the end but in the beginning there’s no guide, just feel and looking—and the cut’s start is where regularity matters the most because a small mistake at the start gets projected through the line’s whole length, a tiny tiny angle waver can turn into a millimeter or more across the board’s surface. The transfer in the first problem is transferring the straight perpendicular drawknife line to your sawing.
The second hard part about sawing is transferring the perpendicular straightness from face to face. Concentrating on following the line on one face, it’s easy to forget that the saw is also making a shallow, shallow cut in the two adjacent faces. Say you turn the saw slightly to stay on the top face’s drawknife line—that turn might destroy the careful edge you made on the far face. Or, maybe you are making a diagonal cut in two kerfs to connect opposite corners: one mistake I make often at that step is, because I am afraid to slip and hit the kerfs’ careful edges, I draw the saw a tiny tiny angle away from the edges, the teeth and blade are not quite vertical—then, my diagonal cut is not flat, it is slightly rounded and I end up with a baseball bat top shaped board end.
I guess the whole algorithm situation is about how many cuts a carpenter feels comfortable maintaining regularity during. The more cuts you make, the more transfers and the greater the opportunity for error. Then, though, when you have more kerfs cut, accurate kerfs, they guide the saw into the board and the cut is neater.
I think for me thinking about the transfers feels like a dream about communication, communicating a geometry across distances and among tools, organized by knowhow and feel. Maybe part of that is thinking about how the saw’s business end is teeth. There’s also a feeling of being in my own brain and waiting to see whether the transfer worked. My muscle sensitivity isn’t accurate enough to feel the cut’s regularity or irregularity unless it is way way off. It is every time drawing my body back, then suspension and checking, then quiet happiness or quiet frustration. Vs., trying out a new Japanese construction or word and being 100% unsure it’ll be understood at all. I bought my friend a cake from a store called “Tomato Lantern” and I thought that that name was insane, like a dark at the edges wilting waxy melting wrinkly tomato lantern, not appetizing, not a good cake thought—until my friend pointed out that lots of restaurants here have red lanterns at the doors and then it was “Of course!” and “Great!”. I tried to tell my teacher that story and I think he thought I was telling him “I bought my friend a cake!” and then just like pointing out for no reason that a particular restaurant near where we were standing had red lanterns.
9:37 pm • 5 August 2012
8.6.12 (Techniques: Sharpening 5, transfer)
Sharpening means transferring the waterstone’s flat surface to a blade’s bevel and ura. The stone starts out flat but cups quickly unless the blade is moved evenly over the surface. That is, good sharpening is a reciprocal transfer: the stone keeps the blade flat and the blade keeps the stone flat. The blade is much smaller than the stone, though, so to keep the stone flat, your body has to organize the blade’s path. I think it is a drawing problem: drawing curves with your muscles and bones to make two flatnesses. Emma told me about Frank and Lillian Gilbreth’s photographs looking at workers’ motions: lights on the body and long exposures, the light paths track how the body moves. I like to imagine my sharpening motions are tracked that way, wild curvy light gestures organizing how the stone’s flatness transfers to the blade and transfers back to the stone.
9:33 pm • 5 August 2012
8.1.12 (Techniques: Sashigane and shiragaki 1, transfer)
Feels like many woodworking techniques have in common a “transfer”. I think it is: projecting or communicating a geometry from place to place. Tool to tool, work to tool, tool to work, work to work.
Before sawing, you mark a line across four adjacent faces with the drawknife and trysquare. A line on all four faces has a double function: first, it allows you to see the line to saw, whatever the board’s orientation is; second, it checks the board for square. “Checking for square” means checking that these four surfaces are at right angles. The board is square when the fourth line ends at the first line’s start. That’s not important for sawing. It’s for construction, later. The sawline is an invisible way to check for square: when the cut is made, the saw line disappears under the teeth.
The drawknife line involves two transfers. First, you’re transferring the trysquare’s straight edge, perpendicular to the arm that meets board’s straight edge, to the board’s surface. Along that line the drawknife slices across the grain, cutting the board’s fibers. Second, you’re transferring the drawknife line from face to face. The drawknife line is three dimensional. It is a triangular prism, negative. You can put your eye level with the board’s edge and see into the drawknife line, through it to the opposite side. You’ll see light gleaming in a triangle. The triangle is the shape the drawknife’s bevel leaves: straight line down, sharp angle up to the right. The drawknife’s ura, its back, repeats that shape—the knife has two long parallel edges and a short, diagonal cutting edge. The repetition is not an aesthetic consideration. The shape is functional in both cases. The blade’s cutline is a sharp right triangle because the ura is flat. The bevel rises up from the cutting edge to form the knife’s thickness. Imagine that the blade’s shape is more like a chisel, less like an axe: flat face and a diagonal rise back from the edge. The ura has to be flat in order to ride flat along the metal trysquare. The trysquare’s arm is transferred straight down into the wood. The ura itself is shaped in the same narrow right triangle that the blade’s kerf traces. You hold the drawknife upright and draw the edge’s lowest point over the wood. The rest of the blade extends up and back toward you, a centimeter or two long.
The challenge transferring the trysquare’s arm line to the board’s surface is that the drawknife must be held against the trysquare with enough force to regulate the line, but not so much force that the trysquare moves left. The left hand holds the trysquare firmly against the right hand’s press, the drawknife’s. The gesture is: forcing your hands together, like praying or applause, except the knife and square get in the way.
9:32 pm • 5 August 2012
7.16.12 (Tea ceremony: tea bowl)
The tea bowl’s diameter is about the distance from mouth to brow. To drink from the tea bowl you tilt it to your face and it covers your eyes, blocks the room from view. Everything inside the bowl, the glaze pattern and the tea, is too close for focus—and the tea touches your lips. I think the bowl’s size tells you: “Turn your vision off now, this is a taste experience.”
6:18 pm • 15 July 2012 • 3 notes