If I owned only one set of woodworking books, it would be the four texts edited by Charles Hayward that we titled “The Woodworker: The Charles Hayward Years Vols. I-IV.” These four books cover everything – and I mean everything – that you need to get started in woodworking and to grow as a craftsman.
I’ve been woodworking for nearly 30 years, and when I have question about how to do a certain operation, these books are where I turn.
Collecting this information into the four volumes was an epic tale in itself. The four books are made up of the best magazine articles on handwork from The Woodworker, a British woodworking magazine that Charles Hayward largely wrote himself. We had to comb through 30 years of monthly magazines and sort out the best articles. Organize them. Scan images and retype the articles and then assemble them into these huge volumes.
It was worth it, if only for me to own these four incredibly useful books (there’s also a fifth book of Hayward’s inspirational essays we added later). Here is a small taste of the clarity Hayward brought to his writing from “The Woodworker: The Charles Hayward Years,” Vol. I, Tools.
– Christopher Schwarz
Of all the tools in the kit the saw is probably the most difficult to control, and it is certainly the most easily damaged by abuse. Remember that, apart from proper handling, a saw should not be given work for which it is unsuitable.
Since the general modern practice is to buy prepared timber ready cut to size the need for many saws has passed. Still, it is necessary to be prepared to do a certain amount of cutting up, and a cross-cut handsaw is advisable.
Handsaws. If you propose to have one saw only, the panel saw is probably the best investment. If you can have two (and it is better) choose a panel saw and a larger cross-cut saw. The latter will do for the general cutting up of larger timber—you can use it for ripping with the grain as well as crosscutting. It is rather slower at this than the ripsaw, but most men are agreed that the latter is an unnecessary expense nowadays.
For the cross-cut select a saw of about 26 ins. length, with a tooth size of 8 or 9 points to the inch. It will cut quite fast enough for the limited amount of cutting out you need to do, yet it is not so coarse as to tear out the grain. Fig. 2, A, shows the overhand method being used to rip out a set of stiles. Cabinet makers usually prefer this as it is less back-aching than bending over trestles.
The panel saw comes in for a good many jobs. Its fine teeth make it far less liable to splinter out the grain, a feature specially valuable when sawing across the grain of brittle hardwoods. For the same reason it is invaluable for thin wood which would probably split if a coarse toothed saw were used.
Plywood again can be sawn with it without danger of the layers being forced apart. Another use is that of sawing the larger tenons—in fact, it can be used for any of the work for which the tenon saw would be too light. A 20 in. length with a teeth of 12 points to the inch is a good all-round size.
Back Saws. These are required for the general bench work of cutting smaller pieces of wood to size and sawing joints. The blade is of a finer gauge than a handsaw and the teeth are smaller so that it makes a much finer cut. It is kept stiff by the iron or brass back. You need two; a tenon saw and a dovetail saw. The former is used for all the larger bench work sawing. A length of 14 ins. is recommended and a tooth size of about 14 points to the inch. Lighter work is done with the dovetail saw; dovetails, small mitres, in fact, any job requiring a fine cut. A small saw—say, 8 in.—with extra fine teeth is recommended. It might have 20-22 points to the inch. This will give it an extremely fine cut, making it ideal for small joints, but take care that it is not abused by giving it work which is too heavy.
Bow and Padsaws. These are needed for cutting shapes, and of the two the bowsaw is infinitely the better tool. There are, however, one or two jobs for which it cannot be used, and it is for these that the pad or keyhole saw is needed. First the bow saw. The exact size does not matter a great deal; a blade length of 12 ins. is a good average size. Its advantage is that, since it is kept taut by the tension of the cord at the top which is twisted tourniquet fashion, the blade can be narrow, this enabling it to negotiate quick curves. Furthermore there is no danger of its becoming buckled by the pressure put upon it. It can be used for internal cuts because the rivets holding the blade can be withdrawn, enabling the blade to be passed through a hole.
The only restriction is that it cannot be used internally at a distance from the edge greater than that between the blade and the centre bar. For this work the keyhole saw is necessary. This has necessarily to have a somewhat coarse blade because it has nothing beyond its own stiffness to keep it straight. The rule in using it is to give the blade the minimum projection consistent with a reasonable stroke. It helps to avoid buckling. A typical everyday use is that of sawing the lower part of a keyhole after boring the hole at the top. Here it would not be worth the bother of threading in the bow saw for two short cuts.
It is not advisable for the reader to sharpen his own saws—he will probable do more harm than good unless he has had some experience. A common practice is for cabinet makers to sharpen their own saws twice and then to send them away every time after that. The point is that if a saw gets into bad condition-uneven teeth and so on-the sharpener charges more to put it right, so that it is not an economy in the long run to do it oneself. This applies specially to the saws with small teeth.