05 March 2014

Careful Cutting

I like to work slowly. First, because of my 1st rule of boatbuilding: "Make mistakes slowly." If you are cutting at a rate of 1/32-inch per second, you have enough time to think, "H'mmm... am I wandering a bit off my pencil line? Perhaps I'll put a bit more pressure on the right side and... Yes, that's better..." Whereas, if you are buzzing through a cut more quickly, by the time you think, "H'mmm..." your next thought is, "Blast and tarnation!"

Ask me know I know that.

But also because cutting tools seem to work so much better when they can cut at their own pace, which is generally slow. This is particularly true with bandsaws, which many people claim cannot cut a straight line. For a long time I believed them (possibly because I owned a very terrible bandsaw and a so-so one before scoring my Delta 14-inch. The Delta wants to do the right thing, and it will if you just don't push it too hard.

The same is true with drill presses... For a long time I had a heck of a time drilling simple holes. Bits would burn, smoke would pour out of the holes, as if I were drilling into Hades itself, and sometimes the inside of the holes would actually be burnt black.

Silly stuff... none of that happens if I just take my time.

I cut the bottom of my dish rack out of 1/4-inch plywood using a Skilsaw. A Skilsaw is capable of cutting amazingly straight lines if you don't try to use it free hand. Since discovering this fact, I always clamp a guide to the work, and run the saw along the guide. The result: stress free cutting and perfectly straight, accurate cuts.

Bottom fitted into rabbet
The bottom panel was a perfect fit on the first try, but I cut the dinner plate shelf a smidge big, and then used a block plane to trim it down to a perfect fit. In retrospect, I think this was a wasted step, but I was a bit worried about cutting it too small by accident. I shouldn't have worried.

The dinner plate shelf clamped into it's slot
What did worry me was cutting the finger slots in the front panel (I'm sure there's a real word for them, so if you know it, please share it in the comments section.) I had a lot of work and a fair size hunk of teak invested in that panel, so I wanted to get it right the first time.

After considering several options, I ended up drilling a 1" hole at the bottom of the slot, and then cutting down to it on the bandsaw. This is where I really took my time, measuring everything 3 times, cutting the whole nice and slowly so it didn't burn the wood or blow out at the bottom, and then cutting down to the holes on the bandsaw VERY slowly, so the line was a straight as possible.

Cutting the... whatchamacallits... the slots
The result was, not bad. I rounded over the inside and outside edges with the router and was pleased enough with the results to make the other slots.

This might just work...
And here is the whole rack clamped together, with dishes installed. All the dishes fit beautifully, with just enough space around them, but no so much that they can rattle around.

Clamped together, with shelf under dinner plates
The exception is the bowls. The width of the bowls + divider + cup is about an inch less than the width of the dinner plate, so the dividers don't come out even. I knew this in the plan drawing phase and made a spacer which I'll glue to the back of the bowl section. That will hold the bowls snuggly.

That one low divider just slipped down while I was taking the pictures.
It will be level with the rest when it's glued up
Well, next time, I will make a start on the drawer. I don't actually want to cut the opening for the drawer until I see something that actually looks like a drawer on my workbench!

Call me over-cautious, but I'll believe in that drawer when I see it.

I wonder if this bandsaw has a slower gear...

Next Episode: The Great Drawer Fiasco


  1. Hang in there, your advise is GOOD....I have been doing woodshop work for almost 35 years, and can attest: not only more accuracy can be acheived, but you will likely get through 35 years WITH ALL fingers, AND hands AND eyes, etc etc........
    Bill Tosh
    Henderson, TX

    1. Bill, I never thought of the safety aspect, but good point!

  2. My grandmother taught me how to use a hand saw. I still hear her saying "let the saw do the work" every time I use one. Edward. UK


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