Sunday, August 12, 2018


One of the things I noticed in my summer adult classes is that often students may want their teacher (me) to do their observing for them. They want to know, "Why doesn't this joint pull together?"

The answer is usually obvious to me. A bottom or top panel may be too long, or too wide or the grooves joining them may not be cut to a consistent depth. In finger jointed boxes, the spaces between the fingers may not all have been cut to an equal depth. In making a box, there are always just a few things that can be wrong. And with some experience, and guidance, most problems can be solved through attention to:  1. careful measuring and set up to make cuts. 2. a firm and consistent grip as parts are guided through operations, and 3. the removal of waste sawdust or wood chips that can get in the way of parts being in position for consistent cuts. So I generally look for three things. Knowing what those things are can help me in getting my students to observe those same three things for themselves and solve their own box making problems.

In a video, Michael Fortune shows how to tune a bandsaw to avoid "drift". He's simplified things in 3 steps. One is to center the blade on the upper wheel. The second is to make sure the fence is aligned with the miter gauge slot. The third is to make sure the table is aligned square to the cut so the miter gauge slot will be aligned to the direction of cut.

Of course, all that's not as easy as it sounds. One must first become an observer and learn to trust what one sees and one's own skills of interpretation and discernment. Those are things students learn by doing real things in school, things you will not get from a book. My students tell me, "It looked easy when you did it." Adding some practice, it will be easy for them also.
"Let the youth once learn to take a straight shaving off a plank, or draw a fine curve without faltering, or lay a brick level in its mortar, and he has learned a multitude of other matters which no lips of man could ever teach him." --John Ruskin, "Time and Tide", 1883
Make, fix, create and assist others in learning lifewise.

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