Chris Schwarz's Blog

Report Card: 6 Months Without a Chop Saw

When I reorganized my shop last Spring, I sold a lot of stuff. I sold so much stuff that I was afraid that I was cutting into the bone.

I sold my routers. My router table. My sliding compound miter saw. And lots more (a biscuit joiner, sanders and shop vacuums to name a few).

Of all the tools I sold, I thought I would miss the chop saw the most. This particular saw saved my bacon when I needed to process 160 linear feet of 2x8s for a sawbench or several hundred linear feet of 2x12s for a workbench class.

But here I am six months without a chop saw, and I don’t miss it a bit. Honestly. For knocking down rough stock I’ve been using my 8-point crosscut handsaw and two sawbenches. As a result of switching to the handsaw, I’ve greatly increased my endurance when handsawing – not to mention my accuracy.

After six months of sawing – and I have been sawing a lot – I am a much smoother sawyer. My sawblade never makes that awful “bwrang!” sound when you are misaligned in the kerf. I thought I would hate processing the harder woods, such as maple, but they really don’t give me any trouble.

A sharp saw fixes everything.

For miters and precision crosscuts, I’ve come to rely on my Millers Falls miter box. It’s noticeably more accurate than an electric chop saw when cutting miters. And it saws stock to length with exactly the same accuracy.

Yes, it is slower, but there are advantages to the slower pace.

For one thing, I’m less likely to make a mistake. When cutting out all the stock today for an 18th-century-style table I made a small mistake in calculating the length of one apron. But because everything was happening in comparative slow motion on my sawbench, I had time to adjust my plan because I was actively thinking during each cut.

It’s like the difference between a hayride and a roller coaster. During a roller coaster ride all I can think about is hanging on so I don’t die (I do enjoy it, truth be told). When I’m on a hayride I can watch the moon rise, hear the crickets and feel a fall breeze.

As I was sweeping up my shop today I noticed how my cabinet saw was starting to become a dedicated sharpening station. Most of my long rips are made on a band saw; the table saw hasn’t seen much action this year.

Could it be next?

— Christopher Schwarz

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36 thoughts on “Report Card: 6 Months Without a Chop Saw

  1. mjdinsmore

    This seems all well and good, but I feel like I must speak out as the lone woodworker who also has to do home repairs. For example, this weekend I’m busy taking down some rotted wooden gutters on my Victorian home and replacing fascia boards. I am definitely using my chop saw to cut all the trimwork/boards for this project and need to keep it. I don’t mind using a hand saw, but for house projects like this, I’m just trying to get it done — and not make fine furniture.

    So my hats off to all of you woodworkers who can manage to just do the woodworking but avoid getting involved in all the house projects around the home!

    1. Clay Dowling

      I actually prefer to cut trim with my hand-powered miter saw, rather than my chop saw. I did it for my bathroom, and I’ll do it again for my kitchen. They’re both full of lots of funky angles and short pieces, making the muscle powered solution a faster and easier choice for me.

    2. cbf123

      Not the lone one. It’s hard to rip sheets of MDF with hand tools or on a bandsaw, and I wouldn’t want to profile all the baseboards in my house with a molding plane.

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