Chris Schwarz's Blog

The WIA Show Begins in a Parking lot in Hawthorne, Calif.



The first stop after leaving the Los Angeles International Airport: the Lowe’s in nearby Hawthorne, Calif. I needed lumber, tools and hardware for my first demonstration at Woodworking in America tomorrow: Build a Sawbench in an Hour.

Buying dimensional lumber on the West Coast is always a shock. About a decade ago, I bought some fir to build a workbench and was amazed at the beautiful clear fir. So thick. So abundant. So… wet. When I ripped it on the table saw, a stream of water hit me in the face. No lie.

So now I know to read the signs with care – many places sell the stuff either green or kiln-dried.

This Lowe’s had a great selection of dimensional fir in sizes I cannot buy in the Midwest, including a 4×12 x 8’. Two of those would make a nice workbench top.

But I was there to buy lumber for two sawbenches. I briefly considered 4x8s for the top, but they looked pretty beat up. The 4×6 material, on the other hand, was clear, straight and dry.

So I bought that for the top, plus some kiln-dried 2x4s for the legs and 1×8 pine for the gussets. So far, so good. Until I got the stuff to the rental car.

I needed to crosscut the parts to fit in the trunk. So out came two 5-gallon buckets to serve as ersatz sawbenches and my Stanley SharpTooth saw. You know what happens next. The locals stop to watch the crazy guy handsawing in the parking lot. So I got a good warm-up on my demo for the WIA.

I also noticed that my SharpTooth was getting dull, so I ducked back into the Lowe’s and found a new one – the 15-088. It had a wooden handle (for a four-finger grip, unfortunately) and the handle was actually nicely rounded off. Heck they already removed the lower horn for me at the factory.

Still, this is a great USA-made saw for $20. The only thing I don’t care for is the fact that the teeth are induction-hardened, so you cannot refile the teeth – they are too dang hard. I’m going to cut my old one up and make some scrapers. I can’t stand to throw tools away.

So now I’m sitting at my hotel watching a thunderstorm roll in over Pasadena. Waiting for the beer to get cold.

— Christopher Schwarz

Be sure to stop by Woodworking in America this weekend at the Pasadena Convention Center – three days of wood-nerdery taken to the highest level possible.

19 thoughts on “The WIA Show Begins in a Parking lot in Hawthorne, Calif.

  1. tombuhl

    Earlier this year I went to big box for dimensional lumber for a couple of CS-inspired saw benches. Didn’t look promising. Felt even worse. So I elected to up the budget and went to my hardwood guy for some poplar. Haven’t regretted the extra expense. Some days though you can get decent dimensional lumber from the big boys, but sure can’t count on it.
    I enjoyed WIA Pasadena and time with fellow enthusiasts. Great job by all the presenters I saw.

  2. Milford

    Cutting entire new saw teeth from scratch is undoubtedly too much for a $20 saw. However, if you just need to touch up tooth edges, Hida Tool in Berkeley caries a diamond-coated version of the skinny Japanese saw files that should cope with the hardened surfaces.

    Also, for those above who want a kid-size saw, Hida also has the small Gyokucho replaceable-blade saws – several single-edge ones plus the rip+crosscut ryoba. In my experience, that company’s replaceable-blade saws cut significantly better than some others with “local” names that look similar.

  3. Danny H.

    I don’t know about where you live, but to buy any decent quality dry lumber here in So. Cal you need to go to a real Lumber yard, one that services the professional builders and or cabinet makers. Lowes and Home Depot only have a limited supply.I’m sure there are plenty of them in the Pasadena area. Next time Chris, and be sure to bring your contractor saw stop table saw and to turn off the flesh detector unit. Or better yet, call a few weeks ahead of time and have the lumber delivered to the assembly location for proper acclimation, and have them put a few beers in the frig so there cold when you get there. You need to start thinking a little ahead mate, this is So. cal, not the back woods of Virginia. Love you Bro!

  4. FMATAS

    Finding “dry” lumber in southern California is next to impossible. Lowes and Homedepot are our main sources of regular lumber. I am able to purchase birch, redwood, etc., that has been kiln dried,but, only in 1X_(3/4″)boards. Anything larger is so “green” my hands feel wet after touching it.
    Peterman Lumber in Fontana is a good source of better quality wood. Of course, it is priced accordingly too.

  5. Bill

    I’ve had to break down many a sheet good in the Lowe’s parking lot back when we had only a small SUV that could only fit 4′x4′ pieces. (With the 100+ employees plenty of times none were trained to use the near idiot proof panel saw and of course they would not let me do it myself :-) So it was out to the lot to do it by hand or with a cordless circular saw or in the case of sheetrock with a razor blade. People would stare like I was pulling off a magic trick. Thankfully a few years ago I finally got a pickup truck and my wife’s SUV has been a lot cleaner ever since.

    My favorite parking lot cutting job was back in college when a bunch of us went to the then 24 hour Home Depot in South Boston to buy PVC to rig up homemade ‘Rack Raisers’ to raise up the beds in a dorm room to fit more stuff under them. Apparently having 5 college students each holding stacks of small pipe sections and fittings under there arms on a subway on a Sunday night is ‘suspicious’ looking. We were grinning the whole time.

  6. Dean

    Chris, I looked up the saw you recommended and came up with the two descriptions below. If I’m understanding you correctly(?), I should get the Stanley 15-335. Is this correct?

    Thank you

    Stanley 15-088 20-Inch Blade Length x 12 Points Per Inch SharpTooth Fine Finish Saw

    Stanley 15-335 20-Inch Blade Length x 9 Points Per Inch SharpTooth Handsaw

  7. andrae

    “You know what happens next. The locals stop to watch the crazy guy handsawing in the parking lot.”

    lol. I just had a vision of thousands of members of the Underhill-Schwarz Society setting up workbenches in the parking lots of big-box home improvement stores across the country and waxing neanderthalian, much to the bewilderment of passersby.

  8. sablebadger

    If it comes in short, I might buy this saw for my son’s Christmas present. I’m putting together a hand tool chest for him with tools.

    It will be in the garage next to Dad’s, and he’ll get to use them when I’m there to watch. He’s only 4 now, but 5 in Decemeber.

    Apparently his preschool has a small workbench, and scraps of wood to play around with. He came up with two pieces of wood the other other day that he had sawn in half by himself at preschool. I was a very proud pappa! And started planning to get him his own tools.

    Badger

    1. nickbrake

      Thats pretty awesome story. I have been working with my son since about age 4 in the same way. I gave him a measuring tape and a “wood store” (scrap bin) and started him to sort by size. One note it might be easier to get him a fairly high tooth count and small teeth saw such as a coping saw or a cheap japanese saw, little arms may not be able to power a saw like the ones at Lowes. I “share” my dozuki saw (he has the blade with the bent tip and missing teeth) with him and he was able to master that in short order. Now at age 7 he measures, marks, cuts, glue and clamps his creations together. Now if we are in the Springfield, MO area we have to stop by Grizzley tools and pick up a tool for two people

  9. bavakian

    I have gone to that Lowes several times and have had to cut wood as well to fit it into my hatchback. :) I am going to WIA on Saturday and plan to bring you some of my favorite IPA from a brewery in California. I think you will enjoy it.

    Brandon Avakian

  10. GregM

    The induction hardening on these saws doesn’t extend far beyond the tooth line. You could probably grind off the teeth (a file might not do it) and then re-tooth to your preference – and make the saw permanently resharpenable too. But for a $20 replacement cost, its hard to maike a case that it would be worth the effort.

  11. Tim

    I bought one of those saws a few years ago. It’s a good saw to have around. Rips, cross cuts, fits in the tool tote when I head out on “friend assist” missions.

  12. djgaloot

    I hit up the “other” big box store for supplies to build my one hour workbench for WIA. I admit to killing some electrons at my brother’s house, but I didn’t have all night. Also it will serve a second life as his reloading bench after WIA. Looking forward to 8:00 am tomorrow!
    Dave Jeske

  13. metalworkingdude

    I’m looking forward to the demo tomorrow!

    My son and I are stuck in San Jose with a delayed flight. I’d rather be at the Lowe’s parking lot.

    Like Julien, I’d bet you could cut the hardened teeth off and re-tooth it.

    Joe

  14. bluejazz

    I’m glad you have given this saw your blessing.

    Not so much that I need it to believe its a good saw, just that I always feel a little creepy having such a lowly big box saw along side my at-least-decent Veritas Carcass saws.

    Since so little of my work is likely to go straight off the saw to product anyway, I saw little value (for me) in a Wentzloff.

    At least now when I get ‘that look’ upon review of my saw line-up I have a url I can point the snobs to.

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