I like a good carcase saw in the same way I like to eat most parts of the pig. I like the way that its well-tuned crosscut teeth slice into the grain and leave behind a glassy smooth cut. I like how easy the saws are to start. I like the fact that they don’t tear the face grain up.
But like fried pork skins loaded with triglycerides, I’ve been trying to give up carcase saws lately. Why? Well it’s for a future book that I’ll be able to tell you about in a few weeks. What counts here is that I’ve been building furniture lately with just two backsaws , a dovetail saw and a sash saw that are both filed with rip teeth.
How do I handle crosscuts? With a chisel, of course. If you first create a V-groove with a chisel you can get away with almost anything. When cutting tenon shoulders, I’ve been making a V-shaped trench with a chisel before cutting the shoulder. (Author Robert Wearing calls this a “first-class saw cut.”)
Then I drop the sash saw into the trench and cut the shoulder. The chiseled trench makes sure the shoulder is clean.
I’ve been doing the same thing when crosscutting the ends off my tail boards when dovetailing. First make a trench with a chisel, then drop the saw into the trench.
And what about cutting rails and stiles to final length? In those cases I’ve been cutting a hair long and removing the ragged end on a shooting board.
All in all, it works well. And while it sounds like the chisel work is an extra step, I think I’m making up that time by the fact that I’m not having to switch saws so much. I have one saw for tenoning and one saw for dovetailing.
Will this experiment stick? I cannot say. I was always lousy at giving up jelly doughnuts for Lent as a kid.
– Christopher Schwarz
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