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 In Techniques

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An 18th-century chairmaker’s saw makes 21st-century work easier

The graveyard of obscure and forgotten tools is large, densely packed and many layers deep. Many of these tools richly deserve their pauper’s burial. But once in a while you come across a tool that does things that are quite remarkable, and you wonder why it ever disappeared in the first place.

I didn’t go rooting around for an old tool to dig up and bring back to life. I was simply trying to find a better way to cut tenon shoulders for some of my more complicated chairs. Cutting accurate, well-aligned shoulders, even on a straight tenon, is fairly difficult; cutting them on these chairs, where I had curved parts and angled shoulders, is especially so.

I devised a solution, then discovered that earlier chairmakers – of course – had long ago faced the same problem and had come up with a rather elegant solution. But elegant or not, it went the way of so many hand-tool techniques.

Simple solution.


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