Dodging Bullets - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Dodging Bullets

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Woodworking Blogs

There is a downside to buying lumber from a guy’s garage.Ã?  Retail, the 12/4 walnut and 8/4 walnut I scored from the garage would have cost me more than $400. I paid $90. But there was another bill about to come due on that wood.

This afternoon I took a break from editing manuscripts and decided to surface all the walnut for the Creole Table’s aprons and top. I had to resaw the 8/4 plank on the Laguna to get the aprons and so I took a close look at the saw’s set up. The guides looked good. The blade was positioned just right on the wheels. And a milk run (no wood) indicated everything was humming.

So I made a test cut on one of the fall-off pieces. Groan. The 5/8″ blade was so dull it wouldn’t resaw a wet baguette. So I remove the blade, put on a slightly fresher one and then , joy , go to a meeting on the third floor to discuss some magazine business.

Meeting adjourned. I follow the trail of fine walnut dust I left behind me to find my way back to the shop and fire up the saw with the newer blade. It cuts. Joy.

So I start resawing all the parts. Then I get to the piece that will have the front and back apron. About one-quarter through the cut, sparks fly everywhere. Are the guides misaligned? I stop the saw, inspect the rig and it checks out fine. I start sawing again and there are no problems.

When I open the two planks up on my bench, I see the problem. It looks like there’s a big old cut nail running right through the kerf line. I can see the head clearly, and the shank is buried in the work.

But something is not right. � 

If that’s the head of the nail, then the nail would have to have been driven from something that was inside the tree. I get the pliers and an old awl. Ten seconds later I dig out the culprit, which turns out to be chicken McNugget-shaped, not nail-shaped. It looks to me like a bullet. The “wound” in the tree is what looked like a shank of a nail.

I inspect the band saw blade. It looks good. Deciding that I had more luck than brains, I go home for a beer.

Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 3 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz


    We do have a metal detector. And they are a great concept. In practice, however, the inexpensive ones we’ve tried have been less than ideal. We buried a bunch of nails in boards a few years ago and tried out the different metal detectors to see if we could find the nails. If we moved the detectors reallllly slow, yes, we could find the nails. If we moved it with any haste, nada.

    In 10 years of dealing with lumber from the lumberyard and from the forest, we’ve found only two bullets in thousands and thousands of board feet of wood.

    If we had more of a bullet problem, we’d get a metal detector. Otherwise….


  • Alan DuBoff

    Ooops, I mean the maple was the better score…fat finger’d that one…

  • Alan DuBoff


    That’s a great read, but it could happen in any lumber, right? The bullet-proof bench in the PWW from last year (your tool cabinet kicks @$$ BTW;-) is proof of just that.

    I just built an apron for a bench I renovated myself.

    This bench will be used to build a bench.;-)

    But the funnier thing is that I just got a load of maple not long ago (it was kiln dried in Canada I was told), and traded 100bf for some walnut that was milled by a local sawyer (which a friend of mine had bought a few months ago).

    I think the walnut was the better score:

    The maple is shorts and narrows, bit was surfaced on both sides with a drum sander, using 2 different grits. The guy I bought it from has a contract for clear maple only, so any figure and grain gets pulled out…some decent looking lumber…I hope to build a lot of different furniture with it.

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