Don’t Bring a Fretsaw to a Coping Saw Fight
While I have a blister on my right hand from wielding a saw and mallet (alternately, of course) for five hours, I’m delighted to report that I now have the shell for my “Anarchist’s Tool Chest” dovetailed and in clamps. Yes, five hours of dovetailing for one 38″ x 21-7/8″ shell. And while Christopher Schwarz shows 13 tails per end on the tailboards in his book, I opted for only eight. I’d likely still be chopping had I slavishly followed his drawing.
So why’d it take me longer than it perhaps should have? Well, I don’t own a coping saw. I have a Knew Concepts aluminum 5″ fretsaw (and I’m testing a new design of a Knew Concepts 5″ titanium fretsaw for the magazine; it’s pictured here, and you’ll read about it in our December issue). After snapping the only regular fretsaw blade I had, I was reduced to a handful of fine spiral blades – which I’m not practiced with. And a fine spiral blade cuts frustrating slowly, even if one has lots of practice using it (Chris wrote about spiral blades here, if you’re interested).
In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn’t have gang coped the 7/8″-thick material. Taking into account the shallow rabbet on each tail board, I was making that poor little inappropriately bladed fretsaw (and my poor shoulder), cut through about 1-3/4″ of material.
Now I’m not good at math, but I believe that leaves about 3-1/4″ of blade out of the cut – less, actually, because where the blade attaches in the saw, it’s flat to about 1/4″ on either end. So that’s what…2-3/4″ of blade out of the cut at any given time. No wonder my shoulder is achy. (But here’s a sneak peek at the saw review: Though I pushed it well beyond what it’s designed to do, the saw performed better than can reasonably be expected under the circumstances – no flex in the frame that I could feel. But man do fretsaw blades snap often and easily, spiral or no.)
It likely would have been quicker to cope out (fret out?) the bulk of the waste separately on each tailboard. And I would have been able to get a lot closer to my baseline had I done that. (Instead, I operated on fear. Fear and ruthless inefficiency; no surprise.) But no. So when it came time to chop, I had to chisel out more waste than usual, and that meant having to touch up the chisel blade more often, too. Maybe I should have just chopped out all the waste; perhaps that would have been faster. I do know how, of course, but I prefer to cope and fret (so to speak).
So now I’m on the hunt for the perfect coping saw. Unfortunately, there seems to be no such thing. But after reading what Chris (and others) have written about them, I think what I want is a new old stock Olson. I might have to settle for a new new stock version. Either way, the next time I have to cut through 1-3/4″ material, my shoulder will thank me.
But hey – I made it. The shell is in clamps. and it took only a wee bit of pressure across the top to get it square. And with luck, my tendonitis will resolve itself sans cortisone injection.
p.s. If you happen to buy just the hardware for a Benchcrafted Moxon Vise, and ever plan to build an “Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” I strongly recommend you place the screws at 25″ apart on center…or a little more. The ends for the tool chest fit into my vise with 1/8″ clearance on both sides – I’d have hated to have built this shell without that vise!