The Chip Carver’s Guide to the Workshop

Author’s note: This farce, forced into the mold of Douglas Adams’ masterpiece, won’t be dining at the restaurant at the end of the universe, but I’m hoping it could at least pass as the ugly stepchild rejected from his epic series. –Jesse Griggs

The following guide, having absolutely nothing to do with chip carving, is nonetheless an important entry in The Chip Carver’s Guide to the Workshop because it is a forgone conclusion that every woodworker will at some point decide to try something new whether they like it or not (most will never even consider chip carving). In this case, a certain project called for a specific type of molding (fortunately not the scientific experiment kind– like the plate of food whose ravenous owner, while wondering if the thing he just pulled out of his fridge was green turning brown or brown turning green, noticed it had recently begun asking to be fed).

Now where was I? Ah, the molding! Yes, this particular molding was chamfered and bow-legged or had, in the new fangled speech, acute angle.

Now if you are among the 92 and ⅝ percent of woodworkers who own a table saw, you might think to yourself, “Oh I just need to turn the dial that I never touch, except in such rare instances as this, that will simply tilt the blade away from the fence…..” (‘away from the fence’ assuming one practices reasonable safety on a table saw, which is in itself something of an oxymoron) “Then I can run my stock through the blade and end up with a nice clean chamfer and be done with it.” (Astute observers will have noted that 92 ⅝” is what is known a “stud.” ) If on the other hand you are among the other 7 and 12/32 percent of people who do not own a table saw, you are left with 2 options. The 3rd best and simplest option is to scribe the lines on both sides of the stock and using a series of bench planes beginning with the fore followed not by the aft but rather the tri and lastly the smoothing plane remove the waste until you have snuck up on both scribed lines with the subtlety not of your mother-in-law’s fruit cake leftover from the youth of the Ghost of Christmas Past but the moment following your daughter’s first step as she sits down so slowly you can almost see the paint drying on her unfinished crib that won’t be completed until your fourth child has your fifth grandchild.

Now the best method has been covered in great detail not only as a brief entry about studs in this most useful manual, The Chip Carver’s Guide to the Workshop, but also in nearly every woodworking journal since before Herbert Hoover failed to clean up the US economy. So rather than waste more of your time with another nondescript explanation of an otherwise obvious method, let us discuss the road less travelled. (And no I don’t mean the cold poem, I mean the bandsaw).

If you are less familiar with the beauties of the bandsaw you should pause to read chapter 11 of The Chip Carver’s Guide to the Workshop which covers the decline of several notable tool companies including Morgan-Stanley and overdraughts your attention to the beneficiary of the wheel, the bandsaw.

Now that you have returned, we can continue the rhetorical discussion at hand, how to use the bandsaw to lighten the assets of your stock. The nicer bandsaws have a table cleverly engineered to swivel in one direction to allow you to cut a bevel on your workpiece. This feature only covers half of your bevel needs. You would think that being one of the first powered woodworking machines, the designers of the bandsaw would have enough head start to figure out how to get that table to swivel in both directions, or at least the forethought to include a table saw with every purchase, but alas they probably got sidetracked by the marketers who ordered them to castrate the flattening ability from the fore plane leaving it a scrub plane in order to sell to the unsuspecting woodworker the same plane twice. For more information on this and other fascinating woodworking myths try to find Area 51 in The Chipcarver’s Guide to the Workshop. Recognizing the limitations of the bandsaw and noting you are already an experienced woodworker having made it this far in The Chip Carver’s Guide to the Workshop, you will no doubt already be familiar with how to jury-rig your tools to break free from the limitations imposed on them by the guy who just wants to sell you another dance card (not that jigs aren’t delightful when paired with the right girl, but who has time or money for that when you could be woodworking with free firewood?). The solution is to eyeball your desired bow-legged chamfer against the blade while setting your fence to match the top corner of your bough’s boring end (some reader’s parents would refer to that end as “square”). Then, dig through your overflowing bin of kindling to find a piece just wide enough to split the distance between the bottom inside corner of your stock and the lower inside corner of your fence. If you need to read all that again for clarity, I’ll wait……. Now the second time around those of you who didn’t sleep through geometry will notice that your fence plus the soon to be green wood (or was it brown? No matter, it’s almost molding either way) makes a triangle. Now, balancing your stock on the two protruding corners, one on the fence the other the forgotten piece soon to once again be wasting away in the bin from whence it came, you can feed your stock through and through watching it shrink to a shadow of itself. Hopefully you will have left your lines and then can continue on with the 3rd best option as noted above only this time because you had the forethought to think ahead, you can skip to the tri and finish with the smoothing plane while dreaming of when your 5th grandchild is sleeping in her by then finished crib.

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