“Let the saw do the work.”
Makes sense. The problem is that it can’t be taught. Told, yes, taught, no. It is one of those things that can only be learned thru practice. How tight to grip the handle, some or no downward force. These are things that must be experienced. We all know it and have figured it out for ourselves. Now, How often do you read or hear about the rest of your tools. Let the chisel do the work?
Several months ago I was surfing thru tool porn and by chance read a statement on a Japanese tool sight. At the time it didn’t really register and I passed it by without much thought. I can’t even remember where exactly I read it. My subconscious though, grabbed hold of it and kept pushing it into my thoughts. The statement was made by a Japanese tool maker in reference to tool warranties and it went something like this:
“…heavy handed western woodworkers…”
I chuckled a little when I read it moved on. But in the days and weeks following, the statement kept creeping into my thoughts. The more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder. “Am I a heavy handed western woodworker?” So I began to deliberately ease up in all of my shop work. I took smaller bites with the chisels and pushed them with less and less force. I eased my grip on my saws and worked toward just pushing and pulling them. Same approach with my planes. Admittedly I took it to the extreme and then worked back into it to find the “sweet spot”.
What I found was quite surprising. First, it takes a lot less force to accomplish woodworking tasks than I had ever imagined. Second, my accuracy improved by a fairly large margin. Third, my surfaces and joinery edges became much cleaner. Fourth, I actually began to work faster with much less effort. Who would have thunk it? Heck, my tool edges are even lasting longer now.
Looking back now its hard to believe that a seemingly innocuous statement could make such a marked difference in my woodworking. Apparently I was a “heavy handed western woodworker”. Maybe its the inclusion of the word “work” that makes us think that building things with wood is supposed to be hard. What I learned is that it really isn’t hard nor is it actually work. Now I look at what I do more as “woodcoaxing” or maybe “woodnuancing”.
Here is where it gets tricky. I’m not accusing any of you good souls of being heavy handed. What I would like you to do is give it some thought. More importantly, I would like you to experiment with the amount of force you use in your shop. Not to prove my point, but in hopes that you can experience to some or greater degree the benefits that I have. After all, I can tell you about it but I can’t teach it to you. On the other hand, maybe I’m the last schmuck on the planet to figure it out.