Monday, January 23, 2012

When hand-tools work better.

I like my power tools.  Making lots of repeat cuts with a hand-saw isn't my idea of fun, especially when a chop-saw and a stop-block will get me done with all of those in a couple of minutes.  But there are times when hand tools just seem faster.

Last night I found myself needing to cut a rabbet around a quarter of an inch deep in a piece of 3/4" ply.  Two of them actually, one in each of two boards.  I'm having some problems with my router (the cold temperatures seem to have frozen up the plunge base, and also shrunk it enough that I can't get the motor OUT of it to put in the other base...), and the table saw is a pain to set up when it's snowing, since I need to move things out of the garage to use it.

That's OK... I have a circular saw with a guide, and some sharp chisels.  I made my first cut 3/4" in from the edge of the board, made a few more cuts to clean out some of the waste, then started cleaning up with a chisel.  After about five minutes, I got sick of it, and realized I had a better tool for the job:  an actual rabbet plane.  It's an old Miller's Falls No. 85 that I picked up cheap on eBay, and it hasn't seen much use.  This seemed like a good opportunity.

I pulled it out, set the iron to take a relatively thin shaving, set the fence to keep it from running too far in, and started cutting.  About 30 seconds later, I was done.  For the second board, I didn't bother with the chisels.  I cut a line with the circular saw as a depth gauge (the depth stop for my rabbet plane is missing), and started cutting with the rabbet plane.  About two minutes later I was done, with a perfectly smooth bottom and a clean edge.

I'm not saying it couldn't have been done with a router or table saw, but I think it would have taken me longer to set up my saw than it took me to actually cut the rabbets with the plane.

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