Friday, January 23, 2009

While I am waiting for the snow to thaw so I can continue working on the cabin, I thought I should talk about tools.

When it comes to removing wood, chisels are the tool of choice with Timber Framing.

I use Barr framing chisels, which are forged close by in McCall, Idaho by Barr Quarton. I own a 1", 1 1/2", and 2" chisel. I also own a large 2 1/2" wide slick with an 8" long blade. I also own a 7/8"x7x8" Barr corner chisel, although I rarely use it.

I sharpen my chisels with a two-sided diamond sharpening stone from DMT.

I've tried many different mallets (for driving chisels), Wooden mallets, rawhide mallets, round mallets, square mallets, etc. The one I settled on is a 30 ounce round carving mallet with a soft, urethane head. It provides better countrol and balance, better force, and less shock to the hand and wrist.

I really wanted to go with an all-wood mallet. I really did. But urethane won out here.

The next most important tool to the modern timber framer is the circular saw. I've got 5, and each has their own job.

The right-handed Makita 5402NA 16 5/16" beam circular saw is shown below. This is a large saw and can cut 6 1/4" when the blade is set at 90 degrees. It is a bit daunting to hold, but once you power it up you realize that it is somewhat underpowered. The blade spins at low RPMs. I've had a lot of problems doing any kind of precision work with this saw. It is good to quickly lop of ends of timbers, but that's about it. Some have recommended I upgrade to a 64 tooth carbide blade, so I may give that a shot.

When I was struggling with the large Makita (above) to rip hardwood knee brace blanks from 3" thick American elm, I decided that something a bit smaller but a bit faster would probably be ideal. Hence, I recently got a right-handed Makita 5201NA 10 1/4" circular saw. This saw will cut 3 3/4" when the blade is set to 90 degrees. I can precisely and quickly rip my elm slabs with this saw. It also works well on tenons that require cuts deeper than a conventional 7 1/4" saw can do. This is a pretty ideal saw for many timber framing cuts.

My real work horse, however, is my right-handed Makita 7 1/4" circular saw. I use this saw for cuttings tenons, dovetails, and more. No other saw gets more use in my shop, as you can probably tell from the picture.

Some cuts, especially dovetails, are much easier done with a left-handed circular saw. Here is my left-handed Porter-Cable 7 1/4" circular saw. This saw gets very little use, but I've been really impressed with it when I'm cutting dovetailed tenons.

I also have an old worm drive 7 1/4" Skilsaw circular saw. Its worm drive gives it more power, so it is especially useful for ripping thick hardwood stock. I rarely, if ever, use this saw. I find the other saws to be sufficient and lighter weight.

I'll post more about tools sometime soon...


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