Monday, December 26, 2011

Night of 100 Cuts

Robert Wearing, Chris Schwarz, and, I believe, every other hand-tool woodworking author states simply and clearly that practice is essential, no matter how much one has observed, read, and studied.  While I have been pleased to see my handsaw skills generally up to my tasks so far, I take the above seriously and am willing to work for my self-improvement.  I like homework when I like the class.

I've read that 50 or 100 saw cuts will dramatically improve abilities, and 1000 should approach mastery.  It really wouldn't take long to get to these counts just by making things... but I want to jumpstart the process to make up for a few decades of not knowing how to use fine hand tools properly.

The Close Grain blog (one of my favorites for nicely detailed tutorials, by the way) has a great entry about this practice.  I did not make a dovetail marker as shown there, but otherwise modeled my assignment on the Night of 100 Cuts.

I am not doing a full write-up since its rather mundane and Steve eplains the whats and how-tos very well in the above link.  Instead, I just took a few photos and then stopped since I was busy with the sawing.  I also took a couple videos to see my own form but they are not nearly well-shot enough to share.

I did the series of 100 Steve recommends.  2 rounds each of 10 cuts (actually I was doing 12 or 13 for each style) set up in these 5 styles:
  • all faces square
  • edge skewed right 
  • edge skewed left
  • face skewed right
  • face skewed left
Cuts were all 3/4 deep in a 1/2" piece of hemlock.  This is the dovetail saw used:

It did indeed get easier over the course of the exercise; I started out pretty sketchy, especially regarding the rear baseline (I was not holding the saw level, but apparently sloped downhill away from me a bit).  

I took no more photos but did improve, and look forward to repeating this exercise frequently.  I will soon start to practice on actual dovetail joints (though not as part of a project), but I do want to have a Night of 100 Cuts at least monthly.  In a year that will be 1000 cuts, not counting any of them done in projects!


  1. Aw, shucks! Thanks, I'm glad you found it helpful!

    It's also useful as a quick warm-up before taking saw to wood on a real project to do a quick 10 cuts, one set of the 5 orientations, then another set. If they're not as good as you need, do another round of 10. That may save you some grief before committing to the real piece. I've found I need to do that to get back in the groove.

  2. Your dedication to the craft is admirable!


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