I went in my garage this afternoon after work to get in a little tool maintenance on a dreary day. Since I’ve been practicing sawing dovetails whenever I get a chance, I decided to sharpen a few saws and hone a few chisels while I was at it.
The other day I posted about the virtues of having a leg vise on your woodworking bench. I like to think I made a pretty strong case, but there is one thing I forgot to add: A leg vise can also be used as a saw vise. The wide face and deep offer both clamping power and room to spare. I simply use two scrap boards on each side of the saw, clamp it into the vise, and go to town. There is a drawback; you either have to stoop or sit down so do the filing, and considering I don’t like to stoop if I can’t help it I use a stool, though I would prefer to stand, unlike Wesley Beal ;).
Let’s see a face vise easily do this…
I sharpened my dovetail saw and my rip saw, as well as honed a few chisels. But I still had the bad taste in my mouth of the hideous tails-first dovetails I cut the other day, so I decided to do something about it.
Because I like to think I’m pretty good at sawing through dovetails, I decided on yet another different approach, I decided to saw left handed. I’ll let everybody in on a little secret about Mr. Confused; I am what is known as ‘Cross-Dominant’
Cross-dominance isn’t a preference for certain clothing, it is just means that I favor my left hand for certain tasks, my right for the other. For instance, I throw with my left hand and write with my right hand. I shoot a rifle left-handed, play a guitar right handed, and shoot a basketball left-handed. But when it comes to woodworking I favor my right hand. I saw, plane, and hammer with my right hand. In fact, I can’t think of one woodworking task where I favor my left hand.
This wasn’t always the case. When I was a kid I would likely have sawn or hammered something with my left hand. For whatever reasons as I’ve gotten older I prefer doing things right-handed more and more. Perhaps that is because I no longer play organized sports, and it was only when playing sports that my left-handedness came to the forefront. And for the record, cross-dominance offers no real significant advantage in life that I know of, though it may explain why I’m a decent musician and why I can type like the devil.
In any event, what brought this little experiment on is an odd little quirk I have when sawing dovetails. I’ve always had trouble with sawing the tail on the far left of the board. I can’t really explain why, but it has always been the case. I can saw a board with ten tails on it, and the far left saw cut always gives me grief, whether I saw it last, first, or somewhere in the middle. My idea was to saw just that cut with my left hand to see if it improves. Instead, I decided to try the whole joint left-handed.
Strangely enough, I had almost no problems using my left hand, and it felt fairly natural after a few seconds. The joint turned out pretty nicely as well, only minimal gaps and a nice snug fit. And though I don’t see any real advantage to sawing with my left hand, that far left kerf was a bit easier.
Left-handed dovetails, pencil lines look like gaps, but I assure you they are not…
The next time I get in a little practice I will likely be sawing with my right hand again, but I think I may try to saw just that far left kerf left-handed again. Whether or not it is just a mental thing, or the fact that the angle is physically easier to saw with my left hand, or a little bit of both, it seemed to work, and it seems worth working at.