A matter of scale

Intellectually, I know that the principles are the same whether you’re timber framing or making jewelry boxes. Pay attention to the grain, be careful with your layout and keep your blades sharp. The only real difference is the size of the blades.

I’ve been working on the base for the trestle table and as a quirk of my own temperament I’ve discovered that I have to pay more attention to careful and precise layout when I’m working at such a large scale. When I’m working on a small project, details come easily but large work can lull me into a sort of laziness. I don’t know why this surprised me, but it did.

Here’s the thing. A 1/32″ gap is a 1/32″ gap no matter how big the finished piece is. Sometimes you can “hide” it on bigger work by the sheer scale, but it’s there.

In cutting joinery of this size I often rely on my drill press to hog out waste, but the final trimming is all done with a chisel or router plane, so I’ve made a special effort this time to keep it clean.

Concurrently, I’ve been working on a few small scale projects. The spokeshave I wrote about here, and some handles for a pair of Kenyon style panel saws I’m building.

You might think these would be a distraction from the work at hand, but this smaller scale work has been good practice and an ongoing reminder to keep it clean on the table joinery. I have wondered if working on such a variety of tasks at the same time keeps me from getting bored and helps me to stay attentive to the individual task at hand. Maybe it’s just the “fresh eyes” effect? Maybe practice makes perfect? I can’t make any across the board prescriptions on this, but it’s been working for me and I have to admit that the table is coming together nicely.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jared Tohlen says:

    Very cool to see, thanks for sharing—you do great work.

    A couple questions to satisfy my curiosity…

    Where do you find such clear wood? Looks like construction SYP? All of that at my local stores is riddled with knots and oozing with pitch.

    Also, what wood is that you have for the saw handles? I’m looking forward to see some progress on those as I’m itching to make my own handles. Just seems a very engaging, challenging and rewarding process. Do you use a handle maker’s rasp?

    Haha ok, hopefully I’m not bugging you too much! Thanks, James!


    1. Jared, this Southern Yellow Pine was all sourced from the local big box home store. We have our share of junk on the stacks too, but with some careful planning (and the willingness to move and re-stack) you can usually dig up enough decent wood for a project.

      The saw handles are cut from a tiger maple board I’ve had stashed away for a while. Shaping a good handle is time consuming but with a little patience it’s possible. It’s certainly not magic. I use rasps and floats primarily, but a little sandpaper certainly makes it’s way into the mix.

      And it’s never a bother. Thanks for reading!


  2. It’s so true about large scale joinery. I find paring the walls of a large mortise to be one of the trickiest parts of joinery.


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