I almost broke down…

Every so often I forget that woodworking is supposed to be fun. Usually I’m tired, or frustrated, or both and I slog on when I should wipe the tools down and come back later.

Nothing good can come at this point.

A few months ago I was pushing through some cuts in red oak with my Bad Axe Bayonet carcase saw, and my attention wandered along with my sawing technique. Suddenly, everything felt wrong and I pulled the saw from the kerf fearing the worst. My fears were confirmed when I looked down the tooth line and rather than the laser straight plate I’m used to seeing, what I saw was a wobbly S curve staring back at me. It looked like a shiny noodle. I almost broke down. I did not take an Instagram picture.

In my mind I was already packing the saw to send back to Mark Harrell in its shameful state, but when I went to the Bad Axe Website looking for his number, what I found was the information (and courage) to fix the saw on my own. A few taps with a dead blow mallet later and the saw was like new.

Here’s the long and the short of it. Mark is an impeccable craftsman and a great salesman, but he is also a top notch teacher. In an age of planned obsolescence and maintenance-proof engineering, Mark has chosen to graciously stand behind his saws by sharing the information and knowledge necessary to get the most out of them. We live in an time when this sort of thing is not normative.

Since that fateful night, he has further expanded the information on his website and that wealth of knowledge can be found here. (I’m sharing it with you because I believe it’s invaluable. Mark isn’t giving me any kick-backs.)

While I was writing this I was also reminded of the first time I shot a .22 rifle at Boy Scout camp.  It seemed mysterious and dangerous, perhaps even beyond me. A few days later I had to break that rifle down and clean it and in so doing I began to see how all the parts worked together. It was still dangerous (like one of Mark’s freshly sharpened saws) but the mystery began to fall away. I developed a healthy respect for it as a tool and and later that summer when I was shooting quarter sized groups, I understood that properly respecting and maintaining the rifle was part of the same process as locking the bolt and squeezing the trigger.

Ditto for saws.

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