Monthly Archives: February 2015

Tool and technique

Wouldn’t it be cool to command a monster tablesaw like this?

Yesterday I finally tackled a little home improvement job involving cutting up and screwing in waferboard panels in my attic.

The attic, accessible by stairway from my garage, has a small area already paneled for storage. But I sought to enlarge this area, under the eaves, for you know how junk builds up and no storage ever seems adequate. (Yes, I know, it’s spring cleaning time already, but that’s a topic for another day.)

I have most of the tools the average homeowner needs, including, in the cutting line, a small table saw, a miter saw, a reciprocating saw, a jigsaw, and a circular saw. Problem is, when it comes to cutting a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood or wafer board, how to accomplish the task by yourself.

If my table saw were big enough (it’s not) and stable enough (ditto: it’s not anchored down), I could feed a sheet through by myself. I wanted a straight cut, cutting each sheet in two length-wise, so I’d end up with two 2′ x 8′ pieces that could be hoisted easily through the small attic hatch door and manipulated into place.

So I got out two sawhorses and a roller-bar lifter, which adjusts vertically to receive and support heavy objects. Marked the waferboard down the middle, clamped on a 2″ x 4″ to guide the saw shoe, and what the hell? The only 2″ x 4″s I had on hand measured, from the store, about 92″ — not quite 8′. And they were noticeably warped. But I did what I could,  C-clamping the 2″ x 4″ on one end and screwing it through the wafer board on the other. Trouble was, as you might expect, the cut went off course when the saw shoe slid under the warped 2″ x 4″. Damn it. Damn it to hell.

But, what the hell, this was not fine woodworking, but purely utility storage for the attic. And the two sides of the sheet, though not straight in the middle, would fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.

I was doing my cuts outside, on the driveway, and though the afternoon had started out mild it was growing colder and darker as I proceeded. By the time I finished up, about 5:00 pm, it was chilly and drear out, and whatever technique I had to make up for my lack of quite the right tool — a big table saw, or a long straight board or rule — evaporated with my impatience and hurry to be done.

When the Black & Decker folding table I was also using to support my work would not fold down easily, I kicked it, it fell over, and the two plastic crank handles both shattered on the cement. Damn it. Damn it to hell.

Where tools are lacking, and technique is not necessarily up to par, perhaps it’s patience that is required most of all. Perhaps patience is the technique we all could use to set life straight and make our little projects turn out fine.

Technique, from the Greek techne: it’s how we do with what we have on hand, even when the hand shakes, the mouth curses, the blood begins to boil. Technique, as in patience, as in slow down, boy, it’s getting dark, the project can resume tomorrow, there’s always another day and a clearer way.