"Slabbin' at Wood" #8: "Wood Ballet Dancing in the FreeHand" --by RusticWoodArt

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by frank posted 10-16-2007 01:59 PM 1251 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: "Going from Horizontal to Vertical in Freehand" --by RusticWoodArt Part 8 of "Slabbin' at Wood" series no next part

Wood Ballet Dancing in the FreeHand

And so it’s time, time to get back on track here and answer some questions, plus try to give an understanding to any and all that want to try this type of slabbin’ at wood.

One of the issuing egresses that make my projects so long, is the time and effort I take in the planning of the project from start to finish. I really do try and make use of telling the truth, that when I say ‘hand made’ the ‘wood art’ that I complete is just that….’hand made’. Hand made to me means that in the purist sense of using that term I have taken the tree down myself by chainsaw, slab cut by ripping chain or crosscut chain, (how do you like your pickle sliced?) de-barking the wood, sticking the wood, allowing for the time it takes the wood to dry and develop character, (making my own ‘spalted maple’) planning with broadax, slick, ‘winding sticks’, or here I will sometimes vary and re-saw with the bandsaw, making use of power planers, and again maybe going with a 54’’ sander or smaller planer, butterfly’s are put in place to stabilize the checks in the tops and now I can proceed to starting the details that make up these benches and tops. Now one might wonder how much time is spent up to this point in getting the wood ready for wood-working….well lets just say 3-4 years. So the question is, do you have 3-4 years or is it easier to make a trip to your local lumber box and buy the wood?

That being said, what I’m showing here is but one step in ‘the process’ that can take 3-4-and-5 years before a piece is ready to be called finished ‘wood art’. Working wood in this manner can take time, however one must also understand that it’s only at the beginning that one has to make do with not much wood, since as the years roll by, I am now working with wood that was all-ready started way back then. The maple that I am slabbin’ in this article, is only one of many that will be slabbed this fall and winter and set aside as forgotten….but not forgotten as I watch over all the wood, outside and in.

So now we come to some questions that have been asked of me by various LumberJocks around the site here and so I will do my best to put at rest the suspense of ‘unanswered questions’.

’QUESTIONS BRING FORTH LIGHT’, whereas in times past the multitudes were subjected to being as ‘couch potatoes’ in the process of dumbing down to think and act; as after the great teachers. It was in this arena I once lived, where if I payed to read their books and hear their words, I could then also mouth their words and not having to search for my own way….I became the representation of a mirrored woodworker.

I love questions, I love to ask questions, I love to study how to ask questions, so that I can get an answer that will send me on my way, better prepared to work with what I have received. It has been said; “ask and recieve” and then one day I realized that the asking was only of second importance and the matter of first importance was what was I going to do with ‘what I received’?


1) ”Frank, do you do anything special to make your cut so it will be perpendicular to the plane, you know straight up and down?

This is where practice comes into play….or might I also say; practice and the weight of a big saw plus gravity and also the length and width of my chain bar. The chain bar itself acts as a guide for me, I mean when you set the teeth of a moving chain into the wood with a bar 24’’-36’’ long, one had best be in an understanding of what is doing the guiding. I guide the saw, but the bar itself is also guiding the ‘what’ and ‘where’ of my ‘plane’.

When I am in ‘the cut’, my eyes, ears, hands and body are all in tune with the saw, cut and the wood. Not sure how to explain this, but it’s as if I’m many dimensional at this point, and even before knowing from the vibration of saw and wood that the cut needs to be corrected….I just know and therefore make corrections. Kind of like driving down the road and before I round that upcoming curve, I just know it’s time to correct my speed before I meet the stare of radar.

I used to draw all types of lines on the wood to try and make clean straight cuts….never worked for me, and yes I know that some use guide bars also….too much work for what I’m after. Also I just recently finished reading an article about a sawer who uses a mirror on the other side to keep the tip of his saw in line of plane with the cut. However he is cutting to horizontal and I can see how this would work very good….but then thats why I like my way of cutting, for myself this is the easiest way I have found, ‘freehanding in the vertical’ and letting gravity take care to keeping me straight as a plumb line.

I hope this answer helps….and if there are more questions, ask away!

2) ”I’d have to imagine that there would be logs where the teeth on one side of the bar would not engage the log on the same level on the other side of the bar.

Yes there are logs where this does happen, and so I will further talk of this along with the next question.

3) ”You may even have logs where the teeth only engage the log on one side of the bar only.

Because the log is a ‘live edge’ there will all-ways be places where the saw and the ‘teeth’ are going to vary, and this is where the ‘pivot point’ comes into play. It’s in the continuous movement that I am able to achieve such straight cuts, so my saw is realy not so much concerned with riding the lentgh of the log as with keeping in tune with the ‘pivot point’. And so I will add here what I have all-ready stated elsewhere; “during the cut, I’m CONSTANTLY GOING THROUGH A CONTINUOUS MOTION of horizontal to vertical and then sweeping up, I cut a line and start all over again. Therefore I am in one focus with the log and have all-ready worked out or cleaned out the ground area around my feet, so that I know where they are at all times.” When one starts to understand how to use gravity, the weight of the saw, the length and width of the bar and ‘pivot point’ all to-gether, then the knots, bumps and ‘live edge’ of the log really have no-bearing.

I also have noted above how I am constantly going through a continuous motion of horizontal to vertical and then sweeping up. This is what I call a ‘wood ballet dance’ that carries on from the time I start my cut till I finish my cut. When the cut is started, I am in-tune totally with my surroundings which include the log, chainsaw, earth or terra and landscape, air and wind, plus my body with feet, hands and face and then also I am of perfect mindset. From my point of view, if any of these are out of order, then their dis-order speaks louder to me then the bumps on the log.

4) ”….the width of the bar itself is enough to keep the saw going straight ahead, similarly as what a wide bandsaw blade does versus a narrow one.

Yes, and a good answer which shows understanding…. I will now try and show by picture, some helps that yet may inspire and define what I am doing and talking about. The first cut I make will be to set my saw teeth in the width of the log slab that I am cutting and so, this is no-hard core measurement….usually around 3’’-4’’, (for the purpose of these cuts, understand that although I talk of making a cut….as if thee are many cuts, please note that from the first set of chain into the log, all is continuous cuts)....

....gravity now takes over as I am sitting on my ‘pivot point’ as I proceed downward in the vertical and then after reaching the end of #2….I now sweep the saw up and set my teeth again for the next sweep down….

....#1 sets my saw teth for width of cut, #2 sets the saw into the log and carries downward in vertical mode, where arriving at vertical postion with the saw, I now sweep up, in #3 to start all over again as my saw moves back….

....once again note #1, #2 and # 3 is all about a continuous sweeping motion, the only thing that slows down as I proceed with my cut is the rpm’s of the engine as I rev-down on my upward sweep and rev- up to full throttle on my downward sweep….

....heres one more where I have included #4 to show how the saw teeth are set. There is nothing complicated in this process and then we all know that practie makes perfect….

....with practice, one can make straight cuts in the ‘freehand’....

Any questions….remember to ask and so I will now leave off on answering the next set of questions till I come back hope-fully tomorrow.

5) ”Frank! Are you using a rip chain on your saw or the standard crosscut type?

6) ”….if using a standard chain, I found that cutting horizontally produces nice long shavings and the saw isn’t as over worked as if trying to cut with the saw as you have described,

Thank you.

” smart, work safe, and live, to work the wood….”

-- --frank, NH,

4 comments so far

View snowdog's profile


1164 posts in 4005 days

#1 posted 10-16-2007 02:54 PM

I never thought about a rip chain. I have done this with a standard (I guess cross cut chain?) I’ll have to see about a rip chain .
I just did a search and came up with this (
He says rip chains are a waste of money? I would love to hear opinions on that.

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View frank's profile


1492 posts in 4229 days

#2 posted 10-16-2007 03:18 PM

Hello Snowdog;
—-again till one has tried both the rip and crosscut chain and formed their own opinion….what matters what all the other voices are saying?

You will not find a rip chain in any HD or Lowes, have to order or make your own. Also the difference is in the angle and style of chain….skip cut, semi chisel and so on. Crosscut chains usually run with a 30-32 degree angle, while a rip cut chain’s angle is 0-8 degrees….For all around ripping I usually stay around 4 degrees.

I’ve read all these different opinions and such over many years now, but when the saw I’m using costs $1000.-$1500, do you think it’s smart to overwork that engine? Unless one knows how to work on their own engine….tear down and put back together, an engine cylinder and labor can cost you around $400.00, if not more, like what do you do when the piston comes through the head? I mean at full throttle for three to five minutes, I’m going to use the angle that gives my engine some release of stress.

So now, you’ll just have to wait till my next blog story to hear some more….

Thank you.

-- --frank, NH,

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4329 days

#3 posted 10-16-2007 04:50 PM

Hmm, Practice, practice, practice makes perfect. Thanks for the detailed pic’s and for answering the questions.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View 's profile

593 posts in 3995 days

#4 posted 10-18-2007 04:56 PM

Perfectly clear explanation Frank, your blog is always a goldmine. Thank you.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics