Reply by David Kirtley

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Posted on precision

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2962 days

#1 posted 04-05-2011 06:39 AM

The number one thing that will increase your accuracy is good work holding and fixed positioning. That is why people fret so much over a workbench. It is not a table. It is a clamping device. It is also why people fret over their chucks on a lathe. There are just too many ways for the workpiece to move. Clamps, holdfasts, bench hooks, vises, sticking boards, and many other auxiliary work holders are available to add to your arsenal for holding things in place while you are cutting and guiding your cuts.

The real trick is not to expect to plow through and make a well fitting piece with one pass. It really is not that reasonable to expect to have a finished piece with one cut. Rapid stock removal and precision cuts are two different things. You are fighting a constant battle to try to do them both at the same time. Take a roughing cut to get it into the ball park and then tune in with precision tools. For making precision cuts to length, use fixed stops that are set to predetermined positions where you do not have any choice but to cut to the proper dimension. Clamp things down carefully where they cannot move while cutting. That is why miter boxes and miter saws have clamps on them.

If you are talking about hand tools for close fitting, planes and scrapers can be really useful in making microscopic adjustments. A well set plane can take off just a few thousandths off. Also floats and files are great for making small adjustments.

For power tools, routers with good fences or templates can make clean repeatable cuts. For most parts, I will cut roughly to size on a bandsaw and then sneak up to final measurements with planes, spokeshaves, files, scrapers, sandpaper, rotary tools, or anything else handy to get to the final dimension. I am predominantly an advocate of hand tools but I am not a purist. I also have a table mounted router with an Incra fence.

I am not a fan of tablesaws. They make good cuts but for the most part, their work holding sucks. The only exception I would make would be the big ones with sliding tables where you can clamp the work in place and move it through the cutter. Yes, you can add things like panel jigs and such but they don’t usually have the same precision unless you spend a lot of time getting them adjusted. The real problem with tablesaws is not the crosscutting. It is the ripping.

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