THE tools being ready, it may fairly be supposed that the novice is anxious to use them, and to enable him to do so general directions will be given. It must, however, be premised that the following remarks are not to be taken as if the work mentioned were so many exercises which must be worked out or practised before anything further can be done. It will, no doubt, be a means of acquiring experience if the novice does actually follow out the instructions as they are recorded, but they are intended to be of wider application than this. They are the points to be put in force when actual work is being done, and any trials which may be made with loose timber, that is, pieces which are not intended to be formed into anything, will be more by way of experiment than anything else. The novice must not think that he will be able even by following the clearest directions in the most careful manner to use the tools properly at first. He must practise before he can gain facility, although there are some who seem to think that if they are told or shown how to do a thing they ought to be able to manage equally well. The things look so very easy when done by skilful hands that beginners sometimes apparently forget that it has taken time for even the cleverest worker to learn. The young practical mechanic, of course, learns almost insensibly how to hold and use his tools, for if he goes wrong he is checked at once by those over him. The amateur, however, must rely more on himself, and it is principally to aid him that this chapter is written. I may remind him that though directions for holding and working the tools are given, he need not follow them slavishly, if, after practising them, he finds that some other method suits him better. At first, though, he should follow them as closely as possible, even though the movements may seem awkward, as they undoubtedly will. Their use may be compared to learning to write. At first we are taught to hold a pen in what to the child seems a most constrained position, afterwards as practice emboldens we hold our pens to suit ourselves. Just so with tools, for every worker develops a style of his own, and ceases to be guided by hard and fast lines. Of course, only the most elementary usage of tools can be treated of here, for as he becomes more familiar with them the learner will see what is best to be done in any special case requiring different treatment. His experience will, as it were, insensibly widen.
As wood has to be sawn to sizes, or, as it is said, the stuff is got out, before a job can be begun, sawing may first be attended to. Let us suppose it is a plank, not small bits, to be worked on. The first thing will be to mark the lines which are to serve as guides. Needless to say that these must be straight. The board may either be supported on sawing trestles or on the bench top, the latter being the manner common among cabinetmakers. Those who have become accustomed to the other need not discard it, though it will be of advantage to saw with the latter. The trestles are merely supports for the wood, and may be of any convenient height.
When commencing a cut, place the saw teeth against the line, the handle being in the right hand. To steady the saw place the fingers of the other hand near its edge, and to give it a good start draw the saw upwards. Doing this a slight cut will be made, and the jumping about of the saw from the line on the first down stroke of the saw, so often seen when amateurs begin sawing, will be avoided, and the sharp edge of the wood near the saw kerf will be uninjured. It is presumed that ripping, that is, sawing with the grain, is being done. The sawyer should work with a steady action, remembering that the actual cutting is done on the downward stroke. The precise angle at which the saw is held is not of great consequence, and should be that at which the sawyer has the most command over his work. If the handle is too low down, that is, with the saw edge not sloping enough, the cutting in the wood between its top and bottom surface will be so long that the labour might be considerably more than it need be; very similar to that which would be exerted by cutting through much thicker stuff. Let any one try the extreme in this direction, viz., to saw with the edge all along on the wood, then raise the handle somewhat, and the difference will soon be noticed. At a certain angle or near about, every one will find he can saw better than another, and that is the right one for him. The thrusts should be as straight as they well can be, always in one line without swaying the handle backwards and forwards, and not altering the angle of the saw more than can be helped. Work both from the shoulder and the elbow. At first the saw will evince a decided tendency to wander from the line, and this must be carefully guarded against, for the slightest deviation at the beginning may at the end of a long cut have become a very serious one. With an irregularly set saw it is impossible to cut straightly. The edge will stray from the line.
If the saw is held with its edge perpendicularly or too nearly so the action will be more constrained than it need be, and there would be greater difficulty in keeping to the line.
Now, in addition to sawing straightly along the line, it will be remarked that the other direction of the blade, a sideways one, must be carefully watched, for if the saw slopes to either side the sawn edges cannot be square. If anything the tendency with the beginner will be for the saw to lean over to him as the cut extends, even if it was right at first. This must be guarded against, for when once a saw cut gets wrong it is not altogether easy to get the line right again. Prevention is better than cure, and frequent recourse should be had to the square. Put the block of this on the wood with the steel blade upwards and its edge against the side of the saw. If the two touch equally the work is all right; but, on the contrary, if the saw touches only the top or bottom of the steel, and, of course, gradually widens the distance between to the other end, the saw is slanting in one direction or the other. It seems almost needless to say that the sawyer stands with the board a little on his right, and moves backward as the cut progresses.