Time to tune

Music is cool. I keep my iPod strapped to my arm most every day, listening as I go about my business.  If I’m writing at work, it’s classical. On the bike?  Something with a driving tempo to help me keep my pace. And then there is my favorite.. anything with a kickin’ bass groove.

Regardless of the style of music, there’s one thing that all musicians have in common: They know that their instruments are worthless for making music if they are out of tune. Even if you don’t have a musically-trained ear, when a piano hits a note that’s not quite right, you will notice that something’s out of whack.  Same thing with a guitar, a violin – whatever.

That’s why before a performance you can watch band members spending time in a sound check, tuning up their instruments to give the right sound during the show. Pluck the string, tune the string, pluck it again until it’s just right.

Unless you are woodworking in front of a camera or a group of woodworking students, there’s a very good chance that you will be performing for an audience of just yourself. But, the same principles apply.

Tuning your tools is a critical part of the building process. Not only do well-tuned tools perform better – they are also safer to work with. They give superior results for the project you are working so hard to complete.

But, where to begin? For power tools, the best bet is to crack open the owner’s manual or a book or website dealing with your brand of tool. This will give you the know-how on how to tackle this task.

In many cases – especially for your power tools, just getting all of its internal parts clean and free of sawdust is a critical first step.  All of the sensitive gears, tool blade and bit holders and sensitive electric windings perform much better when not jammed up with crud.

Alignment is another critical part of this tuning up process.  Lining your rip saw parallel with the miter slots and blade on your table saw gives superior results and helps to reduce the likelihood you will see a kickback.  Getting those band saw wheels coplanar will increase the life of your band saw blade and how well it tracks. A few moments doing these tasks can save lots of time and trouble later.

And, when it comes to bits and blades, you can’t beat clean and sharp. Get the gunk off your table saw blades and router bits. Plane irons, chisels and hand saws, properly honed to a razor sharp edge, make hand work a breeze.

Does this take time away from woodworking?  You bet. You won’t be able to jump headlong into building.  But, just as with any musician, if you don’t take the time to tune your instruments, your work could very easily hit a sour note.

2 thoughts on “Time to tune”

  1. Well-written words of all-too-unconventional wisdom. Tuning my cheap table saw nearly rises to a fetish for me. 🙂

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