Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Power Tools

Yes, a girl's best friend - power tools. Today I was in the studio ripping boards into 1 1/2" widths to make cradled panels for painting. I finally used the table saw that spent three years in a box unassembled because I was too timid to put it together. (In fact I still didn't put it together - I got Bonnie to do it.)

The table saw is still a bit scary but I took a course with Kim Bernard that explained and demonstrated how to use three kinds of power saws to make painting panels. I was already familiar with (and owned) a chop saw and jig saw, but the table saw was a whole new ballgame. Once Kim showed us how it operated and the safety precautions to use, it became a lot more manageable to me. All I had to do then was to get Bonnie into the studio to put it together. (She's in charge of all assemblage in our house - and studio.)

The first thing I did today was to make a push stick for the table saw using my jig saw. The push stick looks like a product of unskilled labor, but it gets the job done of saving my fingers and pushing the wood through the saw to the other side.

I actually made three panels today using the lumber I ripped along with some birch plywood that I had the lumberyard cut a while back. I'm going to continue using the lumberyard to cut the plywood because they have giant saws and can make much better cuts than I can.

My table saw looks something like this except mine is a Craftsman from Sears. It was very inexpensive and came with the attached stand. I think it will do just fine for my purposes, but it does put out a hell of a lot of sawdust. It has a giant black sawdust bag under the saw (unlike this photo) that hangs all the way to the floor. I know I have it set up correctly, but maybe 20 percent of the sawdust is going into the bag and the rest is all over the floor, the saw and me. Not too efficient.

So after I ripped the lumber, I chopped it into lengths using my chop saw and then got out my trusty Makita sander - probably the most expensive power tool I've bought for the studio at around $225. It did wonders for me with the panels today - not only in smoothing out the rough edges of the panels but in erasing the errors I made at the edges where the cradle met the plywood. Sometimes either the plywood or the cradle stuck out a little too much and the sander just whisked that protrusion right out of there. OK, I'm not the world's greatest carpenter.

By the way, another arty use for the sander I've found is sanding the acrylic surface off a (heavy) piece of paper painted with thinned acrylic. The sander just leaves the stained paper behind - although it can take off too much of the surface if you're not careful. I used this sanding treatment when I wanted to paint over old acrylic paintings with encaustic but needed to remove the plasticky finish and make the surface more absorbent.

Power tools are the great gender leveler as far as I'm concerned. (I guess sculptors already know this, but it came kinda late to this painter.) No real strength is needed to use them - just skill and knowledge - something that women can easily acquire. So don't let those boys keep the tools for themselves. If they won't share, go out and get your own.


Mary Buek said...

I LOVE power tools. I have the same kind of saws you have, and they still scare me a little, but I still have all my fingers. Once in a while a piece will flip out and fly across the room. I love your comment about them being "gender levelers."

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks for your comment, Mary. Counting fingers before beginning to cut is the most important thing to keep in mind I think. If you do that, then you don't have to count afterwards.

Lauren said...

I had NO idea you were so talented with THE power tools!

Wendy Rodrigue Magnus said...

Nancy, you are so BRAVE! I believe I'm less intimidated by the thought of flying a jet than by a power tool. And despite your comment that it does not require strength, I just can't believe it. I'm likely to slice off my arm (or someone) else's first time out of the gate.

Anyway, VERY impressive. And I enjoyed the mental picture of you and everything else covered in dust from the saw. You go, Girl-