the editor's desk,
The circular saw is a surprisingly modern machine, having been developed in the early 19th century. It was the sawpit that First Fleet Australians used to break down logs into the boards, beams and bearers needed to build a new country. The term “top dog” and “underdog” seem to have lost their carpentry origins. The “top dog” stood on the log, lifting and guiding the long two-handled saw while the pitman below applied all his might to pulling the saw through the log. The poor guy working in the sawpit did most of the work and was rewarded for his efforts by a shower of dust and shavings. He really was an “underdog”.
It is the early American toolmaker Tabitha Babbitt who was credited with inventing the circular saw in 1813. (English and Dutch saws may have been developed earlier, however, it was the booming American economy that saw Babbitt’s design win out.)
Tabitha was a Shaker, a non-conformist sect a lot like the modern day Amish. Shaker furniture was designed to be light enough to hang on pegs so that the meeting rooms could be cleared for religious services. These services ended with the believers entering into a religious ecstasy that manifested itself in a group shake (the sect was celibate so they had a lot of energy to burn off). Tabitha watched her fellow Shakers labouring in a sawpit and had a eureka moment that led to the first table saw (and more time for shaking). The Shakers had communal property and did not believe in patents. The sawpit was soon replaced worldwide by large circular saws run by watermills and steam engines. In no time toolmakers the world over were developing and tweaking designs, powering saws with diesel, kerosene and petrol engines before settling on the efficient electric motors we have today.
This table saw has evolved into a versatile machine that has become the workhorse at the centre of a workshop.
This special edition of Australian Woodsmith is the first in a series that will focus on a single workshop machine or process. We’ve compiled our favourite techniques, our best jigs and our most trusted tips to help you get the most of the tool that takes centre stage in any workshop.
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