My son is seven years old, and so far, I have tried to refrain from proselytizing woodworking to him. My hypothesis, at least for now, is that the love for woodworking should come naturally and be cultivated with joy. So when Asher visited my one-car garage shop a few weeks ago and asked me if we could make number blocks – that is, after he couldn’t find his old ones – I said yes. I loved that he wanted to build something out of scratch, but I also knew his time at the shop would subliminally teach him some woodworking skills.
Luckily I had the right jig for the job, a small piece of plywood with two fences connected to it: a short fence at the bottom and a longer one on the top surface.
While primarily building the fence for cross-cutting right angle cuts using a pull saw over the top surface (the lower and shorter fence was meant to be clamped in the vise), I figured that in our case, I should flip the jig over and have the longer fence be tucked in the vise. Why did I do this? Quite frankly, I wanted to reduce his chances of mistakenly skipping the narrow ledge and sawing into my workbench. Giving him a few inches of sacrificial surface would be just what a young, inexperienced kid like him needed. After measuring his number blocks and marking them, I showed him how to tuck the sawblade against the right-angle end of the fence and gave him the ok to fire up the saw and start producing his own sawdust. He sawed off several blocks from a piece of scrap wood that he fished out from one of my piles, and then called it a day and went back inside to watch an episode of Spirit Rangers.
I declared victory and checked the two boxes on my “father teaches his son woodworking” to-do list. I knew I would like to write about this and share my educational experience. Still, only today, when I got to compose the images and the text, I thought that in the future, I would like to improve the cross-cutting aid and make it even more versatile and valuable.
My new and improved Cross-cutting aid would have a rabbet (MRK2) or a groove (MRK3) and will include precut segments of fence at 45 and 90 degrees that will be spaced from one another to allow the saw to slide in between them. Constructing the aid should be easy. Grooving (or dadoing) the plywood board on the table saw to match the thickness of the fence and mitering the segments on a miter saw or the table saw. Then I would only have to drop the segments, glue them down and ensure the gap between them equals the thickness of my Japanese saw.
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It’s a great idea to help kids cut small blocks safely but where’s the connection to making number blocks and this cutting jig? I’ve been wanting to do the same thing but haven’t been able to figure out how to do it… The jig looks like it would be great for those Japanese patterns “kugihiku”??? Can’t quite remember exactly what they’re called. 🤔
This story was about a simple-to-build jig to help with endless shop tasks. When Asher wanted to cut a strip of wood to represent his lost number blocks, I introduced him to the jig and the saw. The idea is that the first unit (1) is a cube, (2) is the length of two cubes, and so on and so forth. He loosely measured the cube and then saw them. I did not insist that the measurement were 100% accurate because I wanted him to experiment with the saw and the jig.