Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Fastest Way to Fast is Slow

I'm a former music teacher.  The title of this post reflects one of the little jewels of wisdom I picked up learning to play the trombone, and I passed it on to almost all of my students.  I think even the guys in the hobby big-band I still play in have heard this many times from me.

The fastest way to fast is slow.

In other words, if you want to learn "Flight of the Bumble Bee" on the trumpet, you shouldn't start by trying to play it as fast as Rafael Mendez.

The fastest way to learn that piece is to slow it down.  WAY down.  Play with a metronome and make each note last one second or so.  Then play it again, the same speed.  Once you can play it perfectly that slow, bump up the metronome a little and try it again.  Keep going, you get the idea.  Soon you will have all of those notes just like he does.

Does this have anything to do with woodworking?  Yes!

I have been inspired to try to learn resawing, thanks to a recent post and video by Steve Branam.  Yesterday I posted my success with a small 5" by 9" piece of pine a little over an inch thick.

Today I thought I'd try the big side of my tool chest till.  It is 5" by 36" and a little over an inch thick.

This was much trickier.

But, I decided it is a basic skill that I need, since I don't have, nor do I plan on getting a bandsaw.

Once again, I started it just like I would a tenon.

The much longer length of this piece of wood compounded the difficulty.  This is a LOT of sawing.  Human nature is to try to get it over with as fast as possible, so start pumping your arms back and forth like a cartoon character, right?  I think not.

I want to actually get good at this, so I slowed down to make every stroke count.  Watch the line, push the saw, and analyze the stroke.  Repeat.  This board didn't give me a whole lot of wiggle room.

Eventually, I got through the whole thing.  The complexity of the longer board really showed, though.  One of the pieces had a small hump in the middle.  And the other one I accidently went off the line on the backside of my stroke.  I'll either have to cut another one, or patch an errant cut.  I think I'll go with the latter.

Anyway, the point is that I learned how it felt to make this cut.  From previous experience, I know that next time will be a little better because I know what it should feel like, and want it to go better.  Eventually, when I can make a nice, clean, even cut, I'll then start to experiment with going faster.

Remembering my music lessons, there is no point in going faster if the basic skills are not there.


  1. Excellent article Brian, and sage advice for all of us. If you haven’t already seen it, here’s an article (link below) by Matthew Cianci titled “Building the Super Sawbench, The Big Rip”. If you like, you can just look through the sequential pictures on the 4 pages of the article, and then read the article if you want to read his description of his experience resawing. The lumber he’s sawing is white oak. I think for most of us, this would be the resawing “finals test”. Or, maybe the test I will never take.


    1. Wow! Thanks. I have a bit of practice to do before I can be confident that a rip like that would be straight.