T is for Trim saw

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T is for Trim saw

Here's another a specialty item: a reversible trim saw, also called a flush-cut saw (1). This one is used for primarily for inducing backaches, hunched shoulders and stiff necks.

I'm kidding!

Actually, the trim saw is used to make difficult little cuts in fixed objects so that other objects can be fitted into them precisely. A typical example is in the laying of solid flooring, either wood, laminates, or tile. Rather than have this flooring butt up against edge trim around doorways, newel posts, ducts, etc., you want it to fit flush with no gaps.

To use a trim saw, you lay the blade on top of a piece of the flooring you're going to be installing. This will match the cut-off height with your floor. With the very thin, very fine-toothed saw held flush, flat and square up against the piece of trim to be cut, you carefully remove a piece from the bottom of the trim. The push-button blade lock lets you swing the handle around, reversing the blade to get the right directionality of your cuts.

If you've done it properly, there will be a gap at the bottom of the trim that is exactly the same thickness as your new floor. During installation, you slide a piece of flooring into the gap and bask in the glory of a perfectly fitted, beautifully gap-free floor, every single time.


Of course it's not that easy! Who do you think you are, a cabinetmaker?

Seriously, though, there's an art to getting these close-fit trim cuts to look right. I've done a bunch of these flooring and staircase installations. I have a steady hand, a cool eye, and good quality tools that are kept sharp. Even with all that, my trim cuts still don't look perfect. Everyone around me can't seem to see the gaps, nicks and ragged edges, and they all claim that the fit is perfect. I know better, though. The flaws glare out at me like zits on the Mona Lisa.

To that end, I've been drooling over a new kind of power tool. It uses much thinner blades, oscillated at something like 25,000 rpm. Those vibrating cutter blades look fantastic in the demo videos, but I've never used one. They look like they'd make short work of trim cutting. With a tool like that, perfection in trim cutting just might be within my grasp.

Or I might cut off one of my fingers. Those vibro-blades look like they'd go right to the bone in a tenth of a second. Still, you never know until you try!

1. As you might imagine, I have lots of other hand saws, everything from rip saws and crosscut saws to keyhole saws and narrow gauge scroll saws. In the power tool line, I have a circular saw (naturally), jig saw, band saw (scary), table saw, and miter saw. I should note that I also have all ten fingers. My goal is to STILL have all ten fingers when I'm old and ready to lay my tools aside.

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  1. The ranting tone that's encroached on more of these posts is so amusing given how practical all the information is.

    1. By the time I get to "Z", it'll be one long curmudgeonfest.

      Actually, as I go through the alphabet with this exercise, John, it's becoming more and more apparent that this diversion into non-fiction about woodworking tools is not exactly furthering my writing career.

  2. Seems like I rented or borrowed an electric version of one of these when I put the hardwood flooring in the hallway. I can imagine, given the length of the cuts to make, that a handtool *would* of necessity be uneven.

    I do love the sarcasm in these posts, but I call it "realism."

    1. Long, slow cuts with even pressure - that's the key.

      Sarcasm is hard to avoid when it comes to woodworking. I passed through the "Gosh, doesn't my latest project look AWESOME?!?" phase of woodworking a long, long time ago.


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