Fair Woodworking

July 12, 2012

Re-sawing by hand

Filed under: Skill development — fairwoodworking @ 3:41 pm

I don’t own a bandsaw, I wish I did… Re-sawing by hand while a valuable source of sawing practice, takes a long time, and really adds to the length of a project. However, a hand saw takes up very little shop space, and re-sawing by hand can, if not make you feel like a man, when you are done,you will certainly smell like one.

I don’t remember how or where I learned the method I use, it may be one of those things I just took a stab at and proceeded to learn the hard way.

Here’s what I do…

First off one of many critical rules.

When I was a kid, my Dad and I  made model cars. I learned about hobby rules then. The most important part of model making seemed to be the painting. Bad paint job, bad model. The rule was that you never, ever, EVER, paint unless you are in the mood. You pick a color and you paint everything that color in one sitting. If you don’t think you can do that, don’t start.

Re-sawing is the same way. Wood moves sometimes drastically after this kind of cut, so you can’t stop half way through for a beer and the Hockey game. If you start, you finish. Even if the wife is calling for diner. Shame on you for not planning better!

I’m using the same piece of wood I used to show about the value of a 2×10, you can see the sharpie marks I added, and they well help keep things straight in your head as to what end of the wood I am cutting at what time.

First the board needs to be perfectly flat on one side. I’m talking consistently flat, no deviations. Just flat.

Why does it need to be flat? Because when I mark a line along the side of it, the marking gauge will follow any variations, and that will in turn mess up my cut if I’m trying to follow the line. Suppose there is a slight twist in the board. The marking gauge will not correct for that, and then following the line will force the saw to bend in the kerf. The end result? While not ideal for quality construction, if you don’t head this warning, you will be blessed with a truly interestingly shaped couple of boards. If you have made this mistake, you already know what I’m talking about…

So here is my scribe line. I’ve darkened it with pencil so I can see it better when sawing. The line is slightly off center, hopefully enough that the saw will be dead on’ish center. I’ve marked an arrow showing the side of the line the saw should cut on. The goal is to split the knife line for the entire board. I know I will miss it a little here and there, but if my board is straight like I said it should be, and I do split the line, it will be a very painless process.

I start by ripping along the long grain. I find this is the easiest way to get the saw to start nicely.

Once I’ve gotten a little bit of a kerf, I start tilting the saw forward into the end grain. The started kerf helps me keep the saw straight. I should add that I’m trying to cut as lightly as I can here. Precision over power.

With some depth in the end grain, I slowly tilt the saw back following the line on the side of the board. The new depth helps the saw track, assuming the board was flat. If it’s not the saw will constantly attempt to drift from the line.

Again, I tilt forward into the end grain.

And work my way back. I find this method helps avoid the gullets of the saw from clogging. The length of the kerf at this point is probably 3 inches long. By changing the angle of the saw, not all of the kerf is in contact with the teeth, and there is room for the waste to clear.

One more time, I’m diving into the end grain. My goal in this size of board is to get half way across.

And, you guessed it, I work my way back along the long grain. Again with this size board to the half way mark. If it was any longer, I would have only gone a quarter or a third of the way, and simply repeated some of these steps later. From this point I spin the board around.

And repeat all those steps. This time however, with the board reversed, I’m sawing with the knife line on the other side of the saw. What I mean by that is I view the cut on the other side of the saw. It’s not real easy to take pictures of that side, so use your imagination… Also, I will need to move the work light to the other side of the saw as well.

When I’m done these steps, I attack the other end of the board, and the end result is a board with all 4 saw kerfs connected.

If you looked inside the kerf you would see the shape of an oval ellipse. This again will make keeping the saw from clogging easier.

I’ll saw down to the point that I’m approaching the vice.

I’ll move the block up some more, and repeat until I’ve made it about half way or whatever.

Then I spin it around and do the same from the other end. See no sharpie marks.

When sawing on this end, the vice is clamping on the resawn part of the other end. This creates some pivoting pressure on the board, the kerf in the vice wants to close, the kerf I am sawing wants to open. As I saw, I have to stop to tighten the vice due to this movement. At some point I will saw all the way through. I know that has happened when the saw binds in the wood. With nothing left to hold the kerf open, the two boards lock on the saw. That is what happened in the picture above. I should mention that you need to be aware of how close you are to this point of binding. Blindly sawing with all your might, and then having the saw bind would result in a nicely folded saw plate.

I release the vice and this is what I’m left with. It’s important to remember that wood is always under tension, and resawing releases a lot of that tension. That is why you need to finish the job in one go. The wood changes shape very quickly.

Now that I’m done, it needs to sit a while to have a chance to stabilize before I do anything more with it.


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