Resawing Wood

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This article is from Issue 18 of Woodcraft Magazine.

REsawing a piece into veneers is one good way to get the most out of a piece of rare or valuable wood such as this crotch walnut, shown here bookmatched.

This essential bandsaw skill helps you make the most of expensive boards. 

By Mark Duginske 

THE BANDSAW EXCELS AT MAKING STRAIGHT CUTS in thick or thin wood. It can cut thicker stock than either the radial arm saw or table saw. This makes it the machine of choice for making straight cuts in thick material, though for accuracy the saw must be well-adjusted with the correct blade for the job. One advantage in using the bandsaw for straight cuts is the fact that it is safer than either the table or radial saw, particularly when cutting small pieces of wood.

Rip cuts are made with the grain of the wood. Resawing, or cutting a board along its width, is one common type of rip cut which we will discuss at length in this article. 

One problem with ripping on the bandsaw is the tendency of many blades to lead, or steer the workpiece, one way or the other. The skilled operator learns to anticipate lead, and there are a number of ways to compensate for it. As special blades have been developed for ripping and resawing, the use of a fence on the bandsaw has become more common.

THE ABILITY TO RESAW, make veneers, bookmatch and cut flitches from small logs greatly expands the options for any woodworker.

RESAWING

Resawing exposes the two inside surfaces of the board. These surfaces are mirror images of each other. When the two matching halves are glued together, it is called bookmatching. Bookmatching greatly enhances the character of a piece and is useful on all surfaces that are flat, such as tabletops and doors. Resawing thick wood into a number of thin veneers is a great way to get the most out of rare or valuable wood, such as the piece of crotch shown at right.

The ability to slice thick stock – resawing, making veneers, bookmatching, and cutting boards from small logs – has broad appeal to the experimental woodworker because it greatly enhances your design abilities without requiring extra tools or accessories.

BLADES FOR RESAWING

Cutting thick stock puts maximum strain on both the blade and the machine. The blade used should be the largest hook-tooth blade that your saw can handle. For a bandsaw with 14" or smaller wheels, the largest recommended blade is a ½" 3-tpi hook-tooth. Hook-tooth blades are available in a number of materials. Hook teeth cut aggressively and their large gullets have the capacity to carry the waste through the stock. The blade has to be sharp, so start with a new blade or a newly resharpened one. As the blade dulls the cutting speed will slow and the tendency to wander or lead will increase; increasing the tension from the ½" to the ¾" level may help for awhile, but when resawing there is no substitute for a new, sharp blade.

AS You feed wood into the blade, exert light pressure against the resaw guide at a point just in front of the blade. Keep the cut on track by shifting the back end of the board from side to side.

At the end of the cut pull the wood through the blade.

A CURVED RESAW FENCE GUIDE provides both the support of a standard rip fence and easy stock manuverability of a single point fence.

RESAWING TECHNIQUE

Before resawing, check to ensure that the table is square to the blade, and that the face of the resaw fence is also square to the table. If the blade and the fence are both square to the table, they should be parallel with each other.

There are three frequently used techniques for making straight bandsaw cuts. One technique is to use the rip fence as a guide, provided it has been set to compensate for blade lead, as discussed above. Another technique is to use a single point to help guide the work freehand. The technique that I prefer and think is the easiest to use is a curved resaw guide attached to the standard rip fence, which is a hybrid of the two techniques. It offers the advantages of the single point fence and the rip fence. 

When you are using a shop-made point fence or an aftermarket resaw fence, the middle of the fence should be positioned about ¼" ahead of the blade. The workpiece rests against the apex of the curve before the cut is started. 

Begin feeding the wood slowly, while exerting light pressure against the guide just ahead of the blade. Continue to feed slowly, but for safety reasons, never apply pressure right next to the blade as the blade could deflect and cut through the side of the workpiece.

The feed rate is very important, as a rule the slower the better. It is imperative that the blade not begin to deflect or twist because once the blade starts on a wayward path it is virtually impossible to get it straight again. 

The point fence or resaw fence allows you to steer the wood as needed to keep the blade on the layout line. As the cut progresses a slight change in angle is easily accomplished by moving the back of the board toward one side or the other. Keep the pressure on the wood just ahead of the saw teeth, and remember that to steer the cut, it must also be advancing at the same time. At the end of the cut pull the wood through the blade. The advantage of the shop-made point fence and the aftermarket curved fence is that you can fine-tune the feed direction during the cut. This is necessary not only to compensate for lead or drift, but also because each board has a different density and may require a slightly different feed direction. These fences also avoid the annoyance of having to check for drift and adjust the fence angle each time you change a blade.

As with all new techniques some experimentation is suggested. Good resawing results from a combination of factors, including proper machine alignment, good blade choice, and a slow steady feed rate. 

for resawing tough woods like hard maple, the author uses a ½" 3-tpi blade tensioned at the ¾" setting.

RESAW Troubleshooting

Occasionally when resawing, the board separates and starts to spread apart. The point fence and the curved fence allow room for the expansion, whereas the standard straight fence does not. Sometimes the saw kerf closes up when resawing, possibly pinching the blade and stalling it. In that situation, you should stop the saw and free the blade by inserting a slender wooden wedge in the kerf. 

Resawing thick material may require some special techniques. For tough woods like hard maple I prefer a ½" 3-tpi (Olson) blade, tensioned at the ¾" setting. With this setup I can get uniform cuts. If you are making a number of thin pieces from one plank it is a good idea to plane the surface after each cut, to establish one smooth side for the next cut. This also makes the resawn material easier to work with, since each piece has one planed side and one sawn side.

One option when resawing thick and hard material is to make circular saw cuts into the edge of the board to remove waste and decrease the amount of wood that has to be removed with the bandsaw.  This technique does result in extra material being lost in the saw kerf, and by burying the circular saw blade in the wood, it also increases the risks of binding and burning, especially in pitchy woods like cherry. 

—Mark Duginske is the inventor of Cool Blocks bandsaw blade guides and the Kreg bandsaw fence for resawing. He has authored several woodworking books, the most recent of which is reviewed on page 72. 

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