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Learn to Resaw

Tools Editor Bob Hunter goes over the basics of resawing boards with your bandsaw and how to achieve the best results.

Wed, 23 May 2012|

Hi, I'm Bob Hunter from WOOD magazine. One of the benefits of owning a bandsaw is that it allows you to resaw wood. What is resawing? Resawing is essentially vertical ripping: Standing a board on edge and ripping it through the blade into thinner stock. Why would you do that? A number of reasons. First of all you could take a piece of exotic or pricey wood, such as this mahogany, and it allows you to turn it into thinner stock. For example, if I wanted to turn this make two pieces of three quarter I can just rather than planing it down to three quarter inch, I can rip it in half. And I've got two pieces of three quarter thereâ€'so I get better use of my stock. It also saves wear and tear on your blades and on your other cutting tools such as your planer and on your sanding belts. Another reason to resaw is that you can do bookmatches, where you rip a board in half, flip it like this, and you get a nice, symmetrical match. I'll show you more about that in a minute. Another reason is that you can saw thin veneers that you can bend around a form or apply to a substrate to make it look like solid wood. Now let me show you a few tips on how to resaw. Before we start resawing, you need to tune up your bandsaw to make sure that it's in peak condition and ready to make the best cuts possible. I've already got this one tuned up but I'll show you some of the things that I did. First, open up the doors get access to the blades and the wheels. Now with the blade off and the saw unplugged, take compressed air to blow out all the dust, vacuum it out, get everything out of there that you can. Take some mineral spirits on a rag and clean the tires on the wheels to get all that build up that gets on there. You get a clean tire gets better traction for the blade, so get those good and clean. Then you wanna move toward blade selection. You've got several choices with bandsaw blades, and you want to pick one that's just right for resawing. This is a quarter inch, six tooth per inch blade that most people tend to leave on a bandsaw for curve cutting. It's great for that. Not as good for resawing because it cuts slowerâ€'it leaves a smoother cutâ€'but it cuts pretty slow, and that's hard on the blade. So that's not a good option. This is a better option: this is a half inch blade, three teeth per inch, it's a good resawing blade, not as good for curve cutting, unless you're doing large things, so you don't leave it on as much, on your saw, but great for resawing. What I have on the saw now is actually a wood slicer blade. It's a thinner kerf than the one I have here, so it's an ultra thin kerf with less set in the teeth, and it has an alternating three teeth per inch/four teeth per inch pattern, so it really cuts cleanly, cuts smooth, quietly, really nice for that. Great resawing blade. Once you've got your blade on the saw, you want to track it onto the tires. You want the blade to run just in front of the middle portion, so you want the teeth to stay on the tire, but you want it to be more toward the front, and you adjust that by tilting the wheel forward and back. Then after you've got it tracked, you want to set the tension, that's set up here, with this knob, and to do that, the best way isâ€'because you can't always count on the tension gauges on the sawâ€'here's a quick, easy way to do it. Take a square, any kind of a square, and set it about a quarter inch from the blade, and just take your thumb and push into there. And when you can just about touch the square, that's the right amount of tension. Okay, that's just right. That's the correct amount of tension we need for the saw. So you're good to go there. Next thing you need to do then is to set your blade guides. You've got upper guides and lower guides below the table, each has two side guides, some saws will have four, and it also has a thrust bearing behind that the back of the blade runs against. So you need to set those, get those set up perfectly so it holds the blade, and keeps it from twisting and tracking offline. Get those set good. Okay you want to square the table to the blade, sideways and back, to make sure you're going to get perfect, parallel cuts when you're making this. Okay. And then the final thing you want to do is hook up dust collection to your saw to keep as much dust out of the cabinet as you can, keep it off the blade, off the tires, that will help your saw run cleaner, faster, and smoother. Some bandsaws come with a fence as standard equipment. If your saw doesn't have a fence, we can show you an easy way to do it using a makeshift fence. Now we're going to resaw today using just a plain old 2x4 board that I'm going to clamp to the table. Before we do that, though, we need to know, does our saw have any blade drift to it. We're going to test for that, first. So what I'm going to do is to set it up about three or four inches from the blade, nothing magical here, just set it up square. Clamp it to the table. Okay. Now that fence is set square to the table, so we're going to rip a piece of wood and find out what our blade drift angle is. So the first thing I want to do is to lower the top blade guide, get it down close to the workpiece so that that holds the blade tight and helps control the drift if there is any, control any blade twisting. Now this kerf that we just made represents the drift angle if there is any, if there's any deviation from 90 degrees from a perpendicular cut, that drift will show in that angle. So what I want to do is use this piece, set that aside, take a sliding t-bevel, and I want to capture this angle. Because my MDF was square when I started, I have a 90 degree end. I want to capture that angle there. That represents the drift angle, if there is any. I no longer need that board, so I'll set it aside. Now I'll use this to set my fence by doing that and bring it in to do it. So, let's look at, first we have to find out what we're going to cut first, before we set that, because we need the fence to be set the distance from the blade that we're wanting for our resaw. This is piece of 3/4 inch thick spalted maple, and what I want to do with this is make a bookmatch, so we can edge glue them back together. A bookmatch would be this. So I want to rip the board in half this way, resawing, so that I can then put them together and they'll have a symmetrical look to them. That’s what bookmatching is. So before I do that, first thing I need to do is raise my blade guide up out of the way. Set it just above the height of my board, lock that in place. Okay, now that I know that I’m going to be resawing to the middle of a three quarter inch board, I want to set this fence at 3/8 of an inch from this blade, get it close to the drift angle. I want to put a back clamp on because this is the hardest one to get on sometimes without moving the fence, so, get this one clamped in place. Get this one loosely. Now with the gap still set at 3/8 of an inch, I want to put this on to my drift angle, right there. That looks good. Tighten this one down, and we’re ready to resaw. Okay, now that we’ve resawn our board in half, we can open it up to see what a bookmatch looks like. So you could put these two together in a panel. Well this isn’t necessarily a good pattern, so what we can do is, look at is from the other side. Flip the board around, bookmatch it again, and now you can see you have a little bit better symmetrical pattern that you can glue together to make one larger panel. Or you could put these separate in adjoining door panels, so that they would look close to the same. Just a nice way to experiment and work with exotic woods or any highly figured wood, in this case the spalted maple. Okay, now I’m going to set up the saw to saw off, resaw eighth inch veneers off of this oak board. So I’ll loosen my clamps, with my bevel gauge still set at our drift angle, I’m going to move that in. Put this over here, move this into an eighth inch, just double check to make sure I’m still there. Think we’re good. Okay. We’re good to go. If you don’t want to have to account for the drift angles when resawing and using a fence, here’s a simple way to do it. You can make a board, any board that has a rounded or pointed tip on it, to act as a pivot point, and set it the length of whatever the thickness away from the blade. For example, if I wanted to resaw this board in half, I would set it right to the middle of that board. So that when I would do it, and as I’m cutting, I’ve got a line marked down the center, and then as I cut, this allows me the freedom to steer it as need be should that wander off, based on our blade drift, if it wanders from the cut, I can adjust by just moving the board this way. I’ve just made a simple thing, clamped in place with a couple handscrews, then clamped to that with another screw. Very simple, easy way to do it, let’s see how it works. Can you bend a one-inch board like this? Sure you can. If you cut it into strips first. With this piece here, we took a one-inch thick piece of maple, cut it into six strips, about an eight of an inch thick, put it between these two forms, clamped it together with these two clamps, put glue in the middle, and by the time it dries and you release the clamps, this will maintain this form. It’s an interesting way to do it; you just resaw the eighth inch strips on your bandsaw. Here’s an oak board that I resawed and was able to get five strips out of. You do it after each one, you’ve got to clean that face up again, before you cut another one, then you run them all through a sander or planer to get them smooth. And then you’re ready to go. You can either stack them and glue them around a form, or you can put these onto a substrate, such as plywood, to make the whole structure look like solid wood.

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