Though most seasoned woodworkers take it for granted, some beginners have trouble with the basic task of cutting wood. Problems for beginners range from figuring out how to support and clamp the piece to torn or ripped wood. And of course, there is the dreaded problem of cutting in a straight line. Creating basic woodworking cuts does not have to be a complicated undertaking if you keep a few simple tips in mind.
First, and foremost, is proper measurement. The age-old adage of “measure twice, cut once” will save you lots of time and frustration. There are few things in woodworking more frustrating than cutting a piece too short. And because most woodworkers have undertaken the task of making a piece in order to save money, it ruins limited supplies. To improve overall satisfaction with your cuts, use this simple procedure. Using a measuring tape, or whatever measuring device you choose, measure the length that needs to be cut. Mark the part where you need it cut and draw a straight line, using a straight edge. Then re-measure to the line. If you like the line, you’ll love the cut!
Proper setup for a cut is arguably more important than the tool used to perform the cut. A proper setup should not allow either piece of wood to move during or after the cut. Be sure that neither the work piece (the piece you want to keep), nor the scrap, can drop or lift after the cut is made. To achieve this, usually a minimum of 2 clamps are needed, though 4 will certainly get the job done (2 clamps for the work piece, 2 clamps for the scrap). Depending on what work surface you are using, placement of the clamps may be far from the place where you need to cut. When placing the clamps, keep in mind what each part will want to do after the cut is made. Wood tears usually happen when a cut is made on a part that is not properly supported. When a large scrap is cut off and allowed to fall freely at the end of a cut, this will often rip a chunk off the back side of your work piece, resulting in what is commonly referred to as torn wood. It looks horrible and there is very little that can be done to remedy the flaw at that point. A good way to avoid this is by using 3 or 4 pieces of scrap wood lying around the area as a “sacrificial” backer. If you are using a jigsaw saw, place a piece of scrap wood under the work piece, on each side of the line, and the other two pieces under the work piece, but farther away. Using 4 clamps, clamp the work piece and scraps to the table, squishing the scraps. In order for this to be done right, the scraps should be thick enough to keep the jigsaw blade from hitting the table. Cutting like this will keep the wood stationary during and after the cut, assuming you tightened the clamps enough. If you are using a circular saw, you have what it takes to produce one of my absolute favorite cuts. This is my favorite because this prevents torn or ripped wood and the cut will not have a frayed back. Place a scrap piece of wood under the work piece, directly under the line. Put the other two scraps on each side of the line, but farther away. Using 4 clamps, clamp the work piece and scraps to the table. Make sure that there is enough space between the right side of the line and the nearest clamp to pass the saw. Adjust the cutting depth to cut through the work piece and a little bit into the sacrificial scrap (maybe 1/16 to 1/8″ deep – the goal here is to not cut all the way through the scrap and damage your work table!). To do either of these methods, the scrap pieces should all be just about the same thickness.
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About the Author:
Jeremy Sullivan is a business consultant for an engineering firm and has been woodworking for 5 years. For more tips go to http://www.woodworkplace.com