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Resaw wood on the bandsaw and table saw - Made at Techshop

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Picture of Resaw wood on the bandsaw and table saw - Made at Techshop
Resawing is a very useful skill to have in the wood shop, it's a fundamental type of cut, just like ripping or cross-cutting, but instead of cutting a board to length or width, resawing is cutting a board to thickness. This allows one to get multiple thin boards out of one larger, thicker piece of wood. This can be used to stretch money and materials further, or to create interesting effects using patterns in the wood grain.

In this instructable I'll be comparing three methods of resawing that I've learned and observed working at Techshop, San Francisco: resawing on the bandsaw with a tall fence, resawing freehand on the bandsaw, and resawing on the table saw.

Just for good measure, I also found a walkthough on how to resaw a board with a handsaw. I'll stick to power tools for this task since I have access to them, but I always admire those who work with hand tools.

As always, I'm still a relative newcomer to woodworking - if anyone has any corrections or additional information, please share it in the comments. Just keep the criticism constructive.
 
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Step 1: What is resawing, and why should I do it?

Picture of What is resawing, and why should I do it?
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Resawing is one of the fundamental ways to cut wood. For any given board, there are three possible types of cuts - rip cuts, cross cuts and resaw cuts. The difference between these cuts is the direction the grain is facing during the cut (see first picture below).
  • Rip cuts are the most common cuts on the table saw, and involve cutting along the length of the board with the grain of the wood, splitting a larger board into narrower sections.
  • Cross cuts are also very common, and just like the name implies they involve cutting across the grain of the wood, shortening the length of the board.
  • Re-sawing is a bit less common, but very useful for certain applications. It's like a rip cut, with a twist - it involves ripping straight through the center of a board the thick way, producing two thinner boards.

Reasons to re-saw

Save money and material

Imagine I have a bunch of 1" thick boards, but my project only calls for 3/8" thick lumber. I could go out and buy some pre-milled thin lumber (which is expensive) or I could sacrifice 5/8" of my current boards by milling them down to size (turning good wood into sawdust). Neither is a good option, but by resawing my wood I can go ahead and use my rough-cut lumber, and end up with twice as much 3/8" wood. That's a good deal!

Book-matching, other grain effects

Have you ever seen nice furniture where all the front panels have matching or complementary grain patterns? How about a nice guitar top with perfectly symmetrical sides? Or a wooden box where the wood grain lines wrap completely around all four sides? Resawing is one way you can create those effects. When you cut a board down the middle, you will have 2 pieces that are almost mirror images of each other.

Make your own veneers

There's no need to stop at cutting a board in half. When you slice off very thin sections (1/8" or less) you are basically creating your own veneers. This can be quite useful for creating interesting grain patterns, like I mentioned above. But it can also be useful for stretching the usefulness of very rare or expensive pieces of lumber.

Also, with store-bought veneers, you only have 1/32" of wood to work with, and if you're not careful you can burn straight through them while sanding, scraping or planing. By making your own veneers, you can start by making them extra thick, then plane or sand them down as thin as you want.

So that's why you should learn how to resaw. Next I'll show you how I 've done it.

Methods - advantages and disadvantages

  • Bandsaws are the most common tools for re-sawing. They are useful because they can handle almost any standard size board, and can even be used to resaw whole logs. Bandsaw resawing can be difficult for beginners to master, but a properly tuned bandsaw can greatly improve the process.
  • Table saws are useful for resawing narrow boards. The biggest advantage of table saws is that they produce very clean, repeatable cuts. It's easy for beginners to get started, because resawing is just like rip cutting, but with thicker wood.
    • However, as always, table saws are one of the most dangerous tools in the shop - and resawing is no exception. Resawing carries a higher risk of kickback than rip cutting, if the board tips away from the blade or falls into the blade after finishing the cut.

Image attribution

Photos found through google image search

Step 2: Tools and materials

Picture of Tools and materials
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Tools used

  • Bandsaw*
  • Table Saw
  • Jointer & Planer OR handplanes
  • (Optional) Grr-ripper push-block
  • (Optional) Tall resaw fence for the bandsaw - described in a separate instructable
  • (Optional) - 4X4 with square, jointed sides

*Note on bandsaw blade. I've gotten best results from using an extra wide resaw blade. Since Techshop provides the blades, I go ahead and use theirs. For woodworkers on a budget, you can also use more general purpose blades to resaw, but it takes some more work and patience to get a nice, straight cut. I'll explain more about blade choice in the next step.

Materials used

  • Peruvian walnut and cherry wood  ~ 1" thick, 7" wide, 26" long boards. If using rough cut lumber I joint and plane it before resawing because it makes cleanup easier later, and I can know exactly how much good wood I have to work with.
  • (Optional) Double stick tape
You'll notice I included a lot of optional items - that 's because I'll be showing several different methods for re-sawing, each of them using slightly different tools. The one constant is that I'll be using either a bandsaw or a table saw

Step 3: Setting up the bandsaw

Picture of Setting up the bandsaw
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Resawing is one of the most demanding tasks you can ask your bandsaw to do, so it's a good idea to go easy on the machine and do the cut right. And if you work in a shared space like me, you never know what someone did to a tool before you got there - the guides and calibration could be way off, which will give you a messy, wavy cut instead of a nice, straight line.

For both these reasons, it's a good idea to run a few diagnostic tests. You should check; the blade itself, blade tracking, blade tension, the guide bearings, and the fence.

The blade


There are special resaw blades available that make the process a lot easier. These blades are extra wide, so they don't bend much while you're cutting. They also have sharp teeth in a "skip tooth" or "hook tooth" arrangement that can quickly clear sawdust out of the saw cut, allowing you to cut more quickly. Techshop stocks these blades, so that's what I use on my resaw cuts.  I usually wait until I have a few projects that require resawing, then ask a staff member to change the blades for me.

However, if you can't afford to buy specialty blades, or you just don't want to bother changing blades to make a few cuts, you can also use a much thinner blades. In fact, I've read articles from many woodworking professionals that say they use the same exact blade for almost all their bandsaw cuts. Fine Woodworking magazine (online subscription required to view articles) has several great articles and videos about resawing. All their experts I read recommend a 1/2" wide blade, measuring ~0.025" thick, with a "skip tooth" or "hook tooth" pattern and 3 TPI (teeth per inch). This is a somewhat coarse blade, but it can do a bit of everything from resawing to straight cuts and wide curve cuts. It's a good general purpose blade to keep on the saw.

Check that the teeth are sharp and that the weld spot where the blade loops together is clean. This is a good idea for any type of work on the bandsaw, but with resawing you will be cutting through so much wood that dull, clogged teeth or a messy weld will show up more easily.

Blade tracking


You want to make sure that the blade is centered when rotating on the pulleys, not waving back and forth. Open up the top of the saw and spin the wheel by hand, keeping an eye on the blade. It should stay centered on the wheel tread. Now turn the saw on and watch the blade - it should go straight down through the throat of the saw with no visible wavering.

Blade tension


The blade needs to be nice and tight for resaw work. Technically, blades should be set anywhere from 7,000 - 15,000 PSI, depending on the saw. Most bandsaws have a rough tension gauge, but these are notoriously unreliable and imprecise. I don't keep a $300 tensiometer in my back pocket, so in practice the tension can be checked by feel or by sound. Just pluck an open section of the blade and feel how tense it is or listen to the sound it makes. A well tensioned blade should resonate a bit like a guitar string - one article I read said it should sound like the "E" on a bass guitar.

If you're new to the bandsaw, don't worry about being so precise right away, but take a minute to check the machine's condition when you work on it. Pay special attention to the machine when you make really good cuts and really bad cuts, and over time you'll develop a sense of what feels right and sounds right.

Blade guides


There are many styles of blade guide, from roller bearings like Techshop SF's setup, to flat pieces of steel and hardened plastic. Whatever your system, it will typically include side and rear guides to keep the blade from moving during cuts. For resawing, these guides should be set very close to the blade - a rule of thumb is that you should JUST be able to slip a piece of paper between the blades and the guides.

Once you check all these factors, make a test cut on some scrap wood. Check that the blade is cutting a straight line, not curving in and out of the cut, and make sure the fence is set up to make even cuts along the length of the board. Once you are happy with the results, it's time to resaw.

Step 4: Resawing on the bandsaw 1 - Using a fence

Picture of Resawing on the bandsaw 1 - Using a fence
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My first and preferred method uses a wide resaw blade and a fence, sized to the piece of wood being cut. The stock fence on my bandsaw is 2.5" tall, and is perfect for resawing narrow material. But most of the time I need a taller fence to cut wider boards. If using a tall fence, make sure it's rigid enough to provide support, and that it's set square to the table and parallel to the blade. My fence is made of plywood, supported with braces in the back - I've written more about how to make the tall fence pictured here in another instructable.

When using any kind of fence, it's important to watch your feed rate while cutting. Pushing too fast can make the blade buckle even more when sawdust builds up too quickly. Keep it slow and steady to keep a good, straight cut.
  1. Set the desired width of cut. The boards I'm using are 0.90 inches after jointing and planing, and I want two 3/8" boards at the end, so I cut them exactly in half at 0.45", measured with a pair of calipers. You can also use a ruler or square, I just like to use calipers.
  2. If using a tall fence, register it against the stock fence. The stock fence of a bandsaw should already be set to compensate for the drift angle* of the bandsaw. Instead of re-skewing this angle for the tall fence, just set it square against the stock fence.
  3. Use clamps to secure the tall fence to the table
  4. Turn the bandsaw on and let it come up to full speed, then slowly and steadily push through the cut. Watch the blade carefully to stay safe and to check if the cut is on track.
  5. Keep one hand in back, pushing the wood through the cut, and keep the other hand on the side of the board, applying even pressure against the fence. I like to use a grippy push-block for this job.
    • Gary Rogowski of Fine WoodWorking Magazine said "You can cut fast, or you can cut straight. I prefer to cut straight." It really is important to go slower than usual while resawing. If you go too fast, sawdust builds up in the cut and pushes the blade to the side, creating a wavy S-shaped cut. Matthias of woodgears.ca has a great explanation of what goes on inside of a bandsaw cut.

Safety tips

  • If the board is longer than the bandsaw table, it's a good idea to have in-feed / out-feed rollers or other supports for the board, so it doesn't unexpectedly tip over mid-cut.
  • For long boards, it's also good to switch from pushing to pulling the board through the cur, just for the last inch or so of the cut.
  • If pushing through the end of the cut, get your hand away from the back before the blade pops out! Use scrap wood or a push stick for the last inch or so of the cut.

Step 5: Resawing on the bandsaw 2 - Freehand

Picture of Resawing on the bandsaw 2 - Freehand
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I've met a couple of people at Techshop that don't like using any resaw fence, they prefer to just draw a line on the edge of the board and cut to the line. I've tried it, and it will definitely work - especially if you aren't super-concerned about precision and can afford to mill away any mistakes.

To give some extra stability to this freehand cut, a fellow Techshop member recommended attaching a wider piece of wood to the base of the wood being cut. For this test I decided to use an identical piece of Peruvian walnut to the one cut with the tall fence, attached to a 4X4 with two jointed and square sides with double stick carpet tape.

All the same rules apply to this cut as when using a fence. Let the bandsaw come up to speed, start slow and maintain a steady rate. Without the fence, you have to be extra careful about the blade wandering - but the 4X4 does help a lot.
  1. Gather the piece of wood you want to cut, a 4X4 jointed flat on at least two sides, and a piece of double stick tape or spray mount.
  2. Stick the 4X4 to one flat and square face of the wood to be cut using the double stick tape or spray mount
  3. Draw a line down the center of the wood  where you want to cut it. Remember to allow a little extra space for the saw blade and any cutting errors.
  4. Start the cut along the line, and keep a slow, steady pace through the cut. It's important not to go too fast when resawing. Woodworker Gary Rogowski said in a Fine WoodWorking Magazine video "You can cut fast, or you can cut straight. I prefer to cut straight." Cutting too fast causes sawdust to build up in the cut, and when the blade can't clear sawdust away it gets pushed right or left, creating a wavy cut. If your cut starts to look "S" shaped, try slowing down.
  5. When you reach the last few inches of the cut, be careful to keep your hand away from the exit path of the blade. If you are pushing from the back, put your hand on the 4X4 instead of the workpiece, or use a push-stick to support it from the back.
  6. For long pieces of wood, it can be good to pause near the end of the cut, and switch from pushing the board to pulling the board. This gets your hands well out of the danger zone, and also lets you support the board from falling off the end of the bandsaw table.
  7. After cutting, you can run the wood over the jointer or planer to get it perfectly flat again.

In the last picture, you can see both bandsaw cuts side by side. Both worked pretty well, but the tall fence was a bit more consistent. The one cut on the fence varies by less than 0.02" across the whole board. The one cut freehand was mostly good, but I let it wander in a couple spots. Still, both of them will give me enough material for two 3/8 inch boards even after going through the planer. Also, I've only tried freehand cutting a few times, and I expect my results could improve with practice.

Step 6: Resawing on the table saw

In general, I use the bandsaw to make my resaw cuts, but the table saw does have it's place. As mentioned before, the main advantage of the table saw is that it produces very clean cuts, sometimes good enough to use for a finished surface. This can be very useful when sawing thin veneers which you don't want to run through the planer. The way you use a table saw will differ depending on how wide your boards are - this is because a standard table saw blade only has a small depth of cut, ~3" inches tall.

Narrow boards


For anything narrower than a standard table saw blade's depth of cut (~3" inches) resawing work just like rip cutting. Raise the blade just above the material, then push it through. The only thing to keep in mind is that if the board is thinner than it is wide, the cut may be a little unstable - carrying an increased risk of kickback. 

To increase safety, you can put feather boards before and/or after the blade, to help guide the board through the cut. The feather boards should have almost zero pressure against the board, they are only there to help guide it through. Never put featherboards next to the blade, only before or after the blade.

Boards up to 6" inches wide


For boards that are wider than 3" cut of the table saw, you can push them through with the blade fully buried in the wood. After the first pass, flip the board end-over-end and cut the rest of the material. One thing to watch for is that as you cut through the material, the gap between the two halves will want to close in and pinch the blade, which can cause kickback.

A cut like this can't be made using a blade guard - you'll have to remove it to make the cut. In place of a blade guard, you can use something called a riving knife - a piece of metal the same width as the blade that sits just behind the blade. The riving knife helps prevent the board from pinching the blade after it's cut by spreading the halves apart.

Riving knives are good, but for another layer of safety you can add one more step, which also works for boards over 6" wide...

Boards over 6" inches wide


Wider boards can't be cut entirely on the table saw, but you can use the table saw to start the resaw cut, and finish up with another tool. That's what I did for my board in this instructable. My board was ~7" wide, so even after cutting both sides I had a 1" strip left over in the center. To finish up the job I left that 1" strip in place and moved back to the bandsaw to finish the cut. For those without a bandsaw, you can also use a handsaw to finish up this cut - just clamp the board in a vise and carefully saw through the table saw kerf.

It may seem redundant to use two tools to make one cut, but there are good reasons to do so. In this example it was much, MUCH easier to use the bandsaw on just the 1" strip as opposed to a whole 7" of wood. A normal bandsaw cut can take a few minutes, and it takes some muscle and concentration to get a good result. But cutting that 1" strip took literally a few seconds. And although the strip in the middle is uneven after cutting, the rest of the table saw cut is very clean and precise - this board cleaned up very quickly on the planer, and I could have easily cleaned it up with a hand plane as well.

Extra safety tips

  • For extra long boards, it's a good idea to use infeed rollers and an out feed table to keep the board stable during the beginning and end of the cut
  • For cutting very thin pieces (less than 1/4") it's a good idea to cut them on the outside "waste" side of the saw, away from the fence, using the feather-board to measure the cut. This is because it can be dangerous to pinch very thin pieces between blade and fence.
  • Avoid pausing mid cut, for example to adjust your grip. Doing so is relatively safe during a normal rip cut, but carries extra risk when resawing, because there is much more wood that can potentially catch the blade if you loosen your grip. Try to make a smooth, steady cut throughout the length of the board.

Step 7: Clean up on the planer

Picture of Clean up on the planer
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You'll probably make some small mistakes, or at least be left with wavy lines from the saw teeth after resawing. But sometimes even after a perfect cut using a straight board, the pieces can warp. This happens for two reasons.
  • Even straight boards can have different areas of tension inside of them that cancel each-other out while the board is whole. But when you cut it, that tension gets released, pulling the board out of square.
  • Also, any time a board is freshly milled or cut, there is a change in moisture content. In this case, the difference in moisture between the outside and freshly cut inside of the board may cause the board to cup or bow.
In any case, you'll likely have to clean the board up a bit using a planer or hand planes.

Bookmatching tips


If you're resawing to create a bookmatch or "four-corner-matched" box, be very careful when flattening the boards - planing away too much material can ruin the bookmatch.
  • If you're just cleaning up saw marks you can start by lightly running the board over the jointer, instead of planing the freshly resawn faces. Take very light cuts, ~1/32" or less, to preserve the most material on the inside faces. After jointing away the saw marks, any remaining flaws can be fixed with sanding.
  • After jointing the inside faces, if you want to plane for thickness, flip the boards over and plane the old outside faces of the boards. This will let you achieve the thickness desired without changing the bookmatched patterns.
  • If you are resawing multiple thin pieces off a large piece of wood, it's a good idea to run the sawn face of the larger piece over the jointer between each resawing. That way each freshly cut piece will have at least one flat reference face when running through the planer.
Well, that's it. If you have any corrections or additional wisdom to share, please comment! I am currently working on two projects using the resawn wood from this instructable - I will post links when I'm done, probably in the next week or two.
Mindmapper12 years ago
I am puzzled as to how you manage to resaw on a table saw without removing or at least repositioning the riving knife? The knife preforms a very important safety function, stopping the timber from closing around the upwards running side of the blade and being lifted or snatched by the blade. The knife is support to go above the height of the blade to be effective. Also I noticed the crown guard is not fitted in the pictures and no additional guarding fitted. In the UK in a commercial or training session this is outlawed bcause it is danagerous. It may well be 'allowed' in other places and in a DIY situation.
I only mention all of the above because I come from the point of view of a inspector of working practices and safety with this kind of equipment.
Using the saw without a knife can lead to horrible accidents (dealt with so many over the years) and equally where a guard or supplementary guarding system is not fitted.
It is far safer to resaw on a bandsaw than on a table saw.
workislove (author)  Mindmapper12 years ago
Perhaps I'm using the wrong terminology, or perhaps the language differs between here and the UK - but my understanding is that the riving knife does NOT extend past the blade.

Wikipedia has an article on Riving knives AND splitters. It says of riving knives "A riving knife differs from a simple splitter in some important ways ... It doesn't need to be removed from the saw when cross-cutting or doing a blind (non-through) cut as it doesn't extend above the top of the saw blade. If it isn't removed, the operator can't forget to put it back on.

In any case, take a close look at the 3rd picture in step 6, or look at the picture I added here - this is the mechanism I used, and it's the same height as the top of the blade. If it looks suspicious to you as an inspector, I'd certainly value the feedback, but I installed it as instructed by the shop staff.
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The riving knife should extend above the maximum height of the teeth and be set so that its curve runs parallel to the shape of the blade at about 3-5mm from the teeth. I think that the angle of the picture above doesn't enable me to see the exact set up but it looks too low. Most table saws in the UK have the crown guard fitted to the knife which makes it difficult to run the machine without the guard fitted if the knife has been removed.
If you were looking at the blade side on then you would normally expect the knife tip to at or just past the 12 0 clock position.
As I have said I would not recommend using a table saw for re-sawing, personally I would use the bandsaw because it can be guarded.
I believe the information on Wikipedia to be inaccurate in terms of what is required by the woodworking machine regulations and therefore not something that I would take as working procedures.
The riving knife should extend above the maximum height of the teeth...

This is just incorrect - a riving knife should be a fraction lower than the top of the blade, for precisely the reason workislove mentions - it is impossible to make blind cuts otherwise (eg, using a dado blade to make - a dado!). The primary advantage of a riving knife over an old-style splitter is that the operator is never required to remove this safety feature to make use of the saw!

I also do not understand your comment about using a guard on a bandsaw when resaawing. A bandsaw guard is nearly always removed for resawing operations, because if the material is more than a few inches tall, a guard will not protect the operator and at the same time will increase the amount of blade which is unsupported, making drift more likely.

workislove (author)  jeff1 year ago

I think the misunderstanding is because the OP is european. I've read that dado stack blades are banned in commercial shops throughout Europe, cited as being too dangerous. Home users can use dado stacks, but most saw makers over there don't even bother making saws that accept stacked blades. So I would guess the term riving knife, if used at all, has a different use and meaning than here.

That is commonly repeated but technically inaccurate. Dado stacks are not banned in European commercial shops - they are simply very uncommon, because most saw mftrs in Europe currently choose to sell saws with arbors that are too short to safely accomodate dado sets.

You can confirm this by reading this article from the "Great British Woodshop" site and this document - Woodworking Sheet No 16 (rev) - from the HSE (Health and Safety Executive). It discusses safe working practices for circular saw benches and explicitly shows the guard setup for rebating and grooving.

workislove (author)  Mindmapper12 years ago
Ah, I just looked at my saw manufacturer's website - SawStop - they have this to say

FAQ #25 - What is a riving knife? "The riving knife is an important safety feature that substantially reduces the chance of kick-back. The knife functions similar to a spreader on a blade guard assembly. The difference is that the riving knife does not extend above the top of the blade. Therefore the riving knife can be used when making non-through cuts and other cuts where the blade guard cannot be used."

Perhaps the SawStop setup is not common? I wouldn't know, since it's the only table saw I've worked on.

In any case, I do agree with you that the bandsaw is superior for resawing for many reasons. However I recently had to do all my work on the table saw when my shop's bandsaw broke down and we had to wait for a replacement.

On most saws the knife and the splitter are combined to make a support for the guard to prevent or reduce the likelyhood that someone would remove the knife because then they would not have a guard. In the UK it is against the woodworking machine regulations and PUWR regulations in a business setting.
Using the saw without the knife or splitter is extremely dangerous and thus deeping as it is known (completely covering the blade with timber) is outlawed.
As I have said the safest way to resaw is on the bandsaw withe appropriate blade. Just want everyone to keep their fingers intact :)
jeff1 year ago

One thing I think should be mentioned is that when using a bandsaw to resaw very thin planks or veneers, you are better off if you take your cut from the outside of the board (ie with the majority of the plank between the fence and the blade). This is exactly the opposite of common practice on a table saw, where you want to minimize the possibility that the main part of the material will get pinched between the backside of the blade and the fence and possibly kick back dangerously.

With a bandsaw, by comparison, the blade is typically too narrow for pinching to be a significant issue (otherwise, we couldn't make curved cuts!), and the direction of the blade (into the table) greatly discourages kickback. On the other hand, if we place the majority of the material outside the bandsaw blade, it is much more likely that the main part of the plank may collapse in on the cut, and screw it up.

An additional advantage of putting most of the material between the fence and the blade is that drift will be minimized, and if drift does occur the blade will not 'come out' of the material (and ruin the veneer) - you will simply end up with a slightly thicker section of veneer.

copperaxe2 years ago
You would have to remove the knife and guard to use a table saw for this type of project. I usually only use the table saw for turning 2x4 lumber into 1x4 boards for finer wood working needs and even then cut in half then flip top over bottom and finish the cut. For good book matching or thinner sheets use a band saw. Nothing you can't do that a saw mill can do... just on a smaller scale :)
workislove (author)  copperaxe2 years ago
Of course I removed the guard, but I used a riving knife that's separate from the stock saw guard. Indeed, the splitter that comes with the guard extends higher than the blade and couldn't be used to make a blind-cut. But if you look closely at step 6 you'll see the riving knife behind the blade mid-cut. I've also added a closeup from another instructable below

That said, I definitely agree about the bandsaw being the right tool for the job. I had to start using the table saw for some tasks because my shop lost its bandsaw for a month. I just figured I'd share my method for anyone in the same boat.
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