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

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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?

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
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)  Mindmapper11 year 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.
ftg sawblade.jpeg
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.
jeff Mindmapper15 months ago
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)  jeff5 months 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.

jeff workislove5 months ago

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)  Mindmapper11 year 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 :)
jeff5 months 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.

copperaxe1 year 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)  copperaxe1 year 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.
ftg sawblade.jpeg