Straight Cuts

Review the two types of straight cuts you will make when cutting large boards down to smaller ones: rip cuts and crosscuts.

Intro

You'll reduce a lot of large pieces of wood to smaller ones when you build projects. The straight cuts you make are either rip cuts or crosscuts.

A rip cut reduces the width of a piece of stock. On a board, it's a cut along the length in the direction of the grain. On plywood and other sheet goods, it's a cut parallel to the sheet's long side, no matter the direction of the grain. Ripping stock to width is usually the first machining step in building a project.

After stock has been ripped to the width desired, it's cut to length with a crosscut. This is done across (perpendicular to) the board's grain or in the narrow dimension of plywood and other sheet goods. Parts of the same length should be sawed at the same time (especially with power saws) using a stop. A stop is a piece of wood clamped in place so the stock being cut won't move beyond the required length. Using a stop eliminates remeasuring.

Ripping with a Portable Circular Saw

A portable circular saw makes ripping boards fairly easy. Support the board with 2x4s underneath and clamp a guide in place. A kerf splitter behind the saw keeps the board from closing and binding the saw blade.

Ripping with a Table Saw

On a table saw, reduce the chance of kickback during ripping by using a feather board ahead of the blade. To keep your hands away from the blade, feed the board with a push stick. Never reach over the blade or between the blade and the fence.

Ripping with a Circular Saw

A circular saw can rip-cut even a large sheet of plywood accurately if you use a long straightedge securely clamped to the wood to guide the saw. Place supports under the sheet as shown.

Cutting Large Plywood Sheets

Safely cutting large sheets of plywood on a table saw requires a second pair of hands. The helper holds the sheet level without lifting or pulling as you feed the other end through the blade.

Crosscutting with a Portable Circular Saw

First support the wood on both sides of the cut. Then tightly clamp a piece of scrap wood to the workpiece along the cut line to act as a saw guide. Hold the board firmly as you make the cut.

Crosscutting on a Table Saw

Use the saw's miter gauge, which rides in a slot as it carries the board through the blade, not the rip fence. For even greater accuracy, lengthen the face of the miter gauge by fastening a piece of square, true scrap wood to its face.

Crosscutting with a Handsaw

Clamp a piece of scrap wood on the cut line as a blade guide. For a smooth cut, use long, even strokes and gentle pressure. Short, fast, jerky strokes can leave you with a rough cut -- or, even worse, a bent and ruined saw.

Rip Right: Know Which Side Is Up

The tiny splinters, fractures, and rough edges caused by a blade exiting the wood is called tearout. It is especially noticeable when ripping plywood with a power saw.

To avoid tearout when ripping with a portable circular saw, place the best face of the workpiece down and away from the blade. Then any tearout will be on the bad side of the sheet, which will probably be hidden. For that reason, draw all cut lines on the bad face.

When ripping with a table saw, do just the opposite. Draw cut lines on the best face and place that side up on the table.


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