Bandsaw Resawing

Bandsaw Resawing

Cut logs into lumber, make thin boards from thick and cut your own veneer.

By George Vondriska

Perhaps you want to cut 3/4-in.-thick
material down to 3/8 in., or make
veneer from that one precious figured
board. Or maybe you want to get useful
lumber from a gorgeous piece of wood in
your firewood pile. The technique that
makes this possible is resawing.Although
it just plain baffles some woodworkers,
once you get the hang of it, you’ll be surprised
at what you can do, even on a small
bandsaw. Here’s what you need to make it
all happen: blade selection, shop-made
jigs, setup and cutting tips.

 

Why resaw?

One big reason:money. If you want thin
stock for small boxes or drawers, it’s a lot
cheaper to make your own than to buy it.
Some wood dealers actually make thin
stock by planing down 4/4 material, so it
ends up being more expensive to buy less
wood!

With wood prices going through the
roof, making veneer can stretch your
woodworking dollars. Slicing veneer on
your bandsaw can change one bd. ft. of
precious, expensive wood into six sq. ft.
of veneer.

You can also transform those dusty
chunks of apple or crotch wood out in
your garage into free lumber by resawing.
You could make a project entirely from a
tree felled in your own yard. Resawing
gives you access to the marvelous possibilities
of free or cheap local logs.

 

Tool up:
Blade selection and more

Just about any bandsaw will do acceptable
resawing. For example, all the cuts
made in this story were done on an inexpensive,
14-in. bandsaw with a 3/4-hp
motor. All we did to the saw was add a
riser block to increase its capacity.
Granted,pushing a saw too hard can bog
it down, or even pop a circuit breaker. So
take it easy. If you plan to do lots of resawing,
see below for more on larger and
souped-up machines.

Use the widest blade your saw can handle:
1/2 in. or 3/4 in. for most saws. Wide
blades make it easier to cut a straight line. Look for a blade with four teeth per inch and a hook tooth
pattern.The hooked teeth give you big gullets (the valleys
between the teeth) to clear the sawdust from the cut and
help the blade run cool.Heat is a blade’s biggest enemy.
Resawing pushes your saw’s motor to the max, so make
it easier on your saw by always using a sharp blade.

I’ve had perfectly acceptable results resawing with bimetal
blades and great results resawing with silicone-carbide,
low-tension blades (see Sources, below). These
blades leave an excellent surface finish and,due to their
thin kerf and low tension, don’t take as much power to
drive. These blades make it easier to resaw thick stock on
any saw.

An auxiliary table helps and is a must for cutting
logs. Resawing also requires a fence. Some bandsaw
manufacturers have fences available for their saws ($75
to $100), or you can make one. The fence
should be high enough to support the material you’re cutting
and adjustable to compensate for blade drift.

Don’t forget dust collection.Resawing produces lots of
dust and it’s typically pretty fine.Admittedly, dust collection
attachments on most bandsaws aren’t great, but
whatever you have is better than nothing. If you find lots
of dust buildup on your tires, unplug the saw and clean
the tires with a rag moistened with mineral spirits. Clean
tires help your saw perform better.

 

Get the drift: Setup tips

If you’ve tried cutting a straight line on your bandsaw,you
probably noticed that your material has to be fed at an
angle to the blade. This is called “blade drift.”Any resaw
technique that uses a fence requires finding and working
with this drift angle. Drift varies from blade to blade, so
follow this simple setup procedure (Photos 1 through 4)
every time you change blades.

 

Logs to lumber: Cutting tips

If your firewood pile puts visions of potential projects into
your head, use resawing to turn those logs into planks.

You can cut logs when they’re wet or dry, but they’ll
be easier to cut when wet. Either way, you’ll have to dry
the lumber all the way before you use it for a project (see
“Drying Wood,” below).

The diameter of the logs you cut is limited by the
capacity of your saw: 6 in. on most 14-in. saws. If you
want to cut bigger stuff, see if the manufacturer of your
saw makes a riser kit. It can increase the capacity of
your saw by another 6 in.

A bigger table on your saw is almost a must when handling
logs. It’s nearly impossible to cut a straight line without one.You’ll also need a sled to
hold onto the log and prevent it from
rolling while you cut (Fig. A). Once
you use the sled, you’ll love the stability
it gives you for these difficult cuts.
Green logs measuring 11 in. in diameter
and 36-in. long are about at the top
end of what you can safely handle.

 

Drying wood

Remember one thing:When it comes
to drying, slower is better.

-Before cutting the log, paint the end
grain.This seals it and slows down the
drying process so you don’t get lots
of cracking. I use whatever extra paint
I have around the house, though for
green wood, latex is best.

-If the bark stays on the planks you
cut, leave it on. Like painting the ends,
the bark slows down drying.

-Stack the planks where air can flow
over them, but not in direct sun. Place
a couple stickers (1x2s) between each
plank so the air can move freely
around the wood.

-Be patient. Air drying can take as
long as one year per inch of thickness.
Follow initial drying with a year of
storage indoors so the boards equilibrate
to indoor moisture levels.

-With small planks, use the weighing
technique to monitor drying. Weigh
the planks after you cut them and use
chalk or a marker to record the weight
on the wood.Weigh them again every
few months. When the weight stops
changing,moisture
is gone from the
wood. Moisture
meters are, of
course, the most
accurate way to
gauge the moisture
content (see
Sources, below).

 

 

Veneer

Resawing lets you cut your own veneer. This home-sawn
veneer has many advantages. It lets you stretch your
material by getting lots of sq. ft. out of a single board.
Veneering a panel with shop-sawn veneer gives the stability
and design options of commercial veneer, but with the
appearance of solid wood. And because this veneer is
thicker than commercial veneer, you can gently round
over the edges without cutting into the substrate.You can
make veneer from any unusual wood you find, including
crotch, spalted and burled woods—stuff you may not be
able to buy from the best veneer supplier.When cutting
veneer, always be sure the wood is completely dry before
you begin.

A good thickness for your shop-made veneer is 3/32 in.
It’s thick enough to work with, but thin enough to be stable.
When sawing, use a fence that’s as tall as your material
is wide so you have good support, and make sure your
fence and blade are perfectly set up. Bandsawn veneer can
be edge glued with light clamp pressure.

 

Bandsaw upgrades

For frequent resawing, consider getting a larger saw
or souping-up the one you have.

You can upgrade to a 1-1/2-hp motor for about
$200. At that price, a motor upgrade only makes
sense if a slow feed rate is absolutely killing you, or you
have to replace the motor for other reasons. Be
sure to maintain the same shaft diameter, rpm and
rotation direction as your original motor.

Changing your guide blocks to bearing-style guides
(Photo 9) means investing about
$150. The bearings on these
guides are designed to run in
contact with the blade, eliminating
the friction you get from guide
blocks. Less friction means less
heat and longer blade life. Most
of the heat in resawing, however,
comes from the blade’s
contact with the wood. Because
bearings can be used in contact
with the blade, they can help the
blade run straighter, resulting in
less drift.

Similarly, nonmetal Cool
Blocks ($15) can be run directly
against the side of your bandsaw
blade. While they won’t help
the blade run straighter like bearings
can, they do make set-up
easier. You don’t have to worry
about spacing the blocks away
from the blade.

For increased capacity, look
for a riser block ($110) for your
saw. These blocks aren’t available
for all saws, but if you can get
one you can increase the saw’s
capacity by 6 in. They’re available
for some saws from Delta, Grizzly,
Jet and Ridgid. Riser blocks
are saw-specific, so be sure you
get the one designed for your
saw’s specific make and model.

Before dropping too much
dough on your bandsaw,
remember that $1,000 to $1,800
gets you a brand new saw with
big capacity, a monster motor,
and guide bearings. These big
boys are the ultimate resaw
machines.

Fig. A: Sled for Resawing Logs

Sources

(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Low-tension blades, approx. $25,
depending on length; PS Wood
Machines
, 800-939-4414.

Cool Blocks push pads; $15,
Woodworker’s Supply, 800-645-9292.

Motors; $200; Grizzly, 800-523-4777.

Guide bearings; $150, Carter Products,  888-622-7837.

Moisture meters; $150,
Electrophysics, 800-244-9908;
Protimeter, 800-321-4878; Wagner, 800-944-7078.

Medium-sized bandsaws; check
the AW Buyer’s Guide at americanwoodworker.com for complete
specifications.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August 2000, issue #81.

August 2000, issue #81

Purchase this back issue.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Resawn door panels of spalted maple.
“Owl” cabinet by Rich Gotz, Minneapolis,MN
photo by Popular Front Studio

1. Find the drift angle by drawing a line
parallel to one edge of a 16-in.-long scrap piece. Saw
the line freehand. Notice how much you have to
angle the wood in order to follow a straight line.
This is the drift angle.

2. Stop about halfway through the cut, hold the wood
in place and shut off the saw.Trace the angle of the wood
onto the bandsaw table.

3. Set your fence parallel to the line on the table.
An adjustable block at the end of the fence allows you to
hold this angle as you move the fence laterally. Make sure
your table is square to the blade and your fence is square
to the table.

4. Clamp the fence and make a test cut.Watch
for the wood pulling away from the outfeed side of the
fence or binding. It can take a couple tries to get the drift
angle perfect. Once the drift angle is correctly set, move
the fence laterally to make the cuts you need.

5. Position the fence and resaw your board! Be
sure to use a push block and pushstick to keep your
fingers well away from the action.

6. Draw a line down the
middle of the log using a pencil and
straightedge, or snap a chalk line.
With the log secured into the sled,
saw the log in half.

7. Set up a fence to resaw the
boards. Run one face of your halved
log against the fence, and keep going
until you’ve cut the entire log.

8. Position the fence so the veneer is
being cut from the side of the board away from the
fence. Although this means moving your fence for each
cut, it gives the best results. Use a push block and keep
an eye open for the blade blowing out through the face
of the veneer. After your first cut, smooth the face of
the board with a planer or jointer, and re-position the
fence. Repeat until the piece is down to 1/2-in. thickness.
This is about as far as you can safely go.

9. Guide bearings instead of guide blocks (shown here without
the guard) can help
bandsaw blades run
straighter.They cost
about $150, and are
available for virtually
any saw (see Sources,
left).

10. Medium-sized bandsaws (16 in. and 18 in.)
are excellent for
resawing, with larger
motors, wider blades
and larger tables.
Prices are generally
$1,000 to $1,800.

When good cuts go bad

So you’ve mastered the setup, but you’re
still having problems? Here are some tips:

-Look for these symptoms when you
make your test cut: If the board pulls away
from the fence on the outfeed side (Photo
4), the outfeed end of the fence is angled
too far away from the blade. If the board
you’re cutting binds as you’re slicing it, the
outfeed end of the fence is angled too
close to the blade. Make an adjustment and
try another test cut.

-Always use a sharp blade.

-Keep your feed rate slow. Listen to your
saw and slow down if it’s bogging down.

-Use a blade with the right tooth count.
Too many teeth make it hard for the blade
to clear the sawdust.

-Even with everything correctly
set, your wood may not cooperate.
Wood can sometimes be imperfectly
dried, and react after it’s been
cut (photo, above). The only solution
is cutting your stock thick enough to
plane out the cup after resawing.

-Tension your blade. Too
little tension can lead to barrel
cuts (photo, right). Check
the tension by unplugging the
saw, raising the upper guide
and pushing on the side of
the blade. The blade shouldn’t
deflect more than 1/4 in.