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For me, ripping boards on low sawhorses is a quick trip to a sore back. It’s a balancing act done while bending over and pushing hard. So I’m always on the lookout for ways to do the same work with less effort.

Some might call this “lazy.” I prefer the term “American!”

Last month I wrote a blog entry about a style of ripping that was common in France and Germany (and, as I later found out, lots of other countries as well). The reaction from the people was mostly that of concern , that I would rip myself in two and do it by starting in the softest place possible.

So I wanted to post a short video that shows this in action and also points out that the saw’s teeth face away from the user. This method of ripping is tons easier than crouching on sawhorses. And I actually found that the saw was easier for me to control.

I did a fair amount of ripping like this while I was up in Maine last week. We didn’t have any power equipment around. Check it out above. First: I usually use a full-size ripsaw for this operation, but mine is in the mail, so I used a rip-filed panel saw instead. It’s fine for this operation , just slower.

And here’s a quick tip: If the saw starts to jam, lean the saw’s tote forward (away from you), which will make the teeth engage more sweetly.

Also, here’s another form of ripping I like better than crouching: overhand ripping at the bench. You actually have to stand up for this, but it does have one distinct advantage compared to ripping while sitting: The saw is unlikely to hit the floor or your bench.

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Showing 24 comments
  • It’s a little known fact that cutting toward yourself when ripping while sitting is another reason that the Shakers died out. 🙂

  • Jamie

    What kind of saw are you using? A rip saw should be cutting faster than that even in oak!!!What is that a Lie Nielsen crosscut saw?? Maybe you should try a saw sharpen by Tom Law.

  • Rob Porcaro


    Dude, please reassure us that you will remove that kerf-keeper wedge before you skoosh the board along and regrip it in the "vise" it to advance the cut. And that’s all I’m sayin’. . .


  • Chris Schwarz


    That’s how the ancient Egyptians are shown doing it.

    I’ve added a drawing of it in the blog entry.

  • Lindley

    I can’t help wondering and asking …

    Since no one saws dovetails or tenons holding a saw vertically (and workpiece horizontally), why not come up with a way to rip a board holding the saw horizontally and the workpiece vertically?

    I know — if the piece is very long, this might require repositioning and a tall ceiling, but if you are doing this a lot during the day, it makes more sense to allow gravity to help you during the sawing. Also, the saw handle is already made for this sawing direction and the saw is filed with this direction of force in mind.

    Anybody ever seen a hand sawing method using horizontal saw and vertical workpiece?

  • Pedro M

    I certainly can see why is so easy to get the "hang" of it. Seems like we (men) have "practiced" these strokes before 😉

    PS: Couldn’t help it… Sorry if anyone is offended

  • Philly

    You’re a brave man, Chris! And I love the voice-over – sounds like she was struggling to keep a straight face 😉
    Best regards

  • Scott

    Drar Chris and Megan,

    An Ode to Odd

    At six foot four
    He still touched the floor
    And then one day,
    The saw got in the way
    And he touches the floor no more

  • Mike Siemsen

    I am surprised that you haven’t used these techniques in house construction. Climb up in some odd position and saw something off, overhead, toward you, away from you, as long as there was room to move the saw. The only hard and fast rule I have found in sawing is teeth toward the wood. I am glad you are experimenting and encouraging others to think outside the box.

  • Christopher Schwarz



    Just kidding. Sawing toward your body is something I also do. The only problem I run into is when I lay the saw down to straighten out a cut. It’s weirder (for lack of a better word) when the teeth are pointing toward you.

    However, when it comes to overhand sawing, I think the best advice is: Do what feels right.


  • Ron Boe

    The female voice over seems to lack a certain amount of respect for either you or the technique. Me thinks a young intern may do a better job (at least early in the internship).

    I think I’ll stick with the tablesaw – and avoid anyone video taping me work. :^)

  • Judging by the body mechanics of this method, I would say that most men are already going to be very strong with it and have plenty of stamina.

  • Peter Follansbee

    back when you first introduced this whackiness, I had just posted a blog entry about sawing standing up like this…with one exception – I aim the teeth at me, keep the saw vertical, & walk backwards. OK, so maybe that’s 3 exceptions. I see the line very well this way. I find standing up straight to be much more comfortable than any alternative…

  • Christopher Schwarz

    I’m ripping oak here. And I finished the rip a few minutes after posting the video. Even with a 7-point panel saw, it’s not hard. And sitting down is nice.

    I find for me that the balancing act on sawhorses takes a toll on me. And being able to use both arms is a big advantage in fighting fatigue.

    A longer saw certainly would speed me up.



    Chet, this looks a lot more painful and slow than it would be if Chris had a rip saw that was more appropriate for what he’s doing; I generally get 1/2" or so a stroke in red oak with a 5 ppi rip saw, and as much as 1" in something like pine with a slightly coarser one.

  • Curtis

    I have not tried either of these methods, but it does bring a question to mind – if you were going to do this regularly would it make sense to design a different type of saw handle?

    Holding the saw verticly and backwards is not the way the handle was designed to be used and looks like it could get uncomfortable. Are there any historical examples of specially designed saw handles for this?

  • Owen Rose

    What were the dimensions on that dresser again?

  • Dan


    Why are you laughing?

  • Bob Rozaieski

    Thanks Chris! A video is worth a thousand words. I’ve had some trouble ripping using both of these techniques in the past. I originally thought it was because I was using too aggressive of a saw (and commented as such in your previous blog about this), but I now realize that it is likely that I am sawing too vertical. My saw likes to grab and stop but it is much more vertical when I try these methods of ripping. I need to lean the saw away from me more.

    One thought comes to mind though. Do you find that you tire faster using these ripping methods versus the conventional position? It looks like sawing this way you would use a lot more of your arm muscles and less of your chest and back muscles. I would expect this to lead to faster fatigue, though I’m speculating of course having never really done a substantial amount of ripping using these overhand methods.

  • John Cashman

    "The softest place possible?" My regrets to your wife. I understand they have pills for that.

  • Chet Kloss

    Thank goodness I’m a "blended" woodworker and use a table saw or a band saw for ripping. That looks way too much like work…


  • Mike Holden

    What is with the "Girls Gone Child!" video that played after the one on ripping? Seriously. After the ripping video played then one came on about finding $20 in the laundry and a female from "Girls Gone Child!" came on.

  • Mark

    Ripping a wedgie with your butt-checks, using a hand tool . . . sweet!

  • Jake

    Some butt-vices are bigger than others.

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