3-D Cutting - Popular Woodworking Magazine

3-D Cutting

 In Woodworking Books

As you begin to get some experience with your band saw, you’ll begin to see all sorts of possibilities for intricate cuts and forms. I find some of the most intriguing shapes the band saw is capable of come from sawing through a piece multiple times. This involves making two or more series of cuts, being careful to save the cutoffs in between. After the first cut (or cuts) you reassemble everything in order and tape the whole mess back together. Then rotate the piece 90° and make a second set of cuts. Now the blade will be perpendicular to the way it was oriented the first time. After you finish cutting, peel away the taped-on bits to reveal a unique, three-dimensional object. With a little thought and practice, you can turn out some really unusual pieces this way.

When you become more familiar with the idea of cutting in three dimensions, you may surprise yourself with what you can come up with. The sequence of photos on these pages illustrates how to cut a delicate ornament from a chunk of wood simply by making a series of repetitive cuts, applying a little strategic glue, and then making a few more cuts.


Start by cutting the blank to whatever size you choose and making a pattern for the first cuts. I like to use cardboard for patterns such as this — the kind of cardboard used as a backer for a pad of paper or (as luck would have it) a band saw blade box. Trace the pattern on two adjacent sides of the blank.

Cut along the layout lines on one side of the blank. Save the cutoffs. The more precise you can be with both the layout and the cutting, the better your chances of turning out a truly exquisite little jewel.

Tape the cutoffs back in place to provide support as you cut along the layout lines on the second side. Don’t hesitate to add more tape should the pieces start to feel loose.

When you are finished with the first round of cuts, your piece will look something like this. Now is the time to sand away the saw marks, as they will be less accessible after the piece is turned inside out.

Measure carefully, then set up a fence so you can cut the blank right down the middle, dividing it precisely into quadrants.

Turn each of the four pieces so its outside is now its inside.  Glue the pieces back together in this orientation. It pays to have a lot of clamps for such a glue-up; however, I have made similar glues-ups using tightly stretched rubber bands and masking tape in lieu of clamps.

After the glue dries, lay out the cuts on two adjacent sides of the blank again. Again, the more precise you can be with your layouts, the better the final piece will look. Cut along the layout lines on one side of the now hollow blank.

Tape the scraps back in place, then cut along the layout lines on the second side of the piece.

When you are done cutting, peel away any excess scrap and tape to reveal the finished ornament. As an added touch, you could turn a little bead or bangle to hang inside the hollow form.

Ken Burton is an author for Popular Woodworking books.

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