The Riphorse: Training Wheels for Sawyers - Popular Woodworking Magazine

The Riphorse: Training Wheels for Sawyers

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Sawing Techniques, Saws, Schwarz on Workbenches, Woodworking Blogs

The hardest part of ripping (besides the exertion) is making a square cut through the thickness of the work. It’s fairly easy to follow your line when ripping, but it’s also easy to make that cut at an angle, especially in thick stock.

One common trick to remedy this problem is to mark your cutline on both faces of your board. Then you flip the board over every so often and correct any wandering. Then flip the board over again and again.

Carpenter Carl Bilderback of LaPorte, Ind., has developed a sawbench that is designed to train you to rip vertically. It works on the same principle as a wooden miter box. The top of the sawbench is pierced by a narrow kerf. Below the top of the sawbench are two big softwood chunks. The chunks are fastened close together — just far enough apart to let the saw pass.

The result is pretty cool. I tried it out on Thursday, as did my friend John Hoffman. It was a cakewalk to rip square.

We made a short video to show the riphorse in action.

Of course, you really need two sawhorses, and when you put the second sawhorse into the equation you can rip longer boards, and you can use the ripping slot for crosscutting, too.

Speaking of ripping, I showed Bilderback my French method of ripping. He wasn’t buying it. He called it slower and equated it to a personal activity that cannot be mentioned on a family blog (well, maybe the Manson Family blog).

In any case, I still like my French ripping method and think (and Carl agrees) that the method does result in nice square cuts.

We’ll likely offer plans in a future issue of the magazine for this riphorse (which will include gussets on the ends. Bilderback left them off so we could see the guiding blocks better).

But most woodworkers should be able to build one or modify their current sawbench from these photos.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 20 comments
  • greglease

    Jim Tolpin had made a ripping horse when I was up at the Port Townsend Woodworking School last year, and we all gave it a try. It must have been 18" high and had about a 9" curved "V" at one end (think rounded at the ends and very pointy at the point the 2 sides come together). It was a comfortable height to plant a knee on top of the sawn board, and you sawed at the end of the bench, which was about 48" or a bit more long. Very sturdy! We put a line down both sides of the board and used a 5pt rip saw Jim had just refiled. It worked great!

  • Dan Miller

    Maybe you could combine this information with Ron Herman’s information about saw horse height and show a plan with height relative to "knee to ground" type dimensions.

  • makes perfect sense when you look at it – one of those things that makes you go DUH and hit your head
    thanks for sharing – iz za seen the light

  • Glen Morgan

    There’s this new fangled thing they invented and it does a really good job at ripping wood. It’s called a table saw. You all should try one.

  • Joe H

    My problem with ripping is that I am right handed, and all my hand saws are left handed saws:)

  • Dan Clark

    In my spare time I am building a twenty-foot sailboat. I use unicorn boogers all the time to hold the gronicles in place at each frame.

    To maintain a constant supply of unicorn boogers, I raise my own ‘corns. They’re easy to keep, rather complacent, and eat mostly grass. Only problem is that my wife complains about them eating all the tulips in her garden.


    PS: Working time is related to relative humidity, thus the open time is dependent on both temperature and humidity so times will vary. Here in Florida with constantly high relative humidity it sometimes takes until mid-afternoon before the booger forms a solid bond (assuming no afternoon rainstorm). In Arizona, for instance, I would guess that the working time would be much less (as in instant bond).

  • Tom O'Brien

    I think it’s a dandy idea. I’ll have to make one (with power tools) and see how it works with my left-handed-right-eyed attempt at coordination.

  • rob high

    Is there a pdf on how to build the saw bench with dimensions?


  • Fred West


    What is the height of said ripsaw horse? Also, how often have you come across unicorn boogers and what is their open time and then holding capacity?:o)


  • Christopher Schwarz

    That’s just a starter kerf made when kerfing the underside I believe.

    I promise it’s not cut all the way through and held together by unicorn boogers.


  • Mike Morrison

    Hmmm. I still don’t see it. In the shot of the underside it looks like it’s cut right through along its length. Am I missing something? Other than brain cells?

  • Christopher Schwarz

    What’s holding it together?


    What you are seeing is the starting kerfs to make the plunge cuts. I don’t know what saw Carl used. Perhaps a curved-blade flooring saw.

    The through slot is about 18" long.


  • Matt Cianci

    What in world is holding the two halves of the bench together?!??!

  • Hmmmmm April 11. Two April Firsts?

  • Phew, thanks CQ, I thought I was the only one.

  • CQ

    I’m sure I’m going to feel silly when someone answers this, but what am I missing? It looks like the bench is cut all the way down the middle, so how it is still standing? It’s like an old-fashioned magic show trick.


    The cut must be aligned with the slot, I think that is a problem when the board is longer than the sawhorse. An alternative is an electronic saw-tilt indicator ( anyone? 🙂

  • Joel Jacobson

    When I worked construction back in the early 1950s, no one used a rip saw. If we had to narrow a board, it was chopped with a hatchet and then planed straight (usually with a #5). This may explain why old rip saws are far rarer.

  • Bob Demers

    I dunno BE
    I think that the jig still train your muscle memory, and that after a while you should be able to go Jigless (look Ma, no hands:-)
    Of course, you still have to plane the rip edge after, so i dont see how without the jig it would be faster, especially since it should come out of the jig needing less work to plane it square.

    But in the end, nothing beat hard earned experiences, so regardless of how acquired, with or without training wheel, practice, practice make perfect

    Intriguing jig, how do both halves stay together 🙂


  • BE

    Well, I understand the intention behind such a thing but I have to say that you don’t learn to saw by using a jig that guides the blade for you. I fail to see what you could learn here. The jig robs you of everything you need to learn by practice. Moreover, I have been thought that a rip cut needs not be perfect right away. Its a tough cut to make so you mark the wood on both ends and along its length, rip as close as comfortable but you square it to the line with a plane after. Its much faster and efficient. You don’t do this with a cross cut because you would have to square end grain so in that case, you make a clean cut to the line and it is a very quick and short cut in comparison but a rip cut is different.

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