Tips for Sawing and Shaping Wood

Because proper cuts are so crucial to a woodworking project’s success, it’s worth investing time and patience in cutting wood carefully and accurately.

Most lumberyards do cutting for a small fee. Find out which lumberyards in your area offer this service and at what cost. It can really pay off, especially when you have a 4′ by 8′ sheet of plywood to cart home and cut up. If you ask the dealer to make some cuts, plan your cutting diagrams so he’ll make the longest ones. Be sure to specify whether or not the measurements must be exact.

The number of teeth per inch along a saw blade determines the kind of cut it makes. The fewer the teeth, the rougher the cut – many teeth make a smooth cut. The best handsaws for cutting plywood and finish work have 8 to 12 teeth per inch. There are various types of plywood-cutting blades for doing this kind of work with power saws.

Where saw teeth exit, wood will tend to splinter and break away. You can minimize this if you know whether to turn the good side of the wood up or down. The side of the wood that tends to break away will depend on the saw you use. Some have upward-cutting blades; others cut downward. Look to see what direction the teeth are pointed – that is, the direction they cut into the wood. Cut with the good side up when using a handsaw, table saw, or radial-arm saw. If you use a portable circular saw or saber saw, cut with the good side down.

Don’t forget to support both halves of the piece you’re cutting. Otherwise, the saw will bind and, as you near the end of the cut, the unsupported piece will break away. If the saw binds anyway, stick a screwdriver or nail in the end of the cut to spread it open.

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