Save Money by Learning to Re-Saw Lumber

Carpenter saws a wood board.
image: Robert Kneschke

Woodworking is an enjoyable hobby, but we’d be lying if we didn’t say it could also be a pricey one. Learning to re-saw lumber using a band saw is of the best secrets you can learn to save money on your next woodworking project. You can save a small fortune over time by buying and re-sawing rough lumber instead of dressed wood.

The concept of re-sawing is simple enough; if you need quarter-inch thick boards and have an inch thick one you can use your band saw to slice the thinner cuts from the board you have.

Now yes, this will require a bit more work but we’re talking about saving money here not time. This technique also relies on you having access to a band saw and a jointer. Owning a thickness planner too would save you some work sanding but isn’t required.

For more about Woodworking check out our guide to the best finish nailers

Buying the wood

So, you need to buy some wood for a project you’re working on, say ¾” thick pine stock. It’ll work out to be much more economical in this situation to purchase 2-inch thick rough cut pine boards to re-saw to into 3/4″ thickness yourself. You see rough cut wood is generally sold by the board foot (1”x12”x12” for the uninitiated). However, when buying dressed wood though this isn’t always the case and instead the prices can vary immensely. Dressed boards could be priced by the linear foot and can end up costing as much as four times what you would be paying for rough-cut.

When choosing boards to purchase and re-saw keep in mind that the boards have to go straight through the saw. With this in mind, they must be free of any bows, cups, and twists.           

A stationary band saw is usually by default capable of re-sawing boards that up to are 6″ wide. You can also purchase extension kits though which are relatively cheap and can double that ability to let you re-saw a board up to 12 inches wide. Of course, if you buy an extension kit for your saw then that will mean that you need to buy a longer blade as well.

Choosing Your Blade

When selecting a band saw blade the basic guideline to follow is that the thinner the wood, the more teeth per inch (TPI) of the blade. Sticking to this rule of thumb helps to prevent heat build-up. This is because when the band-saw blade cuts into a piece of wood sawdust fills the gullet (the space between the teeth). The sawdust packing into the gullets creates friction which causes heat, so the higher the TPI of the blade the more heat you end up with.

The thicker the wood, the further the gullet needs to travel before it reaches the bottom of the cut. A hot blade dulls quicker and before you know it the teeth have all been dulled and the saw has been worn out.

When it comes to picking a blade for re-sawing there a few things that can help ensure you get clean, cool cuts. You want to stick with a wider blade with a low TPI count. A blade with half-inch width and a three TPI count is among the most efficient choices for re-sawing. The width of the blade reduces forward deflection from the saw and the low TPI count provides enough gullet space to prevent heat buildup.

Using a carbide-tipped blade will also reduce any heat buildup and provide smoother cuts overall. While they are more expensive to buy a carbide-tipped blade also lasts much longer than other blades, giving them a lower average cost per cut. If you will be making consistent deep cuts then a skip tooth blade is also another choice worth considering.

How to Get the Cleanest Cuts While Re-Sawing

When it comes to getting clean cuts the name of the game is preventing heat buildup. Like we went over in the last section more friction means more heat. Now what we didn’t cover there was in addition to wearing down the blade that excess heat will also reduce the quality of cuts another way as well.

Heat can cause sawdust and tar to bond to the band saw blade reducing the efficiency of the cutting teeth on the blade. Using a saw blade will help prevent this material buildup and keep your cuts smoother and there are also are cleaner that helps to remove them. After finishing each cut, you should inspect your blade for any visible buildup to remove.

Keeping Your Cuts Clean

  • Before re-sawing you’re going to want to run one edge of the board through the jointer to smooth it out. Not just the surfaces, but the edges as well to flatten out the roughness of the lumber.

  • To keep your cuts straight when re-sawing you are going to need a rip fence on your saw.  The rip fences of most band saws are only a couple of inches high, but if you plan to saw wider boards you will need a larger fence. A simple fix for this is to just fabricate one by screwing a piece plywood to your existing fence.

  • When cutting make sure to apply an even amount of lateral pressure through the entire width of the board to ensure a straight, even cut. Try keeping an even amount of feed pressure on the board as well. Pausing or stopping in the flow of the board can cause streaks or burn marks to show up on the cut surface.

Finishing up

After sawing it is time to check that your finished pieces are the right thickness. If they turned out to be the correct thickness, then all that’s left to do is sanding the rough sides. As we all know though, more often than not getting everything perfect will not happen in real life. If you don’t own a thickness planer line the boards up, side by side and even them out using a belt sander. When your boards are ready for sanding, use an orbital sander to leave them with a nice polished look.

For more about saws check out our guide to the best metal cutting saws

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