How to measure, mark, and cut wood without cutting corners.Saturday, March 23, 2019, by Gregg Malanga
When two pieces of wood are glued together using high-quality clamps, the bond between them becomes stronger than the wood itself. But before you can break out the power tools and start assembling your woodworking projects, you need to know how to measure, mark, and cut wood properly and precisely – every time. Because if even a single piece of paper can fit between two pieces of joined wood, the glue bond isn’t as strong as it could be.
Besides helping achieve good bonds and even contact, taking the time to cut every piece of your project correctly will help it all come together the way you envision, with minimal time spent sanding or making corrections. It’s true that in many instances, not every cut is critical to the success of the job. But always striving to be as accurate as possible can’t hurt, and being consistent will help build lasting good habits.
Measuring and marking wood before cutting.
Measure, mark, then cut. Seems simple, right? Not quite. Whether you’re using a ruler or a tape measure, always double-check (or triple-check!) your measurements. Then be sure to mark your wood properly. A pencil works fine as a marker, as long as the tip is sharp. And when accuracy is of the utmost importance, use a razor blade or a box cutter to make your mark. This will give you the tightest tolerance possible for perfectly accurate and straight cuts. Plus, this slight cut has the added benefit of relieving the wood grain ever so slightly, meaning the wood has less chance of splintering as you make your cut.
If you’re using a pencil to make your mark, you have three options to consider before cutting the wood: you can cut to the inside of the line, along the line, or to the outside of the line. In most cases, we recommend cutting to the outside of the line. You can always take more wood off, but you can’t get it back once you’ve started your cut. The saw blade should move just along the side of the line. If you cut to the pencil line, the thickness of your blade might take off more material than you expected. No matter what you choose, be sure cut consistently. Follow the same approach for every cut your project requires, and you will be rewarded with accurate cuts.
Essential woodworking cuts you should know.
Now that you’re ready to cut your wood, let’s review five of the main woodworking cuts and when to use them.
Crosscut. A crosscut is any cut that slices across (“cross”) the grain direction of the wood. To make this cut, use a miter saw or a table saw for best results. A table saw will let you cut wider pieces of wood. Avoid using a band saw, as crosscutting wood is more strenuous on a blade and a band saw is more likely to burn the edges of the wood or result in rough cuts.
Rip cut. A rip cut is a cut that follows the direction of the wood grain. Think of it as “ripping” the wood apart. This type of cut is easy to perform with most saws, and many professional woodworkers use a table saw with a rip fence for consistent, repeatable results. But use caution when you hold the wood. Never try to push a board through a table saw using just your hands; use a push stick to guide the piece forward. A good miter saw with a wide blade and a sharp edge can also be used for rip cuts.
Resawing. When you resaw wood, you cut along the edges of boards to create thinner boards. This is an ideal way to turn thick pieces of wood into thinner slabs for veneering or bookmatching. A finely tuned miter saw is the best tool for this technique. Once you’ve resawed your wood, you can run your boards through a wood planer to ensure flat surfaces.
Miter. A miter cut is any cut made at an angle other than 90 degrees (i.e., not a square cut). Typically this is a 45-degree cut through the wood and is used for making boxes, picture frames, and other framing structures. Unsurprisingly, a miter saw is the best tool to use when miter cutting. A bevel cut is very similar to a miter cut, except a bevel cut is used to create angled or round edges. To make bevel cuts, hold the board’s face against the fence of your miter saw. And to be safe, set the fence so that the blade tilts away from it.
Curved cut. A curved cut is any cut that is intentionally not a straight cut. A band saw is perfect for creating curved cuts. Always cut to the outside of your mark line because you will have to round off your edges regardless. For thinner wood, a jigsaw can provide better results.
Time to get clamping.
You have all the wood for your project perfectly cut and ready to go. The next step is to choose the right clamps to assemble the finished piece. Pony Jorgensen is the only clamp brand that has been providing woodworkers with high-quality clamps for more than a century. With bar clamps, pipe clamps, C-clamps, hand and spring clamps, miter clamps, corner and framing clamps, vises, and a wide range of specialty clamps, we have a clamp for virtually any woodworking application. View our entire product collection today and start clamping wood like a pro.