Friday, June 5, 2009

Ripping Wood

Saws, Bents and Benches

I recently had a question about the specs on the rip saw I was using in the Moulding plane/Miter blog from a few days ago. Instead of answering in the comment section I thought I'd do it here.
I have a few old Rip saws I've acquired through yard sales and flea markets as well as a new Pax from England. I barely touch the Pax except for soft, green wood outside of my shop...kind of the weekend work, helping out the brother-in-law build a fence or deck stuff. The particular saw in question is the one pictured above; the medallion says Corporate Mark Kangaroo and the plate has Rob Sorby Sheffield punched into it.
It's 28" long and filed at 6 tpi. (teeth per inch) I sent it down to Mark at Technoprimitives and he over hauled it last year. Needless to say he did an amazing job and it became my daily user.

It's the main saw I reach for except when ripping stock in the 1/2" range. I have another old Disston that has a 24" saw plate and is filed at 10 tpi. Between these two that usually takes care of my ripping needs but I'm very interested in the new Lie Nielsen panel saws. I have a few other old Rip saws as well but they're in need of some work. When ripping wood, to further answer the question asked I generally use my saw bench. This is the design by Chris Schwarz published in Woodworking Magazine a few years back. It's a nice design and a perfect height but I find with the two angled legs I sometimes hit the end of the saw into the lower stretcher...I've since designed my own saw bench and will share it with you here in a future post. For small stock I usually just fore go the saw bench and use my tail vise for most of my rip cuts. My bench is low enough that I never seem to have an issue with this method. I'll sometimes hold the piece in the tail vise and use a hold fast as well on my bench top to keep the work piece stable. I also have a couple of 'shop bents' as I call them. Basically they're saw horses that are the same overall dimension as the end profile of my work bench. I'll use these from time to time when ripping the edge of real large work but this is pretty rare in my shop.
The plans for these will be in my book so I better not put them editor may whack me across the knuckles with a yard stick!
Ripping wood by hand is probably one of the most intimidating things for people considering a hand tool only work shop; it's time and labor intensive but once you get your head around it it quickly becomes second nature. I clearly remember thinking back when I was first considering a shop with no power tools and the idea of ripping all of the wood for a piece of furniture scared the hell out of me! That said, it's been a year of hand saws and wood shavings and I don't even think about it now...assembling a cut list and grab the saw. It actually doesn't take that long either-another mis-conception I had.

So for anyone starting down this road I'll recommend a full size panel saw in the 28" ball park with a low tooth count for thick stock and then a smaller panel saw with a finer tooth for lighter work.
The saw bench mentioned from Woodworking Magazine is a great design and I'd recommend it to anyone but for me and my body type it wasn't a perfect fit. Try ripping along the workbench too, this is my preferred method but again to each his own...what ever feels comfortable is always the best way to go.


  1. Great post, Tom. Very helpful. Awhile back I used handsaws extensively in timberframing and was amazed at how good I got with them, but in my cabinet shop they don't get that much use, except for dovetailing. But, I plan to put them in action more often, and the information you've provided, in particular your link to Mark Harrell, has really been useful.
    Agree about the saw hitting the stretcher.

  2. Hi Tom, great post on saws. I am slowly working up the courage to do all my woodworking by hand but one thing is stopping me, how to resaw thick planks. My next project (between a hanging tool cabinet and my wife's chest of drawers) is a frame saw for resawing. I have tried to resaw 9" wide planks with a rip saw but it did not turn out so well. What do you use?

  3. Patrick,

    I use my rip saw mentioned in the post for any's not a ton of fun but it works.
    I'm eventually going to make a dedicated frame saw for resawing...Bob Easton has some great info on this topic at his boat building blog.
    Thanks for the comments and good luck with it.

  4. Tom,

    Thanks for the link, I had found the plans for the frame saw, but Bob Easton's post has way more information. It will definitely make construction and use easier.


  5. Hi Tom,

    I just ordered your book. Had a wonderful Christmas where I received a $100 gift certificate to Lie-Nielsen. Can't decide which "half-a-plane" I'll get with that much.

    Know any good places (flea markets, used tool dealers) here in Montreal/Quebec where you could find some old tools worth restoring?

    Dallas in Montreal

  6. Hi Dallas,

    I also live in Montreal and have not found many places for used tools. I do however have a guy in Ottawa that has old tools stacked to the ceiling of a storage locker. Send me an email and i will be happy to pass along his email to you. He does sell through the mail but Ottawa is an easy drive and you get to hit Lee Valley at the same time.

    The email is below, just put it back together.


  7. Hey Dallas-
    Sorry I missed the comment- seems Patrick has offered a good alternative for you- I too don't know of any used hand tools places in the area...wish I did though!
    keep well and I hope you enjoy the book-

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