How to Resaw Without a Bandsaw

Man cutting lumber with handsaw

A bandsaw is the most common, reliable, and accurate resawing tool. However, if you don’t have one, there are alternative methods you can use for resawing.  

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Resawing by Hand

Sawing by hand takes longer and demands more effort than feeding the stock via a bandsaw. It works better if you have a small-scale resawing project, such as making book-matched boxes or doors at home.

Book-matched means that the grains of the two boards are similar. They match each other and appear like mirror images.

Hand techniques have an important place in contemporary shops. Pushing a handsaw through a thick and lengthy board can be incredibly tiring. It takes a lot of time and practice to get it right. With determination and a sharp saw, no task is too hard to accomplish.

The three main benefits of resawing are:

  • It gives you complete control over stock dimensions that you want to cut
  • It allows you to make the best use of the materials at your disposal
  • It makes book matching grain possible

A handsaw or ripsaw comes in handy if you don’t have a bandsaw. Ripping boards through their thickness by hand requires strength and a lot of patience. It is manageable and doable!

The first step is filing and setting the saw. Here, sharpening your saw is crucial.

A ripsaw is the easiest saw to sharpen. It has large teeth, well-shaped teeth. Clamp the saw in a shop-made saw vise and run a file along the entire length of the saw. A small flat surface will form on top of every tooth.

Next, take a triangular file and file across the front edge of each tooth. Ensure that you make a similar number of strokes on each tooth. File until the flat surface that formed disappears.

Tilt the file to create a front edge of the tooth. Now set the teeth accordingly. You can use a squeeze handle to apply a small force against a solid block/ anvil in the set.

After sharpening the saw, you are ready to start resawing.

First, ensure that one face of your board is planed flat along its length and across its width. At this point, it doesn’t need to be perfect, but it has to be flat. A jointer plane can help you achieve this step.

With the face of your board flat, use a marking gauge to scribe lines on all four edges and ends of the face. Depending on your sawing capabilities, you can set the marking gauge a bit wider than your desired thickness or on the exact measurements.

You will need to plane the face after sawing. Therefore, the closer you are to your desired thickness, the less planing you will need to do.

Now that you have your board planed and the cut line marked, you can start sawing. The simplest and quickest sawing technique to get consistent results is starting the cut from the corners towards the center.

If you have challenges cutting with a large frame saw for a start, you can use a regular rip saw and switch after making a few inches.

Saw until you reach halfway across the end grain and then flip the board around and start from the other corner. If your saw cuts meet across the end grain, you are on the right track. But if the cuts don’t meet, there is a twist somewhere in the cut.

You will need to fix the error immediately before proceeding further with the cut. Turn the board upright, and using a rip saw, connect the two cuts correctly across the end grain. Saw down a few inches to create a clean straight cut which the frame saw will follow.

Progress the two cuts down the entire length of the board. Occasionally flip the board and saw from the other corner. Flipping the board helps you identify any drifting early enough and correct it before it goes far beyond the line.

Keep sawing and flipping the board after a few inches until you reach the midpoint of the board’s length. When you get to this point, stop sawing and flip the board end for end.

Start the cuts from the opposite end and follow the same process, alternating sawing from each of the two corners.

The cuts should all connect at the center of the board’s length. As you get closer, you might realize that the saw begins to bind. This behavior could result from the vise squeezing the previously sawn kerf, thus pinching the wood on the saw’s blade.

You can resolve this binding by putting a wedge in the kerf above the blade. This way, you will also be able to finish the saw cut.

The saw will break through into the previous kerf if you have your cuts lined up correctly. But if your saw drifted a little, you will have a small web of wood at the center tying the pieces together.

If you realize that kerfs have joined, you should stop sawing. Use a chisel or froe to split the two halves joined together.

Resawing by Hand: Guiding Principles

  • You should only proceed with a downward cut through a line that you see
  • Do not race with the saw, and do not force it to cut.
  • Don’t bear down on anything, and don’t grip the saw too hard. Take a relaxed pace and let the saw do its work.
  • A resawing job done well should not wear you out. Learn to let up a little on the return stroke.
  • If the saw drifts, avoid twisting it in the cut as you try to brick it back on track. Instead, apply little lateral pressure and give room for the set in the teeth to bring the saw closer to the line.
  • If the saw keeps wandering off, stop sawing and sharpen the blade. You should also check if the saw’s settings are in place.

Conclusion

Resawing without a bandsaw is not as complicated as it sounds. With the right tools and skills, you can handle sizeable resawing projects by hand.

Marcus Weldman

Marcus Weldman is the main author of WiseMakr.com. Marcus is a tool and DIY enthusiast. He spends his time discovering the comparative differences and practical limits for all kinds of tools.