Ripping on the super saw bench…

If you fancy yourself a craftsman of wood, then you are no doubt familiar with the countless people that ask you to build/repair/customize/take a look at/help them with all manner of projects involving wooden goods and furniture.

I am always amazed at the boldness of people like this, whether they are complete strangers or quasi relatives, they always seem to assume I/we are the most capable people in the world. How do they know I’m not some half-crazed nut job that likes to chop the legs off  of Hepplewhite highboys with a chain saw??!?!??

Anyway, I’ve been mistakenly referring to myself as one of these alleged “craftsman” for some time, and thankfully, over the last few years, I’ve gotten quite good at dodging these oh so tactfully poised inquiries into my willingness to work on whatever jackass crown molding job or shoddy antique refinishing boondoggle people have laid at my feet. I will say, however, that there are some requests that I am more than happy to oblige. Those are the ones that come from parents and grandparents.

Call it respect for one’s elders, or reverence for those we owe our existence and prosperity to, but I do enjoy helping close family. Hell, I often suspect that the only reason my family hasn’t disowned me by now is that I may be the only one in the family that has half a chance at not cutting off a limb or burning the house down when home projects are undertaken.

Anyway, when my mom asked me a few weeks ago to make a table leaf for her antique white oak dining table, how could I refuse? I know its something she’s wanted for a while, and seeing as its her birthday next week, I figured it would be a marked improvement over my usual gift of, well…nothing.

Fortunately for the readers of my blog (or not, depending on your preferences) this little project actually contains some great saw work…..YAHOOOOO!!!!

So let’s get down to brass tacks…

The table is made of quarter sawn white oak, and thusly, I purchased a nice 8 foot board of about 7 inches wide. Since the leaf will have a finished width of 11 inches, and you always want to balance your laminations, I need two 5 and 1/2 inch wide planks. And you know what that means, boys and girls……….its rrrrrrrrrrrripping time!

This is a great chance to show off my new SuperSawBench that I finished a few weeks ago. I’ve been doing a lot of cross cutting on my new bench, but haven’t had a chance to do a lot of ripping….so lets try it out….

I’ll use my trusty Wenzloff/Disston #9….here she is all limbered up…

When I first started ripping on a saw bench, it took me a little while to adjust to it…especially the ripping notch, but now that I’m used to it, it certainly is the go to spot. And I start by marking my cut line on the board and aligning it in the center of the ripping notch…

Positioning your body correctly is the most challenging part of learning to rip at the saw bench…..because it has to FEEL right to you. And what feels right to you may not feel right to someone else, so its difficult to describe how to do it correctly for that reason. The point is, you need to be relatively comfortable as you start the rip, so you can focus on keeping the saw moving and the cut square, not on how much your back hurts. In this case, a picture is worth 1000 words…

If you recently read BobRozaieski’s article in Popular Woodworking about ripping with a hand saw, then you know how important it is to center your eye over the spine of the saw plate…this is how you are most inclined to saw straight, square and true. Here’s what you should see as you are about to start sawing…

Can you see my pencil line marking the cut? Nope! That’s how you know you’re lined up straight…and that’s how your view should be from start to finish….if not, you’re liable to cant your saw out of square. Not good.

After I get the saw started, I have to inch the board forward every few seconds to keep the saw from cutting into the bench top. Once you get the hang of this, you kind of instinctively nudge it forward as needed with your rear foot or left (non-sawing) hand. Here you can see clearly how the ripping notch functions: each side of the notch supports the work while allowing you to cut deeper into the board without cutting the bench…

About halfway into the rip, the board starts to cantilever out into nowhere, and ripping can become a little tedious….so here’s why many craftsman of old recommend building saw benches in pairs…

…for outfeed support!

As I get towards the end of the rip, I need to pay close attention to securing the board. I no longer have the benefit of using my right knee as a home-made hold-fast, so I make use of my other meat clamp (my hand) and apply firm pressure…

The other way to accomplish a rip like this is to cut halfway through and then turn the board around and cut the other half from the other end, that way you don’t need to worry about the out feed support. But then you have to get a little more creative with holding the waste side of the cut…kind of a pain in the butt, and much easier to cut off a thumb nail….DAMHIKT. 😦

All done!

I think ripping a board like this is just about the most fun you can have in the shop (at least without strippers, anyway).

Yes, its work, but if you’re afraid of work, what the hell are you doing in the shop, right?


Published in: on March 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That was a good post Matt. I too get asked to do anything that has a piece of wood attached to it. If a car has a wooden dashboard, people would ask me how to tune up the engine.

    • LOL! True indeed!!! 🙂

  2. I’ve started telling people that furniture repair is a whole other trade and that I’m not trained in it…works every time. Great job on the photos in this and all your posts – a picture is worth 1000 words. (give or take 137):-D

  3. What a wonderful lesson Matt, thanks for guiding us on such a funny shop task
    see you

  4. Great post Matt. From the photo’s it looks straight as an arrow and plumb to boot. I was curious how long it took you to make this rip?

    • Thanks Mike
      It took about a minute maybe…give or take…it was a few weeks ago now, so tough to remember, but it certainly was quick.

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