re-sawing walnut

When I am working in the shop regularly, it’s easy to come in each morning pretty much pick up where I left off the day before. Winters I work sporadically in the shop – so sometimes the continuity is broken up a bit. Plus I try to do some of my own woodworking in this season, stuff that doesn’t fit in the 17th- century work, like the Welsh chair I have underway lately. So lots of back-and-forth.

 Because there’s sometimes a lag between sessions in the shop, I like to plan some physical work to start off with each time. Usually it’s just the simple act of hewing & planing some stock like the other day’s post about oak. Recently though, I warmed up by resawing some of the stock for the walnut high chair. I have some 1” thick stuff set aside for the carved back panel and the seat board. One inch is too thick by a long shot – it would make the chair too clunky. So I set out to re-saw the stock into ½” thick pieces. I don’t do a lot of this, but just now & then. I used a regular old rip saw for this job, but one I have just filed a week ago or so. I decided to use the modern cabinetmaker’s bench with vices to hold this stock for sawing. I could use a holdfast to secure it on my joiners’ bench too.

resawing walnut

 Resawing like this is simple in concept, and pretty tough in practice. I marked a line all around the edges of the board with a sharp marking gauge, scored deeply to really define where I wanted to saw. Then I set the board in the vice, with one corner pointing up. My first cuts run across this protruding corner, sighting down the edge nearest me, and across the end grain of the board. I’m not trying to cut all the way across the end grain, just starting to let the saw ride in an ever-lengthening kerf. After a time, I flip the board around, with the other corner jutting upwards.

on & on

Now I work down the opposite edge, and bring it across the end grain. Within a few minutes’ sawing, the kerf now is connected across the end grain. At this stage it’s a matter of extending the kerf down the edges of the board, flipping it one way then the other. I guess the way this works is that the edge nearest you is the easiest to see, so you watch the saw come down that edge, while guiding it through the already established cut on the end grain. Rather than run the saw down the edge across from you, out of your sight, you take the board out of the vice & flip it around. Gives you a moment to catch your breath too.

board now upright


After I have sawn down both edges a bit, I set the board upright in the vice. Now the goal is to saw out the little apex between the two triangular areas you have already sawn. For this bit, the saw is held with its teeth parallel to the floor. Then it’s back to angled cuts, back & forth, until you extend the kerfs all the way down the board. After a time, I put a wooden wedge in the top of the kerf to keep it from closing on the saw.

wedging the kerf

As I got near the end, I had to keep aware of the vice now pinching closed what I was trying to open with the saw. It’s human nature to saw harder & faster as you get closer to the end, but that ain’t the way to go. I try to work more lightly as I get near the end. For the last bit that separated the halves of the board, I took the piece out of the vice and propped it on my chopping block to make the last cut.

Here’s the end result. I then took these and stacked them in the shop with spacers between them – even with dried stock; it pays to wait when you’ve opened something like this. Weird tensions can be released. Better to find them out before I stick this stuff in the chair.

resawn panels

I’m no expert sawyer, but manage sometimes to get it right. I spent about 30-40 minutes sawing this peice, including running back & forth to the camera for photos. The panel is around 12″ -14″ wide x about 24″. It’s not like it’s pitsawing

6 thoughts on “re-sawing walnut

  1. THANKS Peter,
    As you say, it’s an easy concept, but a bit tougher to get right. Thanks for the detailed description and the extra pictures. We often see one or the other, but not both together.

    Nice looking walnut (yeah, I know it’s not your favorite).

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