marks_1aThe most economical way to purchase lumber is to buy green, rough cut lumber. Of course the disadvantage is that you have to dry it yourself, which takes time (yes this can take up to 3 or 4 years with some hardwoods), and then in order to make it useable, you need to break it down or "dress" the lumber (at least in most cases) which simply means making it useable for woodworking projects.

The problem with this process is that frequently your wood will warp and bend as it drys, which is normal. Some wood will bend and move slightly while other pieces will bend wildly out of shape. Most lumber as it dries will bend and move in more than one plane creating what is termed a "propeller"shape.

Dressing this lumber down can be a real hazard if you are not careful because of the the way the wood is warped, and especiallt if you are working with 8 or 9 quarter inch thick boards ( 2" - 2 1/2"). thinner lumber such as 4 quarter (one inch thick) is less a bit easier to work with but BOTH can be a hazard, and here'w why ....

The industry wide rule of thumb in dressing lumber is that two of the sides of a board are planed flat and 90 degrees to one another first, then the other two sides are planed or sawn appropriately. The LAST cut you should be making is cutting the dressed board to length. This ensures you are cutting off and planer or jointer snipe and any checking that invariably happens at the ends of boards.

During the process of dressing rough cut boards many novice woodworkers will attempt to cut rough wood down on their table saw. This is often a BAD idea because almost always rough cut boards will have a bend one way or another in them and there is no way they are going to be able to slide through a table saw with the fence attached, and make any kind of a decent cut. IF you have a sufficiently powerful table saw, and a good out feed table, the only safer way to start dressing lumber is draw a straight line where the first cut will be, then "free hand" the board through the table saw, but even this is not recommended.

Using a good big band saw is preferable over any table saw in at least making the first cut through a rough cut board. You often need a pretty substancial band saw, but if you are only cutting 4-quarter boards, most 14 inch band saws should handle this.

If you do NOT have big table saw with a powerful motor and nice large out feed table, or a big band saw, the next best, and safest alternative is to use circular saw. Yup ... thats all it really takes. You can often get way with purchasing less expensive circular saw as long as you put a good blade on it. It is best to try and use some sort of a fence to let the circular saw ride along as you cut the length of the board, and one of the best things to use is factory edge of a piece of plywood, cut about 4 inches wide along the length of the sheet. This can then be clamped to your rogh cut lumber as a fence, and now you have a safe, accurate way ot starting to break down your rough cut lumber.

Depending on the power of you circular saw, the thickness and type of wood you are cutting, you may need to make a few passes with the saw, making each pass slightly deeper until the board is cut thfough.

Once you have made this cut, you can take the rough lumber off cut to your jointer and joint that first edge to a nice clean flat surface. Once this is done you can start jointing another surface that is 1/4 turn of the board, so that now the surface you jut jointed in is now being used to fun along the fence of the joint ... when this is done you will have safely made your rough cut board with two, 90 degree, flat surfaces ... all you need to do now is plane or cut them to size and finally to leght.

Always work safely use wood and machinery you can handle and is designed to for the job you are using it for.


Copyright Colin Knecht


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