How to Set Up a Bandsaw for Resawing

A bandsaw is one of the most useful machines you can have in your shop. It can make straight cuts, it can make curved cuts, it can make long rip cuts more safely than on a tablesaw, and it can be used to resaw a board into thinner pieces. In fact, there’s no other machine that is as well-suited for resawing a board than a bandsaw. Today, we’ll learn how to set up and use a bandsaw for resawing.

Resawing on a bandsaw

Why resaw?

Resawing a board is the process of taking a thick board, and making a cut parallel to the face so that you wind up with two thinner boards. There are many reasons to do this. First, if you have a board that is thicker, but you need a thinner piece for your project, this is a way of thinning down the board without wasting a lot of wood.

For example, let’s say you need a board 1/2” thick for a drawer bottom, but the board you have is 1” thick. You could run that board through a planer until it is 1/2” thick, but that’s wasting 50 percent of the wood. By resawing the board, you can get your 1/2” thick board and a second board that will be slightly less than 1/2” thick, because of the saw kerf. That second board can then be saved for a later use, which is much better than turning the second board into shavings that will just go into the garbage. You can also make your own veneers by resawing a board as well.

Bandsaw blade

Bandsaw blade good for resawing

For resawing, you will want to use the proper blade on your bandsaw. This is pretty easy: the blade should be sharp, have 3-4 teeth per inch (tpi), and be at least 1/2” wide. The reason for the tooth configuration is that if there is only 3 tpi, then the gullets between the teeth will be nice and wide. When making a resaw cut, a lot of sawdust gets generated pretty quickly. The large gullets between the coarse teeth allows the blade to carry away a lot of sawdust.

The reason that the blade should be at least 1/2” wide is that the width of the blade adds stiffness to the blade, allowing for a straighter cut. There are wider bandsaw blades available, but you should make sure that your bandsaw is able to use those wider blades before getting one.

The good news is that a 1/2” 3 tpi blade is useful for lots of woodworking tasks, so you don’t necessarily have to get a new resaw blade, especially if you’ve followed the advice in my previous article on bandsaw blades, where I suggest that you can use a 1/2” 3 tpi blade for just about anything, except for cutting tight curves.

The fence

Resawing fence

Because of the position of the board when making a resaw cut, you will want to have a tall fence for the board to ride against. If your bandsaw doesn’t have such a fence, commercial fences are available as accessories, or you can simply attach a flat board to your existing fence, as I did for my bandsaw. It is important that the fence be square to the table.

The second thing to check on the fence is to account for drift. Drift is the tendency of a bandsaw blade to not make a cut that is parallel with the fence in the bandsaw table. Most fences are set up to be parallel with the miter slot, so drift will mean that the blade will want to move closer or farther away from the fence as the cut progresses. You could adjust the angle of the fence if your fence is able to be adjusted that way, but I find that it’s easier to adjust the angle of the upper wheel of the bandsaw to bring the blade in line.

To understand how this works, remember that the surface of a bandsaw wheel typically has a slight crown on it. If the bandsaw blade is riding towards the front of the wheel, the blade will come off at a slight angle so that the teeth are tilted towards the left, due to the crown on the wheel, and the cut will tend to drift to the right. Likewise, if the blade is riding towards the back, the teeth will be turned to the right, and the cut will drift to the left. By adjusting the angle of the top wheel, you will eventually find a position where the teeth are in line with the fence, and that’s usually when the bandsaw blade is centered on the wheel.

Once you have centered the blade on the wheel, test your setup by taking a scrap piece of wood with a straight edge, and mark a line parallel to that straight edge. Set up your fence so that your blade will cut along the line, and then make your cut while keeping the board up against the fence. If all is well, the blade will track along the marked line, and if you stop the cut midway, the back of the blade will be centered in the kerf, not touching either side.

Checking for drift

The cut

Resawing an oak board

So now you have the proper blade, the blade is sharp, the bandsaw fence is set up, the issue of drift is taken care of, and you’re ready to make your resaw cut. The board you are resawing should have one face that is planed flat, and an edge that is perfectly square to the flat face. The flat face will go up against the fence and the square edge will be on the table.

There’s one more thing to keep in mind when making the cut, and that is to take your time. Push the wood up against the fence, and feed it slowly into the blade, allowing the blade enough time to clear out the sawdust it makes as it cuts through the wood.

Forcing the wood through the blade is a guarantee that the cut will wander, and you will get a poorer result. As mentioned above, the reason for this is that the bandsaw blade needs time to clear out the sawdust that it picks up as it cuts through the wood. If the wood is pushed too quickly into the blade, the gullet will fill up with sawdust, and the cutting tips of the bandsaw blade will be buried in sawdust. This means that the blade will no longer be able to cut wood. If that happens, the blade will follow the path of least resistance, following the grain of the wood instead of cutting a path for itself. This results in a resaw cut that goes off line, or a barrel-shaped resaw cut.

In the picture above, you can see how to position your hands to make this cut safely. My right hand is up against the outside of the board, but my hand is below the top edge of the board, so it won’t inadvertently come into contact with the blade. My left hand is holding a push stick made out of a scrap piece of wood that is placed against the rear corner of the board so that it simultaneously moves the board forward and keeps the board against the fence.

Using a push stick

In this photo I’m showing a point of view look at how to place your hands while making the resaw cut. My right arm may seem distorted because I had to maneuver around my camera, but you should be able to see more clearly how I’m using the push stick with my left hand. Again, my right hand is on the outside face of the board, below the top edge.

Again, take your time. When resawing this white oak board, I advanced the board about 2-1/2 inches per minute. This may seem slow, but you’ll save a lot of time by not having to reflatten a curved surface from a barrel cut that is a result of pushing the board too fast. After I finished resawing these boards, the sawn surfaces of the boards were rough, but when I checked these boards, the thickness varied by only about 1/64”. It will be very easy to plane away the saw marks.

One thing that you may have noticed that I didn’t mention is the horsepower of the bandsaw motor. You simply don’t need that much horsepower to make this cut. Back in the day, a typical 14” bandsaw that could resaw 6” of wood came with a 1/3-1/2 HP motor, and woodworkers back then needed to resaw wood just like we do today. My bandsaw can resaw up to 10”, and it has a 1/2 HP motor. Modern bandsaws come with motors that are 1 to 1-1/2 HP, which is more than enough power for resawing. My feeling is that woodworkers are using more horsepower to compensate for dull blades. Don’t make that mistake. If your blade is getting dull, change it for a sharp one.

Resawn oak boards

If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to resaw boards cleanly, and you can stop wasting all that wood. You’ll be happy with the results, and your garbage man will thank you.

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