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Cutting And Shaping In Your Woodworking Project

Once you have your woodstock ready, it’s time to start building the project. Here, cutting and shaping the pieces correctly is essential to ensure that everything would fit in correctly when it comes time to assemble the whole project. Avoiding as much waste as possible is also crucial at this stage.


Cutting With Hand Tools

When cutting by hand, the hand saw is going to be your primary (if not only) tool. Here, choosing the right kind of saw for particular cuts is important. As said earlier in Chapter 3, there are two saw that you will commonly use for most of your projects: the rip saw and the cross cut saw. The rip saw cuts along the grain of the wood while the cross cut saw cuts across the grain.

So, which saw should you use first? A good way to decide is by mapping out the cuts you are going make for each piece. Mark an outline of the cuts on the wood and determine which type of cut you will likely do more and start with the appropriate saw for that particular cut. For instance, when cutting wooden beams and planks down to length, a cross cut saw will be your pick, as you are mostly going to do cuts across the wood’s grain. To save time, it would be better to finish all the cuts with one saw first before moving with the other.



A tricky thing when sawing by hand is getting the cut as straight as possible. Even a slight bump can cause your cut to veer off. Here, how you do the stroke is crucial. Start by getting a good, firm grip of the saw handle. Position yourself over the piece to be cut, aligning your sight such that the saw blade is centered in your line of sight and with the blade aligned to the mark you have already made. Keep your elbows close to your body to counteract their natural tendency to move the blade at an angle.

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To make the first, or starting, cut, use the thumb or knuckle of the thumb of your wood-holding hand to serve as a guide. Position the saw blade over the starting point of the cut mark on the offcut side. Make a few short passes to create the starting groove. Once you have made the groove, proceed to make long, free-flowing strokes to let the teeth of the saw blade to fully cut the groove.

One important thing to remember is to not bear down on the saw in an attempt to make each stroke cut deeper, as this will only tire you faster.Just let the saw move as naturally as possible. In case your cut veers from the desired direction, start over again from the top of the mark and avoid trying to twist and bend the blade to get back the correct position.

When cutting along the grain of the wood, you will sometimes encounter what is known as binding. Binding happens when the kerf, or groove of the cut, closes back on the saw blade, making it harder to draw it out. You can solve this by sticking a nail into the kerf to keep it open. Remember to move the nail closer towards you as you progress with the cut.


Cutting With Power Tools

Sawing by hand can is a tedious task, especially if there are a lot of pieces to cut. Power tools make the job easier by letting you cut faster and
cleaner. However, novice woodworkers may need to familiarize themselves with these tools first, as even a slight slip of the hand can ruin a good
cut. The two most commonly employed power tools for cutting wood are the jig saw and the circular saw.

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1. Jig saw

A great thing about the jig saw is that it comes with a variety of blades which allows you to cut not only different materials but also in different ways. Before starting to cut, choose the proper blade for the task at hand. For instance, if you want to do a fine cut without much chipping, select a “downward cutting” blade. For quicker cuts, coarser blades are the choice.

With the chosen blade firmly attached to the jig saw, you can begin the cut. Make sure you secure the piece to be cut firmly onto a table, bench, or other support. Use clamps if necessary to hold the piece firmly in place. To cut a straight line, position the jig saw on the far side of the cut line and make sure the blade is aligned with the mark. It would be helpful if you use a raised guide, such as a plank, to rest the jig saw’s shoe (the bottom part) against and keep it from veering off. Cut slowly and steadily and don’t force your weight on the tool.

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A useful technique when making cutouts for holes or shaped pieces with the jig saw is the plunge cut. The plunge cut creates the starting hole from which you proceed with the succeeding cut. To create this cut, tip the jig saw on its end such that the blade runs parallel to the surface of the wood, with the tool’s weight resting on the front of the shoe. Run the jig saw at maximum and slowly tilt it until the blade touches and bore through the thickness of the wood piece.

2. Circular Saw

The circular saw is especially suited when dealing with large pieces like lumber, MDF, or plywood. One thing to note here is that, as the blade cuts on the upward stroke, the cleaner side is at the bottom of the piece being cut. To lessen the need for cleanup, position the wood to be cut with the surface you want to show off in the finished produce at the bottom.

The tool is prepared for cutting in much the same way as the jig saw, with the blades and settings chosen to match the work to be done. To set the blade cutting depth, add at least 5 to 10 millimeters to the overall thickness of the piece you are cutting. For example, if you are cutting a 40 mm wood, set your blade’s cutting depth to 45-50 mm.

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When prepping the wood, be sure to leave enough clearance for the blade to pass through underneath the area where the cut is to be made. You might also want to secure the piece to be cut more firmly on the support by nailing it.

With the circular saw blade adjusted to the desired depth of cut, line the guide notches with the pencil mark by first lining the mark with the right side of the saw, then by lining the mark with the notch in the front. To cut, start the tool and push it through the piece with just the right force to let it glide through the material. Keep an eye on the saw’s base during the cut, ensuring it is always flat on the wood being cut. Once the cut is done, check that the blade guard returns to its normal position.



Shaping Wood

For most parts, you can build items like tables and chairs out of cut beams and boards. However, if you want to add decorative touches like curved armrests or knobs, then you have to go into wood shaping. There are several different methods of getting wood into the desired shape, but we will be focusing on shaping by wasting, which is the removal of material until you get the desired look. Cutting is itself sometimes considered as shaping by wasting.

Shaping wood by hand has been a common practice for millennia. The three most common tools employed by woodworkers in getting their pieces to the desired shapes are the chisel, the plane, and the rasp.

1. Chisel

The chisel is undoubtedly the most recognizable of the three, as it is frequently associated with woods carvers. As is with any other tool, the result of a chiseled piece will depend partly on the quality of the chisel you have. Before starting, ensure that all the chisels you use are sharp and that the blades are firmly attached to the handles.

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To begin paring (taking out material), mark out the desired curve by carefully tapping your chisel into the edge of the wood, following a predetermined outline. Using a hand saw cut as much excess wood outside of the curve as you can, until left with an angular piece roughly in the shape desired. To get the wood into the final shape, position the chisel blade so that it is on a slight slant against the wood surface. Put your free hand on top of the blade and press it firmly onto the wood. Drive the chisel into the wood with your other hand until it shaves off some material. To control the depth of the cut, you raise or lower the angle of the chisel’s handle.

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To create deeper cuts than can be done with paring, you have to shift to a firmer chisel. Use a mallet instead of a hammer when using this chisel, as the mallet absorbs more of the impact, preventing damage on the chisel handle. Avoid splitting or damaging the wood by taking only thin slices of material. Also, strike the mallet with only the right amount of force needed to drive the chisel blade into the wood.

2. Plane

The hand plane is useful for removing small amounts of material from pieces, such as when rounding the edge of a board. To get the best results, the plane has to be set according to the desired cut. If you intend to your hand plane for general shaping, sharpen the plane iron to an angle of around 25 degrees. For softer woods, the angle should be a bit lower while harder wood need a higher angle for the iron.

To start shaping the wood piece, advance the iron full until it is flush with the mouth of the plane and adjust the blade until it runs parallel to the sole of the tool. Retract it again and do test cuts on a scrap board, slowly advancing the iron again until you get paper-thin shavings the full length of the soles.

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With the wood clamped into a suitable support, mark the area you want to shave off. It would be a good idea to mark on both faces of the board, as shaving only one face might take off more material than you want. When shaving, use long, even strokes that run the entire length of the board or piece, holding the plane with both hands. Let the plane run off the edge of the board and push the shavings off the surface.

3. Rasp

Rasps work in a similar manner as very coarse sandpaper. They are generally used for evening and smoothing curves into their final shape during finishing. However, they can also be used to create shallow curves into the body of the wood during initial shaping.

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With the wood clamped into place and the curve marked, place the rasp with the blade flat onto the surface of the piece. Hold the handle firmly, with your other hand supporting the end. Gently push the rasp forward for your first stroke, and follow through with succeeding strokes. Move the rasp to different points on the curve to get the desired shape, checking regularly to see if you are going with it the right way.

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