How to Cut Wood


Cutting wood is an inescapable part of any woodworking project. Done right, it can lead to a successful construction. Done wrong, it can lead to frustration and an extra trip to the lumber store. While sometimes the lumber store can do it for you, it's much more satisfying to do it yourself. Whether cutting with hand tools, power tools or machinery, there are some basics that should be followed for both safety and success.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring device
  • Pencil or other marking device
  • Goggles
  • Earplugs if using machinery
  • Sandpaper if necessary
  • Decide how you want to cut the piece based on factors like the grain of the wood and size of the piece. Minimize the amount of cutting you will have to do with careful planning.

  • Measure the piece you want to cut. Check your measurements not only against the plans but also where the piece will fit if possible.

  • Mark the measurements clearly with a pencil or other marking device. Use a straightedge when cutting along straight lines and calipers or other device for making arcs or curves.

  • Cut along the line using hand tools, power tools or whatever woodworking device you intend to use. Ideally the cutting should go right along the line you have drawn, but if you cut slightly to the outside, this can be fixed later.

  • Use sandpaper (or a suitable power tool) to finesse any final amounts that need to be taken off. These might be places where you cut slightly to the outside of the line you marked.

Tips & Warnings

  • Oftentimes a single piece of wood can yield more than one piece of cut wood. Consider how to get the most out of your wood when planning your cuts.
  • Once you start cutting, it's better to keep going than cut in stops and starts unless it's for safety reasons.
  • Always use the proper safety equipment, even if cutting with hand tools. Wear goggles.
  • Hand guards on power tools should never be disregarded.
  • Watch out for knots and other imperfections in the wood that can throw off the path of a blade when cutting. Cut around them whenever possible.

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