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Cross cutting long pieces of wood

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Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Windows » 05 Aug 2022, 04:27

So how do you cross cut long (>2m) pieces of wood?
Assume cut is approximately in middle and wood is 1-3” diameter.
I have some sense of the universe of possibilities, but I’m curious what you actually do.

How do you support the piece around the cut point? Do you have direct support under where you’re cutting? If cut point is directly supported, do you have a sacrificial surface beneath the cut point or do you cut directly onto horse or bench? Do you use clamps? Holdfasts? How many? Do you have an iron grip or use body weight to hold things steady? Do you rotate the piece as you cut? If piece is mechanically held, what’s your non-dominant hand doing? Do you assume that all cuts will be tidied up later or do you attempt to get finished result from sawing? What is the first thing you do when the cut is complete?
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Cabinetman » 05 Aug 2022, 05:46

Well in answer to the last question I often make myself a cup of tea. If it’s going to be seen/needs to be neat I use a try square and mark the top and furthest away faces then I put the piece onto a broad step up which is 18” high this allows me to put my right knee on top to hold it steady, the cut is normally up to an inch away from the end of the step up. Start the cut on the edge by pulling back on the saw a little then move the saw to cut down the line (on the waste side) on the side of the wood furthest away. Once this is cut about 4-5mm deep the saw is tilted back gradually to cut the top face whilst keeping it in the original cut on the furthest away face.
Well that’s what I’m telling you, in practice I cut them both at the same time, making sure that the cut is always just up to the line on both faces as you go.
This is continued until the waste wood is about to fall to the ground, at this point I reach across with my spare hand to support it whilst at the same time reducing the hardness of cut, with care and slowing down it should cut cleanly
There is no need to worry about the wood not being cut square as long as you cut two faces correctly to start with.
Interesting question as it’s all sort of second nature after a while.
Everyone will have their own favourite saw, mine is a Spear and Jackson 10 tpi predator hardpoint.
I shudder to think how far I’ve cut over the last 1/2 a century, never been keen on circular saws for ply etc. Ian
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby AndyT » 05 Aug 2022, 07:31

Could you say a bit more about what you are doing/making?
If you describe the wood as 1ft 3in diameter, it sounds like a small tree. Is your next step conversion into boards?
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Dr.Al » 05 Aug 2022, 08:41

AndyT wrote:Could you say a bit more about what you are doing/making?
If you describe the wood as 1ft 3in diameter, it sounds like a small tree. Is your next step conversion into boards?


I interpreted 1-3" in diameter as "between 1" and 3" in diameter". 1'3" would seem oddly specific.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Mike G » 05 Aug 2022, 08:56

Pieces like that get laid out on saw horses, and cut by hand with a panel saw. I guess others would use a cut-off saw/ RAS/ SCMS on a dedicated bench.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby AndyT » 05 Aug 2022, 09:07

:oops: Ah yes, one to three inches diameter sounds more plausible.

I still think a bit of background would help. Is the timber wet or dry? Will the cut end be a visible surface?
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Windows » 05 Aug 2022, 09:40

Yeah, I meant 1 inch to 3 inches - just as an example.
Dry timber and visible surface.

I’m not so much looking for advice on what I should do, as I am looking for the details of what you actually do.

You know when you’re learning a language and people helping you to learn start speaking really slowly and pronouncing things strangely without using any contractions because that’s the “proper” way to speak, but normally they actually speak using slang and drop their Ts all the time and never say “can not” or “have not” because “can’t” and “haven’t” exist? I’m hoping I can get you to reveal what your woodworking process sounds like when you’re using slang and dropping your Ts.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Windows » 05 Aug 2022, 09:47

Thanks Ian, that’s great detail. So you cut on a surface that’s just 18” off the ground? And you’d leave up to a meter unsupported until you get close to the end before supporting with your free hand. So presumably you arrange things so that the floating end is to your left (if you’re right handed)?
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Mike G » 05 Aug 2022, 09:55

Windows wrote:..... presumably you arrange things so that the floating end is to your left (if you’re right handed)?


No, absolutely not. That would leave the the bigger piece flopping about as you saw. For a right hander, you place your left knee on the longer piece which is to the left of the cut supported on two horses. Your left hand also holds the workpiece, initially on the large side, and then as you approach the end of the cut you reach over the saw and hold the off-cut. Your knee is a critical part of the whole endeavour.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby AndyT » 05 Aug 2022, 10:28

Round sections are harder than flat ones. Partly because my workshop is small, I do most crosscutting up on the bench. I use a pair of simple bench hooks to support the piece I want. I knife all round, then saw across with a backsaw. My left hand holds the work tight to the right hand bench hook. (The extra hook at the left is useful to stop a long piece swinging around.)

If the end was going to show, I'd plane it using a shooting board, back to the knifed line. If the ends of both pieces mattered, I'd cut the 2m in half first, then mark both pieces side by side and make the important cuts as trimming cuts with no heavy offcuts.

Planing the end grain of round stock is an unusual challenge and I don't think I have ever needed to do it. Bits like that, for legs or handles, would be made on the lathe and cut off with a parting tool or a skew.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Cabinetman » 05 Aug 2022, 13:48

Mike G wrote:
Windows wrote:..... presumably you arrange things so that the floating end is to your left (if you’re right handed)?


No, absolutely not. That would leave the the bigger piece flopping about as you saw. For a right hander, you place your left knee on the longer piece which is to the left of the cut supported on two horses. Your left hand also holds the workpiece, initially on the large side, and then as you approach the end of the cut you reach over the saw and hold the off-cut. Your knee is a critical part of the whole endeavour.


Silly me, yes left knee on the wood to hold it down. It was only by pretending to do it could I remember, Doh.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Sheffield Tony » 05 Aug 2022, 14:00

Do you often have to cut long pieces of wood somewhere towards the middle with accuracy or tidily ?

When very tight for wood, I have done this (down to cutting mitres so that there is no wasted triangle of wood !). But normally:

You cut to (rough, bit over) length before planing to final thickness.
You leave horns to avoid bursting out the end of mortices, and trim them off later.
You mark tenon shoulders from a knife line, the end of the tenon being rough doesn't matter.
Use a square to mark the base line for dovetails too, don't gauge them from a cut end.

Working like this, you can make most of the cross cuts pretty rough and approximate, few are seen on the finished piece.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby AndyT » 05 Aug 2022, 14:10

:text-goodpost:
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Woodbloke » 05 Aug 2022, 14:34

Mike G wrote:No, absolutely not. That would leave the the bigger piece flopping about as you saw. For a right hander, you place your left knee on the longer piece which is to the left of the cut supported on two horses. Your left hand also holds the workpiece, initially on the large side, and then as you approach the end of the cut you reach over the saw and hold the off-cut. Your knee is a critical part of the whole endeavour.


Wot Mike said. However if the wood is too big to hold with your left hand as you complete the cut, it's liable to go crashing to the floor so I usually find some other way of supporting the off-cut; makes for a cleaner cut as you don't get that nasty jagged splinter sticking out as the wood breaks - Rob
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Mike G » 05 Aug 2022, 14:38

Woodbloke wrote:......... if the wood is too big to hold with your left hand as you complete the cut, it's liable to go crashing to the floor so I usually find some other way of supporting the off-cut; makes for a cleaner cut as you don't get that nasty jagged splinter sticking out as the wood breaks - Rob


Yep. One of the reasons I have 3 saw horses of exactly the same height.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Cabinetman » 05 Aug 2022, 15:14

That’s assuming that your floors are level of course, out of any of us Mike I’m sure yours will be.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby AndyT » 05 Aug 2022, 15:27

Cabinetman wrote:That’s assuming that your floors are level of course, out of any of us Mike I’m sure yours will be.


That's the other reason I don't use saw horses. The floor at one end of my bench is about 3" lower than at the other. :cry:

There are always more ways to skin a cat, even without enough room to swing it. ;)
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby RogerS » 05 Aug 2022, 17:28

I was just about to post a photo of my saw bench but then remembered the OP's embargo on machines :lol:
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Dr.Al » 05 Aug 2022, 18:18

Like AndyT, my floor is not at all flat, so I don't use saw horses. I made a bench extension thing (that I call my fair weather bench). It mounts using some slidey box section rails. When I want to cut something very long, I tend to fit the fair weather bench but not slide it all the way into place. That leaves a gap between the two benches & I can cut with the (usually japanese ryoba) saw going into the gap. If you look carefully you can see the gap under the planks in this photo:

IMG_20211001_142016.jpg
(261.02 KiB)


For smaller stuff I often do the same sort of thing but with my portable workbench with the jaw pulled out and with the offcut bit resting on (or clamped to) the vice jaw and the saw going down in between the two jaws. Being a portable workbench means I can spin it round so it's at a convenient angle for sawing.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Windows » 06 Aug 2022, 10:23

Thanks all.

So, Mike, what are the dimensions of your saw horses? How does that relate to, e.g. the heights of your knees?

In general, you all cut down to air then? No direct support/sacrificial surface beneath the cut?

I see that I need to leave things longer and trim after assembly (eg horns on frames) for more precise work. So far my attempts to plane end grain have been poor, paring with a chisel has been more successful, but cutting once with the saw at right length (rather than cutting long and taking it back to size later) has been a better combo of speed and results so far given weaknesses in my end grain skills. This won't be effective as I move on to frames that require more precision and better results though, so what, besides practice, is the secret to planing end grain on dry wood that splits easily? Do you actually plane end grain in your work or use some other technique?

Thanks!
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby RogerS » 06 Aug 2022, 10:57

I'm not a handtool expert but I have, in the past, scribed a line all the way round where Iwant the final end to be. Then plane or chisel upwards from that line all the way round giving me a 45 degree or slope. I then chisel or plane that down to the line ...if hat makes sense.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Windows » 06 Aug 2022, 11:03

Thanks Roger! That makes a lot of sense.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby AndyT » 06 Aug 2022, 11:11

I'll respond in a bit more detail. The sort of bench hook I use is exactly the same as I was taught to use at school. They are easily made from any old bits of scrap, or could be posher if you want. Here's the first photo I could find, showing a piece of oak that has been partly sawn through. You can see that the veneer has come off on the bit of blockboard I used - I really ought to knock up a replacement some time.

bbin082.jpg
bench hook
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The block at the back (which you hold the work against) doesn't cover the whole width, so cuts can go right through, into the surface of the hook. You can see a mess of old sawcuts - better on the disposable hook than on the bench.

Having some sacrificial wood underneath helps make a neat cut. However, on the best sort of cuts, a useful thing to do is to square round with a marking knife so the surface fibres are neatly cut. That way, the wood underneath is less important.

Planing end grain: A shooting board is really useful. There are loads of designs, some much more complicated than mine, which is based on an offcut of MFC (flat, stable, smooth).

bcab008.jpg
shooting board in use
(286.08 KiB)


The wedge shaped block supports the fragile end grain at the back and can be trimmed up if it gets too splintery.

But as Roger says, you can chisel off the corner to stop it splitting away. You can plane in from either side to the middle.
Or if it's worth it, you can clamp a bit of sacrificial scrap on and plane into that. I'm doing that here to cut a moulding.
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sacrificial block on end grain
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Windows » 06 Aug 2022, 13:41

Thanks Andy! That’s great detail and the photos are really helpful.
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Re: Cross cutting long pieces of wood

Postby Cabinetman » 06 Aug 2022, 15:42

So we are talking about 2 different jobs really, saw horse for large long chunky timber where you are cutting it to general size, wood held lower down on a step up sawing with a downward cut with force . And as Andy has shown cutting higher up on a bench hook slower more carefully to get to final size, prior to shooting the ends with a plane. A handsaw for the first and a backsaw for the latter.
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