Simple tips for perfecting your sawing technique

July 29, 2015

Sawing is a great skill to have, especially if you're looking to complete a DIY renovation or carpentry project. Here are some simple tips to help you perfect your sawing technique.

Simple tips for perfecting your sawing technique

Quick sawing tips

  • Plan saw cuts to avoid wasting wood. Group defects together to minimize scrap; allow only enough extra length for trimming logs to final board dimensions.
  • Two people, one to guide, one to pull, operate a crosscut saw; one ­person can operate a chainsaw.
  • Saw at or near crook unless naturally curved lumber is wanted.
  • Sections with surface defects can still yield usable lumber.
  • Keep areas with deep defects at one end of section.
  • Use straight grain, 60 centimetres to 1.2 metre (25 inches to four foot) sections for splitting shakes.

Hand-hewing a beam

  • Squaring a log into a beam is easier if you use green freshly cut lumber rather than seasoned lumber.
  • You can also save a lot of extra labour by hewing the logs where they have fallen instead of hauling them to a separate site.
  • Before you begin, be sure to clear the area of all scrub and low-hanging branches that might interfere with your axe work.
  • Choose logs that are only slightly thicker than the beams you wish to hew. Judge this dimension by measuring the small end of the log.
  • Place the log on wooden supports (notched half-sections of firewood logs will do) with any crown, or lengthwise curve, facing up. The two straightest edges of the log should face the sides.
  • Do not remove the bark; its rough surface will help hold the axe to the mark and will also diminish your chances of striking a glancing blow with possibly dangerous results.
  • It is not always necessary to square off all four sides of a log — square off as you see necessary for your requirements. Old-time carpenters often hewed only two sides and sometimes, as in the case of floor joists found in many old houses, they smoothed off only one. Ceiling rafters in the past, in fact, were often left completely round.
  1. Scribe lumber dimensions on log ends. Cut notches for chalk line, attach line and snap it to mark sides.
  2. Notch logs with utility axe. Make vertical cuts at 10 centimetre (four inch) intervals to depth of chalk line marks on sides.
  3. Hew sides with broadaxe. Keep axe parallel to log and slice off waste by chopping along chalk marks.
  4. Smooth hewn surface with adze if desired. Straddle beam and chop with careful blows of even depth.

How to incorporate a chainsaw

A chainsaw can be used without guide to rip logs into boards, but skill and practice are needed to cut long lengths.

  • Raise log off ground to avoid blade damage and kickback; wedges in cut keep blade from being pinched.
  • A portable chainsaw mill, best manned by two people, cuts horizontally, permitting work with the log on the ground.
  • Rollers keep saw blade level and adjust vertically to make boards of different thicknesses. Mill fits any chainsaw.

How to incorporate an adaptor

A simple adaptor attaches to the chain bar; 100 x 50-metre (110 x 55-yard) board nailed along log acts as a guide for making straight cuts.

  • Support log off the ground; attach and test the entire assembly before starting to saw.
  • Reposition board after each cut.

Sawing like a pro might be easier than you think. Consider these tips and hone your sawing skills in no time!

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