If you are just joining us, we are building cutting boards in a concept I call social woodworking. First, we planned them and then went shopping for wood. Last time we started cutting. If you would like to buy a cutting board, they are available in the Store.
|Now we move to the table saw. Unlike the chop saw, the blade is mounted into a fixed position. It is then raised and lowered through a slot in a table (hence the name). The wood is passed through the blade to make the cuts. It can make cross cuts, but it specializes in cutting along the length of the board, with the grain. This kind of cut is called a ‘rip’.The blade is raised to a height where the tooth comes completely about the board. The space between teeth, or the “gullet”, carries the sawdust out of the way below the table.|
|As you can see in the photo above, the edge of the board is pretty rough. They often come from the sawmill this way, leaving the woodworker options for the project. Our first task is to create a clean, straight cut along the edge to work from.To make rip cuts on a table saw, we use a fence. A fence is a straight edge, mounted to the table parallel with the blade. It provides a stable guide as we push the wood through the blade.
Here, I set the fence so I am cutting a minimal amount of wood from the left side of the board. This helps me make a perfectly straight edge on once side. Sometimes boards twist while drying, so more has to be taken off to get a straight edge.
|Once I get a straight edge, I can trim up the other side as well. Now we can start cutting strips for the cutting boards. You may remember in our design discussion, I need several strips of different thicknesses to glue up into the 10 inch slabs. Here, I am cutting a 1 inch strip of maple.|
|It only takes a few minutes to cut up the maple to the desired lengths. Don’t worry about the blue paint on the end. The ends of the boards are often painted to slow down the moisture evaporating from the end grain. If the evaporation isn’t uniform across the board as it dries, the board cracks. We’ll plane off the paint in a future step. A plane scrapes the top of the wood, removing the top layer. You’ll see it in a couple days.|
|It can be pretty dangerous to cut very thin strips of wood on a table saw. We don’t just set the fence to 1/8″ and cut. When a thin strip is caught between the fence and the spinning blade, it can easily catch and be thrown backward at high-speed. Trust me, you don’t want to stand in line of fire.Let me walk you through how to safely cut a 1/8th inch strip. I have a piece of cherry that is exactly 4 inches wide.|
|Here is a picture of the board. Exactly 4 inches wide.|
|Now, I set the fence closer to the blade. I want 1/8th inch of wood left when the cut is complete. The blade will cut away 1/8th inch of wood, so I have to add the two together 1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4. I subtract 1/4 from 4 and set the fence to 3 and 3/4 inch. All the time studying fractions in 4th grade has really paid off!|
|As you can see, now 1/8th inch will be left once we make this cut. As I push the large piece of cherry, it will be safely in control. The tiny strip, which is too small for me to safely touch while going through the blade, will fall safely away to the left after it exists the spinning blade. Safety is very important. Even little pieces of wood, when flying at high speed, can do damage to the human body.One time I got lazy and made an unsafe cut, putting the strip between the blade and the fence. Fortunately, I wasn’t standing directly behind the blade when it launched the wood backwards. It traveled 10 feet and embedded in the wall. That is when I learned to do the math and be safe.|
|Here is all the cherry cut up. You can tell I like to use thin strips of cherry for accent. Cherry is softer than maple and knives will scar it more easily. I use the harder woods (maple and hickory) for the bulk of the board and use the softer woods for accent.|
|Here is all the wood cut up and ready for arranging into cutting boards. From left to right: hickory, cherry, maple and walnut.|
|Remember when I said we were going to make a lot of sawdust? Well, here is a picture of the bottom of the table saw. I usually don’t get this much sawdust from a single project. With all the small strips, a lot of wood turned into sawdust. Too bad I can’t think of anything to do with it. There is probably $20 of wood turned into dust for these boards.|
Tomorrow we will start arranging the boards. This is where the craft becomes art – arranging them into pretty patterns. See you then!
Have questions? Please leave a comment.