Sawing Techniques: Ripping Small Stock


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Ripping small stock with hand tools for smaller projects requires accuracy. Paul shows the techniques that help you to rip cut fine stock with the grain and get consistent results.


  1. Ian Thomas on 14 November 2016 at 7:16 pm

    I’d like to see Paul do more work with the Frame Saw he made. 🙂

  2. António on 28 November 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Thank You WWMC team!

  3. Alexander Kasper on 5 December 2016 at 7:15 pm

    I recently bought a ripcut saw and I have a hard time getting straight cuts. Even with very frequent switching of sides it seems that the opposite side of the cut very easily gets out of line. My saw also seems to be much slower than what is shown here. What could be the reason? It’s brand new so I don’t think it’s the sharpness. Does it differ from wood to wood or does the amout of teeth per inch account for that (I have 8 TPI)?

    • Philip Adams on 7 December 2016 at 2:11 pm

      One other thing it could be is set, so it having more set on one side than the other. I also wouldn’t trust a new saw to be sharp or straight, as we have often found them not to be so. Here is a useful video and blog post:

      Other than that it can be an aspect of sawing technique and making sure you’re not pushing down too hard when sawing.
      Best, Phil

      • fudoka on 21 June 2017 at 6:23 pm

        I’d also agree with Phil – check the saw and the set.
        I’d also recommend a bit of Zen while sawing. It’s very easy to end up pressing down on the saw and trying to force the cut especially on a long cut. Just relax and let the saw do the work. My old woodwork teacher (back in the 60’s) said that it’s the saw that does the cutting you just move it backwards and forwards – assuming the saw is sharp!
        If you follow Paul’s advice and make sure you start the cut square, provided you just relax and watch the edge of the cut as the saw bites it should go fine – the important word here is relax.

    • D.J. King on 21 June 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Alexander, I agree with Phil that if the set is off, the saw will wander to the same side the cut regardless of which side you saw on. I would also recommend you check your body position by ensuring your feet are oriented properly, your arm moves straight back and forth, and that you align your body on the cut correctly. One other tip that really helped me was learning that when I see the cut wandering away from my layout line, I could dropped the handle of the saw to increase the angle of the cut one the side I can see. This allows me to to direct the saw to stay on my line. When doing this, you wind up cutting the near face of the stock just ahead of the rest of the cut and the kerf you create guides the cut toward the back edge of the workpiece. I typically must drop my elbow for just a few strokes to get back on track and then I raise my saw again to a normal cutting angle. If you are consistently off to the same side it most like an uneven “set” on the saw’s teeth though. I would also recommend you resharpen and reset the saw (using Paul’s method of course). A good way to diagnose this problem is to get a nice sized piece of wood like pine and make a dozen or so parallel layout lines on the board. Take your time and cut each one, paying attention to your body position and mechanics. When you are done, analyze the cuts to see if there is consistent pull to one side among your results. I believe Paul teaches that if it pulls to the right, there is too much set on the right side of the saw and vice versa for the left. If you are new to sharpening, remember that the set on a saw is generally very slight. Its useful to remember that the set only does two things. 1) it provides the clearance to let the plate pass through the kerf without getting pinched 2) provides a tiny amount of room for the sawdust to gather between the teeth while its being pushed forward through the kerf and until it can be expelled and fall free at the end of the stroke. This second point isn’t a major concern because the build-up isn’t that great and even the smallest amount of set will accommodate the saw dust. For this reason, just make the set somewhat conservative and especially EQUAL. In general, the bigger the saw, the thicker the plate. The thicker the plate, the greater the required set. However, even the greatest set, such as that required when cutting green wood or wood with high moisture content, is measured in thousandths of an inch. Paul would obviously know better, but in my limited experience I’ve found most new sharpeners tend to overestimate the amount of set they need. Best of luck and let us know how it goes/went.

  4. Gary BALCOM on 12 January 2017 at 11:35 pm

    Thanks Paul, I really enjoyed this, and all your videos. That saw is cutting through that wood like butter! I realize it’s sharp, but how many teeth per inch are on it? Thanks.

  5. vern wyborney on 24 May 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Terrific video which we all have come to expect from Paul Sellers – excellent tutelage and advice from a master. I think that this is as close as one can get to an apprentice-ship without standing by the Great Man’s elbow!!

  6. jeffdustin on 18 August 2018 at 3:42 pm

    So on some cuts I see there are two gauge lines but on the winding sticks project, there is only one gauge line. Why not two gauge lines on the winding sticks? Just curious!

    • harry wheeler on 18 August 2018 at 4:13 pm

      What you’re really seeing aren’t two gauge lines from a marking gauge. Rather, they are two knife cuts that sever the cross grain fibers and stop the grain from tearing out on the back side. What’s important to note is that tear out is a problem for cross grain cuts but not for rip cuts. I think Paul made both winding sticks by ripping a single piece of stock so there was no need for knife walls.

    • Ed on 18 August 2018 at 6:30 pm

      A knife line only protects one side of the cut. The other side will torn out. If you are just cutting a bit off the end and that bit will be discarded, you only need one knife line. If you are cutting a board into a series of smaller pieces, you can mark each cut with two lines about 1/16″ apart. This will protect both pieces from being ragged out by the saw.

      So, one line vs. two lines has to do with whether your cut will make a good piece plus waste or if your cut will make two good pieces.

  7. Raymond Kong Ing Kiong on 2 October 2018 at 10:48 am

    Like it!!

  8. Ed Beals on 20 November 2018 at 3:05 am

    I’ve always found sawing to be difficult and frustrating. I have never cut a straight line in my life… until today! I have been avoiding long rip cuts but after watching Paul’s advice I rolled up my sleeves, pulled out a vintage rip cut saw that I have never used before (but was assured by a much more knowledgeable woodworker that it was a very good saw in excellent condition). I took my time and I tried to relax and not wrestle with the saw. I noticed Paul does not grunt and curse while sawing, so I thought I would try try to stay calm as well. It was very exciting for me to get a long straight cut! And even though the reason for my excitement was lost on my wife and daughter, I was inspired to rip two 30” 2×4’s down to 2×3’s. It was amazing to have achieved cuts that only required a few passes with the plane to get where I needed them to be. This feels like a major hurdle has been cleared for me. It seems possible that I will even learn to enjoy sawing!

  9. Jean Claude Peeters on 24 September 2019 at 6:27 pm

    Has anyone tried the WILLIAM GREAVES Handsaw made by Thomas Flinn, or the Bahco PC-22-FILE U7 ?

  10. Stephen Tyrrell on 18 January 2020 at 7:56 pm

    Great video and it has really helped me cut a lot straighter. However, I am not sure I am doing the right thing at the bottom of the piece. When I get close to the end do I flip it over and repeat what I did at the top? This seems to leave an uneven lump in the middle when the cut is finished. My other idea is to use a longer billet than I need and cross cut to length so the aforementioned lump is in the waste. Grateful for any advice.

    • Izzy Berger on 20 January 2020 at 11:41 am

      Hi Stephen,

      Paul says:
      It is just a question of improving your accuracy and of course you can leave it longer if you prefer.

      Kind Regards,

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