Resawing Wood For Dulcimer Making

I’ve had a few luthiers ask me to post about how I go about resawing.

We don't need no stinkin' bandsaws!

My bandsaw is very basic; an early imported 14″ bandsaw. I had bought it second-hand and soon learned that it is not a very accurate saw. Various parts are out of alignment with each other and any small change in the height of the guidepost requires readjusting all the guides. Some tinkering has helped improve the situation. More important and useful has been learning to work with the idiosyncrasies of the machine.

A funky bandsaw in a funky garage on a funky planet.

My fence is a chunk of 2×4 with a piece of flat plywood screwed to it. I took great care in making everything flat and square using shims of wood and paper as needed to get everything just right. If needed I use masking tape under the fence as a shim to assure the fence is square to the blade.

Resaw fence clamped at a slight angle to compensate for blade drift. Note the tape under the tall end of the fence to assure it is square to the blade.

I use a 1/2 inch blade with 3 teeth per inch. I use a new, sharp blade when resawing.

I compensate the angle of the fence for blade drift. Some articles I’ve read say this is important, others say if your saw is set-up properly you should be able to avoid this. I have never been able to avoid needing to do this step.

I take a chunk of straight 2×4 a foot or two long and scribe a line an inch or so in from the edge down it’s length. I freehand rip along that line. Usually I have to adjust the angle I feed the 2×4 through the blade until I find the angle at which it is easy to stay on the line while pushing the 2×4 through the blade. It is usually just a bit off from 90 degrees.

I  hold the 2×4 in place, turn off the bandsaw and pencil this angle to the table of the saw by running the pencil along the edge of the 2×4.

By setting the fence parallel to this line the fence is compensated for blade drift. After setting the fence for the thickness desired I make sure it is angled parallel to this line, clamp the ends of the fence to the table and resaw some scrap wood to make sure the saw is cutting straight and true.

I use calipers to check the slices made from the scrap wood to make sure they are even in thickness in both length and height. If anything is off I adjust the fence as needed.

Wood from the attic on the way to the garage for resawing.

Once the saw is tweaked and running well I do a bunch of resawing. The wood to be resawn has already been squared up. I keep the board against the fence using light hand pressure and  make sure the entire face of the board is constantly against the fence. Moving the board through the blade without stopping produces a cleaner cut. I use push-sticks and push-blocks to keep myself safe as I get near the end of the board or when the board starts getting thin.

If the blade wanders a bit or the surface gets too rough I might plane it flat and square again to  increase accuracy on the next cut.

Stack of resawn wood I found on my hard drive. The photograph, not the wood. The wood wouldn't fit on my hard drive.

Like everything else there are many ways to do this. This works for me and I hope this information is helpful to someone out there.


10 thoughts on “Resawing Wood For Dulcimer Making

  1. Doug, the finishing is a specialty task that does require the equipment, time, and environment. Dusty work shops don’t make good locations for spraying lacquer. Would be nice to have someone local I could use.

  2. True stuff. Michael D. – yes, I fondly remember working with you and Steve and I learned a lot there. I do use a skip tooth blade. Wow, 1 TPI! I’ll look for that. I did add an Itura High Tension Spring to my saw and it helped but it is just a funky machine that can only do so much. I may try using a good resaw at the mill where I buy a lot of wood in the future. The isolation of individuals seems to be a part of American culture these days. It would be nice to have someone at the next bench to had things back and forth with. Also, the modern solo luthier ends up having to get good at what at one time were several different trades to get their work done.I knew one guitar maker who used to send his instruments out for finishing because he knew someone that sprayed all the time and could do a better job than he could. His guitars sold for enough to make that economically possible and it made good sense.

  3. Too bad we all seem too busy to make the share idea work. I do share tools with my neighbor, but usually something we can hand over the fence.

  4. As far as the bandsaw goes, you are doing everything right, though you did not mention tooth configuration (skip tooth tends to work better for resawing than hook tooth.) If you can find a 1 tpi blade (they exist, but are rare) that too will help a bit. Also, there is a company making higher tension replacement springs for 14 inch bandsaws, and they too help. But what’s missing is a wonderful old technique that we’ve managed to lose in the US; sharing. One local luthier used to frequently come and use my bandsaw when he needed to resaw (it’s a 20″ and takes a 1″ Lennox Woodmaster blade). I often go to another local woodworker and use his large planer and widebelt sander when I am processing top and back wood or oversize lumber. There used to be lots of woodworkers in any area, and all had something they needed and something to share. Now we are isolated; there are so few people building things here that we all have to be self sufficient islands of tooling and skills. Sad. I don’t know if you remember back when you shared a cooperative shop with me and Steve, but often when one of us got frustrated with a job, we would hand it off to the other. There’s a lot to be said for other people being your most valuable “tool.”

  5. I use the flip-over approach and can’t tell you how much beautiful wood I’ve wasted, and how many kick-back missiles I’ve dodged. Plus, the table saw blade thickness sends a third of my resaw into the dust shoot.

  6. Jack – I know that feeling! I tried resawing 4′ thick stock on the tablesaw once by cutting a little more than half way through and then flipping it over and I know other people do this. It made me very nervous! Once nice thing about bandsaws is that they don’t kickback and they are much less scary when making thick cuts!

  7. Thanks for the blog and tips. Been using my table saw to resaw, but every time I get to the thin pieces, I get that “don’t do this” feeling. Been lucky long enough. Time to get a band saw and learn how to use it safely.

  8. In the first place, I should have said that your article is an excellent description of how to cope with the common problems encountered when attempting to resaw, thanks!

  9. I crank the tension high but the machine won’t take a lot of tension. I think my machine probably flexes a little or is out of alignment. I haven’t had trouble with cupping or wandering since I started compensating for blade drift like I mentioned in the article but I know a better saw would do a better job. Someday I’ll get a better one like you did!

  10. Do you adjust this bandsaw for maximum tension? I had much the same problem for years (blade drift) with a “heavy duty” imported bandsaw (it wasn’t) and a smaller ancient Craftsman bandsaw. Neither could exert enough tension on the blade to make it cut reliably for resawing. Eventually learned what the problem was when I purchased an older US made Powermatic bandsaw, a very heavy cast iron machine capable of exerting proper tension on the blade. Blade drift, cupping and wander vanished during resawing!

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