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Resawing to make thin wood is simple in concept, but it comes with a few challenges as well.

Resawing to make thin wood is simple in concept, but it comes with a few challenges as well.

So you want 1/8″ thick exotic wood, or maybe thinner? Or slice a 3/4″ thick board into some 1/4″ thick pieces? It’s a common question from our customers.  “Can you slice a thicker board into numerous thinner boards?”  It’s a sensible question because it seems like a big waste of wood to plane a 3/4″ thick board to 1/4″.  So, sure, resawing is no problem.

Well . . . sort of.

Check out this great video from The Woodworkers Guild of America about resawing with your band saw.

Looks easy enough, doesn’t it?

Yes.  But resawing introduces a few troubles that you should be aware of when you’re slicing boards to get thin hardwoods, whether they’re exotic or domestic.

1. Results Aren’t 100% Predictable When Resawing

George Vondriska makes two key comments around 2:40 in the video above: “Just in case something goes wrong” and “let’s see how it goes.” Welcome to the world of making thin wood – you just don’t quite know how it’ll come out.

Let’s say you have a board that’s 3/4″ x 10″ x 60″. You’re going to stand the board on edge and push it against a 10″ section of the band saw’s blade, and that’s a lot of wood to cut through at once; a lot of tension, friction, and heat. The likelihood of the blade wandering increases.  And a wandering blade means the saw hogs off more wood leaves you with an even rougher surface.  For this reason, you can get more consistent results when you resaw narrower boards.

A wandering blade can also produce a board that’s miscut – the term “miscut” means you end up with a board, or portion of a board, that’s thinner than what you aimed to get.  With the right fence set up and good sawing technique, it’s still very possible to have miscut pieces; a really dense wood can fight with a resaw blade, so to speak.  Or the tension of your blade can loosen as you work.  Or an abnormality in the work piece can cause the cut to go off course.

So what should you do?  Never resaw? Well, that’s not the answer.  The answer is just be prepared that unexpected things might happen.  Resawing is not a procedure for cutting precisely thick pieces; instead, the best practice is to cut for a slightly thicker piece than you want to end up with and then plane or surface sand to finish it off at the right thickness.  Rule of Thumb: If you want to end up with 1/4″ thick, cut for about 3/8″ just in case.  This is why when we resaw a 3/4″ thick board for 1/4″ pieces in our own mill, we”ll just slice it down the middle and surface the resulting two pieces down to 1/4″.  It’s sensible and practical that way.

To sum up:

  • Band saws produce a cut that’s not very smooth and a little bit wavy; and the waves get more pronounced with denser woods.
  • Resawing narrower boards is easier than wider boards
  • For getting a particular finished thickness, cut about 1/8″ thicker (not including the kerf)  than your desired finished thickness and plane or surface sand to the finished thickness

2. Thin Resawn Wood Has Trouble Staying Flat

Take that 3/4″ x 10″ x 60″ board again.  Let’s say it’s a quality kiln dried board, perhaps 9% moisture content.  In any board, the moisture content is concentrated in the middle of it.  So when you resaw that board into two pieces, you now have two pieces that have an imbalance in the water content location of each one: in short, one face of the newly resawn boards is dry, the other has the bulk of the moisture content (the side that used to be the middle of your original board).

And then that side will start to dry.  The wood fibers will shrink on one side of the board. The thin board will cup. There’s no getting around this fact.  Again, the trick is to learn how to work with this, and react properly to wood movement.

It’s important to realize that cupped boards aren’t hopelessly destroyed.  You just have to re-establish the moisture equality on both sides of the wood (for which there are a number of techniques.

Here’s a nice quote from Good Woodworking Magazine:

Ben Plewes says in “How does Wood Work?” from Good Woodworking Magazine:

There is a general misconception that once wood has been seasoned you don’t need to worry about its moisture content anymore. If only life were that straightforward! Wood continues to expand and contract after the initial drying process is complete. In fact wood, even with a synthetic finish applied, will continually adapt to the ambient moisture level that surrounds it. It’s a slow process so you’re not going to see your wood move the minute you open a window but it will move over a period of weeks to match the average conditions around it.

So if you’ve given resawing a try with your bandsaw and ended up with cupped boards, don’t let that fool you into thinking something went wrong.  It’s not that the wood was of low quality or that your saw did a poor job, or that you don’t have good technique.

It’s just what happens with thin resawn wood.

Woodworkers Source Offers Custom Cutting

Resawing services are available at all Woodworkers Source stores.  Call or come by when you have a board you need resawn into thinner pieces.

  • tjoes

    I made a bandsaw sawmill and had a patent about to issue for a thin kerf band operating at over twice the tension of any bandsaw and not fatigue the blades. 7 of 35 claims alowed, with high tension the real unique aspect. Plus blade tips were the shape of a swage tooth wide band so they cut straight and carry the chip out, Prototype was Stellite 12 on a high tension backer.

    We built the precision machine, a horizontal moving band, on a high accuracy linear track. Vertical accuracy to about .002. I made cuts that you could see through all the way from end to end. All green lumber….not dried like the author is describing. I’m talking primary production with glue-able surface.

    All US band manufacturers declined to make an ultra thin blade to my specs so I had them made in Japan. Immediately we had incredible wide cuts of thin materials and could speed up to near commercial sawmill speeds without snaking the cuts. The prototype was a hydraulic gearmotor and Cummins 4b (70 hp)…so no lack of power.

    The business did not get past proving the theory of fatigue was correct with the high performance prototype, I think the owner of an orange machine manufacturer was introduced to my banker at an Indy product unveiling.

    I failed to find financing to continue the machine business manufacturing and selling the sawmill, but we proved high tensions can work in primary processing, making less waste by cutting thin wood in the green form…or, like veneer, go to the next level and heat them.

    I dropped the patent just before it’s issuance, before the technology became publicly disclosed and supposedly “protected”. Ha!

    If you think you have a unique and patent-able idea??…go to the DC patent office and watch the Asians and other foreign researchers going from file to copy machine. Then ask yourself if giving it to the world would do anything to “protect” the invention’s proprietary advantage. Cost of my patent lesson only $18k?

    I sure would like to find a company that wants to make highly engineered beams and panels from thin wood.

    • Tom Dubick


      I am interested in your work and like to you about it.


      • tjoes

        Tom, I’m not sure about giving contact info here, but I’m making some progress. What is your interest?

        • Tom Dubick

          I am a Fab Lab director at a K-12 school ( I have the capabilities to rapidly prototype equipment.). I am very interested in 1/8 lumber for our laser cutters. I think your product would have a lot of support in makerspace and fablabs because we rely so heavily on laser cutters which can only cut up to 1/4 wood.

          Have you considered a Kickstarter project?

          You can find me on LinkedIn and see that I am legit.


          • tjoes

            Tom, sent connection through Linked-in.

  • Rick Sizemore

    I’ve been cutting tops and backs for a dulcimer. While the table saw will certainly work, Ive started using my bandsaw after reading these posts and watching various videos. Some things I’ve learned is that I get the best results from a 1/2 blade with exacts tension. The jig has a 3/4 track that fits in the rip fence slot to secure the jig and adjustment slots with t handles allow you to square the fence. I also think you have to keep your work against the fence so the finish piece is shaved off the blade opposite the fence side. The pieces I cut are approximately 1/8 and then I finish them down to a 1/10 of an inch – 100 thousands of an inch. Some musical instrument tops are 90 to 100 thousands. This just seems much safer and easier than the table saw.

  • Wilson Stevens

    I made a ripping frame saw in the 1970’s and with care resawed a number of boards successfully. The advantage was the blade was about 2-inches wide, and over 36-inches long, enabling me to cut wider boards than my band saw would handle. After a couple of failures, I found you could adjust the frame against a smooth side, and control the cut very will. This method was from an old German Woodworker I knew that taught it to me.

  • george

    using a table saw to slice thin stock you can go wider than 5 1/2 inches. try 8″ which will leave a space of 2 1/2″ then use a pruning saw to remove the remaing wood slice.

  • DEnnis Russell

    I had some thick Sycamore logs that were slasb sawn, I needed quarter sawn, too late I got what I got, I tried to resaw on severtal different large bandsaws, a total failure, my skjills arent very good on this although I have read different articles on how to, to no avail it just doesnt do well I expert could saw this stuff for me but there arent any here in Arizona that I know of. so now I have some dried out sycamore laying undr my work bench, might as well cut it up for fire wood, I was going to make guitar backs and sides with this wood…………………….D

  • Len

    Thanks for the nice article. Two thoughts:

    1. You say “… there are a number of techniques…” for restoring the moisture equality in cupped boards, but you don’t sya what they are. Can you add that information or maybe a link to resources?

    2. I don’t own a bandsaw. Can you add any tips and techniques for resawing on a table saw. I’ve had good results doing this on a 10″ saw with boards up to 5 1/2″ wide, but would like to know if there are any special techniques I sould know about.

    • John

      Before I owned a bandsaw I would resaw on my table saw. To resaw boards wider than 5 1/2″ I would use a handsaw to cut the middle portion of the board after running the blade as high as I could.

    • Anonymous

      I, too, would like information or link “for restoring the moisture equality in cupped boards”. This happens to me all too often, particularly in my garage workshop in Maine in the winter when the humidity might be 15% on a wet day. Right now I have a couple of pieces of 3/8″ thick canary that are cupped too badly to be used as box sides. I’ve had one sitting convex side up in the sun now for a month but there has been no change.


      • jghodd

        I ran into this problem when cutting bolivian rosewood (morado) for guitar backs and sides. In fact, the wood warped within minutes of being resawn. I could’ve wept. However, after calming down and doing a bit of research, I was able to successfully re-flatten my pieces and have since used them for their original purpose. To do this, first cut yourself some boards, all of the same size, and make sure they’re somewhat impervious to warping themselves. I used 3/4″ fiber board, cut to 10″ x 24″ for my purposes. You’re going to end up stacking these boards, so make sure you cut enough to have a bottom and top board. Once you have your stacking boards cut and ready, wet your warped/cupped pieces on both sides – I used a spray bottle, then spread the water around evenly, making sure to add more wherever it got soaked up more quickly than other areas. Once the pieces are evenly wet, place the wet pieces between the stacking boards, stacking them vertically as you go, with the last stacking board on top – like a tall sandwich, or a big mac with lots of beef patties. Now, you need to apply a LOT of pressure, evenly, to your stack. I used 8 J-clamps – 3 down each side and one on each end. You can also pile something really heavy on top if that’s more convenient – it’ll need to be a couple of hundred pounds. Final step – wait. Give it a couple of weeks, or longer if you can afford the time. You will be pleased with the results. The lesson I learned was to sandwich and clamp everything I cut if I valued it.

        • Dusty v

          I have a table top 21 inches x 42 inches x 1 inch thick – made of wild cherry . I let it get wet , accidentally and now it has a slight twist and cup . Was wondering , given the thickness, about rehydrating it and placing a large amount of weight on it and flattening it back out . What do you think ?

          • You can try that. I would mist the concave side, and maybe store the panel in a large plastic bag with a little ventilation. Let it air out maybe every other day for a week. Something like that. Either way, you want it to dry slowly.
            But it’s worth noting that on a panel that wide, you should always expect at least some cupping and possibly twist to come and go throughout the year.