Why You Need a Resaw Frame Saw

Roubo Frame Saw

I think I have had my Roubo style frame saw now for about 6 months. I have been playing with is and resawing everything from scraps to actual project parts. I have sawn out veneer as thin as 1/8″ and bisected 8/4 and 12/4 boards on scraps and even actual project parts. There was something of a learning curve to get used to the weight of the saw and how to guide it with the 2″ wide blade and that curve was flattened a bit when I added a 4″ wide blade from Blackburn Tools. I am extremely happy with this resawing frame saw and still am surprised at the attitude of my esteemed colleague Adam Cherubini over this saw. Mine works great. Maybe it took some practice and tweaking of the set to get it humming along but it works great.

24 inch resawn walnut by hand

3 24″ Walnut boards resawn by hand

However during all of this learning and testing I was working with 6-8″ lumber that my bandsaw could have handled (albeit slowly). So this weekend when I clamped up a 12/4x24x50 piece of Walnut in my leg vises, I did so with a bit of trepidation. Would my endorsement of this saw go out the window when it really counts? After all, isn’t this kind of size of cut why I built the saw in the first place? Other than a $6,000 bandsaw or a Woodmizer, resawing a plank more than about 15″ wide just isn’t possible in the home wood shop. Forget about the speed of the cut or how many calories you burn doing it; just being able to make the cut is all we are talking about with wide boards.

Well long story short, my frame saw passed the test with flying colors! In fact I estimate I was cutting about 1″ per minute with this saw. I set up a stop watch and started sawing. Every 4 minutes I switch sides in order to better control the alignment of my kerf (and rest my muscles). On Friday in the time of 46:27 of actual cutting time, I was able to cut away a 1x24x52″ slab. On Saturday, I repeated the process and sawed away an identical slab in 52:48. I think the blade was getting dull in the final foot of sawing on this second cut. I’m left with a 3/4″ thick slab of Walnut to add to my lumber rack since I only needed two pieces for the drop leaf table I’m making.

misaligned hand resaw

The flap that indicates a poorly aligned resaw

The biggest lesson learned from these big cuts is how much a tiny deviation in alignment can add up over the course of a big board like this. Standard practice is to saw in from each end to the halfway point and have your saw cuts meet in the middle. After sawing in from one end during my first attempt, I started on the other side. I realized about 15″ into the cut that I was drifting a bit on one side and began to “steer” as best I could to straighten out the cut. Unfortunately with only about 8″ left to saw through I was not able to correct completely so I kerfs did not meet and I had to lever the two pieces apart with my Froe. This left an ugly looking flap in the middle. Fortunately this was quickly cleaned up with a Fore plane and I had a flat-ish face to reference my marks for the second saw cut.

My second time around, I made my first cut as planned, then started on the other end. This time after I had sawn in about 1/3 of the way, I stopped and connected my kerfs down the edges using a typical 26″ hand saw. I sank this “guide” kerf about 1/8″ deep then clamped the whole slab vertically for sawing again. While these kerfs won’t allow you to saw on auto pilot they do stack the cards in your favor by giving the saw a suggested exit point. My resulting second resaw met exactly and the boards came apart with no effort. In fact the tiny ridge shown is not a factor of misalignment but rather the start of a new kerf when the boards suddenly clamped together under the pressure of my leg vise and my saw kept moving forward for half a stroke.

hand resawn walnut

the perfect resaw aided by “guide” kerfs on the edge

In the end, just being able to saw these boards out is an accomplishment to be proud of that saves you from wasting wood and turning it into saw dust. But being able to make a clean cut that will significantly reduce the amount of time taken to plane the surfaces is something to make you burst into song.

What I think is most exciting is that this saw isn’t just something for the diehard hand tool woodworkers to get excited about. Even the deafest power tool user can’t help but see the benefit of a tool that will allow them to work with really wide and/or thick lumber that only the most expensive, industrial sized machines can handle. Yes you will need to practice with it and a modicum of hand sawing expertise is helpful, but think about what this means for your finished projects. Not only that, but the speed in which this saw cuts is really astounding. I realize that my 14″ bandsaw is pretty underpowered, but I know I can resaw a typical 6-8″ wide board faster than it can. I have timed it and my hand method beat the bandsaw by 2 minutes on a 7×24 piece of old growth heart Pine for drawer sides. I’m not a super sawyer, I chose the right tool for the job.

Stickered resawn boards

Always stack and sticker freshly resawn boards to let the moisture equalize

So, after extensive field testing, I honestly can say that a frame saw like this is worth the time and effort to build. It is a lot of fun to use, and not that tiring since the power comes from your legs primarily. Plus your neighbors look at you with new found respect when they see you dancing with this beat of a saw.

Video Updates

While I was making these cuts I was shooting video and publishing on a new social media platform called Keek.  Check out my video stream for quite a few short form video updates in the moment.

Here is an example:

Mar 30, 2013 | Still resawing. One more slice to go. by RenaissanceWW on Keek.com

8 Responses to “Why You Need a Resaw Frame Saw”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Ryan Bishop says:

    Why Shannon, why? Now I have to drop what I’m doing to make this ridiculously cool saw. I guess the lid for my tool chest and other various projects (read: the furniture I was supposed to build for my wife three years ago) will have to take a back seat…

    • Shannon says:

      Calm down Ryan, the design has been around for hundreds of years. I think it will wait for you to finish your current project. Don’t put me on your wife’s bad side.

  2. Doug Losey says:

    Shannon,
    Great looking saw, did you make the blade holders or can these be bought?

    thanks

  3. Sylvain says:

    What about first planing a groove on the edges right from the start with a fillister plane, using only the spur cutter/nicker to make it?
    Or may be with the slitter of a stanley #45 .
    Or a cutting gauge.
    Or a scratch block.
    Or a staircase saw with an added fence.
    Or …
    It might be easier than with a 26″ saw.
    Let us know if you try one of those or if you have had another idea.

    Sylvain

    • Shannon says:

      All of your methods utilize a fence to reference off the face. That would work fine as long at that face is suitable as a reference surface. In the case of bisecting a board or just cutting out thicker stock, I rarely plane the face first and would not want my starter kerf to wander with the topography of the face. Using a 26″ saw isn’t difficult and the longer plate actually helps to create a straight kerf regardless of the board shape around it. If I were sawing out a veneer piece then I would have a planed face to reference off of and now using a fenced tool would be more appropriate. When I have sawn veneer using this saw I do in fact use a cutting gauge to mark completely around the board, but I still go back and deepen that mark with a hand saw. The stair saw has merit and I may try that next time.

      • Sylvain says:

        Thank you,
        I was wrongly assuming one face was already planed.
        Thinking about it, it might be a waste of time as the wood might cup and twist after resawing.
        Sylvain

  4. Todd R says:

    I can’t wait to build mine! All I need is to go to lumber yard and I will be in business and one step closer to getting rid of my $60 bandsaw I am just happy that I didn’t save up all the money that I don’t have for a big power band saw. I can’t explaine the joy I get woodworking by hand even though it takes me a lot longer to do stuff I find that I am happy. Thanks for the inspiration to ditch power!

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