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Hand Saws Can Maximize Stock Yield and Grain Flow

bench work
I was breaking down a beautiful 12″ wide Walnut board for the Queen Anne side table I’m building for The Wood Whisperer Guild build. I got the wide board from the mill specifically for the top that will be 16 x 20. Once I removed the sap wood from both edges the 12″ board would yield about 9.5″ so I would do the top with a 2 board panel. This still leaves about half of the original 8 foot length left over to squeeze out the aprons. However the sapwood lines zig-zags about and limits my total width in a few places. If I were breaking down this stock on a table saw I would be hard pressed to maximize the yield and wouldn’t be able to get all of my aprons from this piece. I guess if I were to use a tapering jig or some way to secure the stock at an angle to the blade I could do it, but why bother when I have hand saws within reach.

Using a rip saw I was able to cut just outside the sapwood transition line that was really at an angle to the actual edge of the board. Then following a parallel line on the opposite sapwood transition I was able to remove a board wide enough to get my wide aprons and my narrower front apron pieces that go around the drawer. If I had run it across the table saw I would have lost about 2″ of heartwood stock.

This entire exercise just reminded me how much freedom you have with hand tools to work with the grain of your raw lumber. A little hand plane work and I have flat and parallel edges and now the grain is parallel to the edge of the board too for a better flow and visual effect around the table. I think I give the impression of being a hand tool purist in this blog and maybe I’m heading that direction, I do still work with my power tools. I think my point is that when I can work the wood by hand, I pay a little more attention to the grain direction and “story” that the tree is trying to tell me.

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