20 thoughts on “Resawing – How’d They Do It?

  1. Hear here!!!

    Bandsaw blades really suck when used in a frame saw.

    I like your idea of a 4′ long frame saw. Yet, when resawing long boat lumber, I don’t know how I could have handled a 4′ saw. It’s one thing to use a saw that long when sawing stock that can be positioned with the saw frame moving essentially horizontal. Not possible with 16′ long boat lumber; had to use the saw vertically for that.

    Blade width is indeed important. My 2 inch wide blade was cut from a Disston handsaw (oh, SACRILEGE some say), and it did a mostly reasonable job of helping keep things on the straight and narrow.

    More at: http://www.bob-easton.com/blog/?p=475

    Will be here waiting for that nice long frame saw…

  2. Great post Bob. I was one of the board blatherers, and thanks for doing the research and reframing the question (“not if they, but did they”). It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that they worked in the same practices ‘back in the day’ as we have today.

    I believe at WIA when Don Williams or maybe it was Roy U showed that plate, they were describing it as how veneer was sawn. I believe (memory fuzzy) that there were commercial veneer sawyers back then too.

    While the idea is intriguing in a “snow shoveling the driveway” sense* I think that I’ll be outsourcing any resawing to my ‘tailed apprentice’, the bandsaw and one ‘allowed’ power tool to a handtool only guy. Seems the law looks down on indentured servitude today, so “meat powered apprentices” aren’t an option.


    * You know, it looks like it might be fun to try once for about 15 minutes, but gets to be no fun, real fast.

    • Sean,
      I’m certain there were commercial veneer sawyers as well. And you’re right, it is fun to try, but not so much to do a lot of.

    • Gounthar,
      I would certainly appreciate that! I don’t have the text that accompanies the plates, and in fact, I only have digital versions of some of the plates that I was able to find online. I don’t have the volumes, though I would like to get them. However, I can’t read French anyway, so any assistance with the French would be appreciated ;)!

      • Bob,

        It took me a long time, but didn’t find your pictures in my Roubo books. I now know why, I still have to buy one book: LE MENUISIER EBENISTE. I have LE MENUISIER EN BATIMENT and LE MENUISIER EN MEUBLES, but I’m quite sure your pictures are in the one I don’t own. Sorry! 😦

  3. Great post Bob, like you this is a project on my list but until then I’m going to keep at it with my 5.5 ppi 28″ rip saw. I had the pleasure of working with one of these two man saws at my volunteer job at the Steppingstone Museum this summer. The shop master and I made some veneer from Walnut and it was hard work but so much easier with two people. The real joy however was working with 1/8″ thick veneer! Good luck tonight with your Ball & Claw demo.

  4. Awesome post, Bob! I’ve been wanting to make one of these and you’ve stopped me from making some big mistakes due to ignorance. Thanks! Love your site!!!

  5. How many files do you think it would take to cut in all those teeth? If my quick bath is right that is 144 teeth on a 4 foot plate at 3 tpi.

    I just finished retoothing my first saw, a 12″ carcass saw at 13 ppi. It took a little more then 2 4″DXS files to do the job.

    I think finding or making a tooth punch would be in order. I think someone on SMC was talking about making a punch a couple weeks ago.

    Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed reading it.

    • Andrew,
      It would take two to three files I would think. It’s not something I really want to do right now. Someone suggested seeing if Mike W. would cut a plate for me. That’s a good option as well. He can punch the teeth in and then all that would be left is to remove the deformation caused by the punch and the final sharpening. That would probably only use up one file. But again, I’m in no hurry to make this saw.

    • Jeroen,
      A 3 PPI rip handsaw would work fine for narrower stock. I use my 5½ PPI for resawing now. However, when you get up around 10-12″ wide, the blade length of a regular hand saw becomes too short to effeciently clear sawdust from the kerf, allowing it to build up in the cut. Something 3-4 feet long will clog up less and cut more effeciently.

  6. I wonder, if for many easily split woods, a froe was sometimes used. Especially by craftsman on the frontier. Eric Sloane for instance thinks that this was done more often than we think for many woods. It was much faster than sawing, and could could easily planed quickly flat, Some woods it wouldn’t have worked with, but many woods like oak and ash, etc, split rather well in the old growth timber available to early craftsman. With some practice you can split wood rather strait and flat.

    • Brier,
      Absolutely they rived as well. In fact, Adam Cherubini recently wrote an article for his A&M column that discussed a small spice chest he reproduced that had a combination of sawn and riven stock in it. I have to agree with Adam’s observations in the article. Based mostly on my own work habits, not so much close up inspection of period pieces (I don’t have his access to view these pieces up close and pull all the drawers out ;), I think easily riven but not easily sawn woods like oak & ash would have been riven while easily sawn but not so easily riven woods like pine and poplar would have been resawn. I think a lot of the secondary woods we see used in pieces were chosen more for their working properties, not their cost. Period sawyers charged by the cut, regardless of species or thickness of the finished board. So the price difference between walnut and pine may not have been a lot, if there was any difference at all (I couldn’t say for sure as I haven’t found any reference to lumber prices in the materials I’ve read to date). So from a cabinet maker’s perspective, they probably chose the secondary woods they did because they were easier and faster to work with for the uses they were chosen for.

  7. Something about that plate with the two sawyers strikes me as odd and makes me wonder if there may have been another saw option.

    Two people working on a saw each doing a pulling action. One doing cutting and the other doing nothing but returning the saw. Seems like nearly 50% wasted work.

    Why not a whip saw?

    The teeth would cut in both directions and the bellied saw would have cut much faster and the alignment of the grip would have been comfortable and leading to fast effective sawing. I think the sawing would have been fast enough that they’d spend more time re-positioning the wood than they spent sawing. Sure that one in the drawing is filed crosscut, but it would have been nothing to have one filed rip.

    That drawing comes from a bigger drawing that shows hewing, crosscut, riving, and ripping. Also an interesting glimpse into the shop where other tools were hanging. The portable grind stone is interesting too.

    The painting is representing life at colonial Jamestown.

    • Interesting idea. I’m wondering if even an old one man (or two man) crosscut saw could be reconfigured the way you are describing. The geometry of the plate is slightly different than the whip saw in that some aren’t breasted, but this may not be a big deal. Maybe file the scoring teeth like rip teeth rather than beveled scoring teeth? You could leave the raker as is probably. I still think something like this would be quite a challenge to control by oneself though. Tough to track both sides of the board at the same time I would think. But what’s the harm in trying ;)?

      • 🙂 I’ve done that already. The results weren’t horrible.
        My biggest problem was securing the log for cutting… and then having to moce it, re-secure it, cut a little more, move it, re-secure it… I think the lack of a consistent secure sawing position had more to do with the quality of the results. The saw cut fast. It had a pretty thick plate on it so it is pretty wasteful (better than a chain saw) I think a similar style with a thinner plate and tensioned in a frame might work pretty well. … I’m just not sure where I’d find one with a thinner plate. 😦

  8. Do we know if the scale in the Roubo plate is inches or centimeters? There’s a big difference between 2.5 tpi and 1 tpi. Sometime this spring I’ll have Ed Piak at Medallion make a 4′ framesaw blade. Then the fun starts!

    • Chuck,
      The scale is actually French inches (pounces) and lines. It’s an old measuring system no longer in use. The French inch (pounce) is slightly longer (about 6%) than the English inch. The French line is 1/12 of the pounce.

  9. Part of the the floor mosaic in the Magdala synagogue (3rd Century AD) shows a guy using a frame saw to rip boards vertically. Unfortunately, only part of the mosaic survives so it’s not clear whether he’s doing that by himself or with a helper.

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