The common problems with wood cutting are the same regardless of circumstance. Whether you’re working with fine wood or a more everyday variety of lumber, with hand tools instead of machines or as a professional or DIY enthusiast, you’ll often encounter similar issues, and deal with them in similar ways. Splintering is one of the most repeated blunders; a poorly timed or measured cut that results in your wood existing in more pieces than you probably planned. There are a few general tips on how to avoid splintering when cutting wood, and we’ve listed them below to ensure your next project is completed with a solid, clean slice.
#1. Ensure your blade is correct - and sharp!
Choosing a blade that’s ideal for your particular task is obvious, but ensuring its sharpness is a measure something far too often forgotten. For example, if you’re cutting plywood, it would be much better to use a special, hollow-ground blade, or a rip blade when sawing with the grain. If you’re tempted by a combination blade, be cautious, and never settle immediately for the one that may have come with your power tool. If using a hand saw or something less specialized, then the best practice is to inspect the quality of the saw blade first, as a dull, damaged or rusty blade will immediately doom you from the start.
#2. Ensure your cutting position is accurate
No matter how much work your machine does for you, woodcutting is not an activity that rewards a lax approach. This applies heavily to the way you actually cut the wood; choosing a position that allows the tool to be fully supported throughout will lead to a solid, clean cut, especially with handsaws where splintering will
occur on the back side of the wood. With circular saws, always cut with the ‘best side’ of the wood facing down (if cutting a bench or a door etc.), carving out a line with a Stanley or utility knife beforehand to deliver a smooth cut devoid of splinters.
#3. Use backer boards when possible
A backer board is a flat, hard panel designed to serve as a substrate when cutting wood, and can be used to support any variety of cutting tool. A simple makeshift version of this that you can use when sawing is an offcut of plywood, normally sized at 1/4 “; by attaching this ‘sacrificial board’ to the work you are doing (normally with screws), you have the most consistent method on how to avoid splintering when cutting wood.
#4. Don’t rush the cut & be consistent
By allowing your blade to reach full speed before slicing, you’re able to push with a steady, consistent speed all the way through. The point of this is that you were to move too quickly, you would veer off the cut line, and making constant corrections in your course or speed will greatly increase the chance of splintering.
For future advice on cutting wood with the best results, keep an eye on our blog or the Woodshop Direct Facebook page!