How do You Do a Rip-Cut

rip cutting a board

Most appearances of sawing in media feature perpendicular hand sawing action, cross-cutting thick sheets of wood. But life isn’t a movie, and there is more than one way to cut wood. With a rip cut, you don’t shear across the wood fibers, you splinter the wood along the grain from one end to the other.

To do a rip cut, you must position wood planks lengthwise and sew along the grain of the wood and not across it. When using a table saw, you should push the planks lengthwise across the blade, and when using a circular blade, you must move the blade across the grain from one end to the other.

In this post, you’ll learn about the things you must keep in mind when ripping wood alongside the specific steps you can take to cut wood across the grain. Among the steps, this article elaborates on are the following.

  1. Select the right blade and set it at the proper depth 
  2. Set out the trajectory of the cut with a marker
  3. Position the fence and the outfeed support to ensure stability
  4. Use push sticks to run the wood through the saw
  5. Keep the speed and the trajectory steady until the end.

General Tips for Ripping Wood

Now that we have covered what sets wood ripping apart from the typical sawing action let’s look at how you can do a perfect rip cut. In most cases, you’ll use a table saw, but this section covers tips that will help improve your rips regardless of the tool you use.

The hold matters

If there are two things that dictate the quality of a rip cut, they are the saw blade and the hold on the planks being cut. The kind of hold you employ while ripping wood accounts for 50% of rip’s success. Use nails to pin down the plank wherever it is feasible. If you don’t want to use an 8d nail on the sheet, you should at least get powerful clamps to stabilize the board.

Have outfeed support

Whether the plank is stationary or being moved along the line as it is ripped, it can hang off the raised platform on which it is being ripped. This excess length can curve the sheet or the plank at the unsupported end sags beyond the bench or the worktable. Adding an extra bench, desk, or even a stool at the same height as the working surface helps support the hanging portion of longer planks.

Get professional help for larger sheets.

If the plank is longer than usual, adding a bench can help support it while you make a rip cut across its length. But if it is also wider than a standard sheet, you have to get a pair of professional helping hands. Your helper will not just support the sheet but will also move it as required to facilitate the rip.

Use floor for larger boards

Alternatively, you can create a slightly raised surface on the floor. With a series of lumber units creating a bed on which the board lies, you eliminate the need for movement while facilitating stability. A board placed close to the ground is less likely to move, especially if it is under your weight. Unfortunately, it confines you to a circular saw as table saws require movement for making rip cuts.

Do not stop until you’re done

Keep the movement steady regardless of which tool you use to cut the wood because sudden acceleration, slowing, or stopping will create a period in the rip. Restarting will produce a wider split. Even when one does not stop, the speed changes can cause the result to be uneven. Steady cutting is hard the first time around because people have the tendency to overthink the straightness of the rip and either stop or “course correct” their way into a poor rip.

How to Do a Rip Cut With a Table Saw

To do a rip cut with a table saw, you must set a path for the rip cut and calibrate the blade depth to around half a tooth above the top of the work surface, set the fence and the outfeed support, and use a push stick to guide the plank as the table saw rips it.

There are a number of steps in this process that deserve a little elaboration, so let’s look at each one.

Set the path for the rip cut

This is overlooked by some carpenters mainly because a straight rip doesn’t always need a marker. In my experience, you need a marker for the first few years of ripping wood. After that, you might be able to rip wood without a guide.

Set the blade depth

The blade depth should be set for safety reasons more than ripping reasons. As long as a blade’s teeth go through one surface and poke through the other, you’ll have a good rip. But for safety, it is best to have the teeth poke just a little over the top surface, so accidental brushes aren’t downright deadly.

Position the fence and the outfeed support

Aside from making the trip safe, you need to make it smooth. The fence helps guide the plank and keeps the rip from coming out crooked. Positioning it, in this case, isn’t different from positioning it for any straight cut. In case the length of the plank is likely to sag past the sawing table, you need good outfeed support as well. Positioning it around the same time, you set the fence is reasonable.

Push the plank through the blade

As the table saw starts spinning, it starts ripping wood as you push the plank through it. You should use push sticks to keep your hands safe. Not only is feeding wood with your hands more dangerous, but it also makes you hesitant, which results in uneven feeding speed. Push from a distance but with steady speed, and see the rip through.

Final Thoughts

Rip cuts aren’t too different from cross-cuts in terms of safety and stability requirements. The position and trajectory of the plank might differ, but in both cases, you need to set the blade at accurate depth and use the fence to guide and outfeed support to stabilize the plank. As long as the cut is along the grain, you’re ripping the wood, not cutting it.

Damien Madeira

Damien has been doing woodworking for the last 5 years. He began as a hobbyist with hand tools and slowly worked his way up to own larger machines and mill rough wood into beautiful creations. While still considering himself a hobbyist, he has a passion for woodworking and enjoys working with epoxy as well.

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