Rough Cutting the Lumber

Cutting Boards to Rough Lengths and Widths

With your lumber on hand, it’s time to start cutting. At its most basic level, woodworking is nothing more than cutting wood up and putting it together again in different ways. So now is when actual woodworking starts.

chopsaw_overallBegin by rough-cutting lumber to length and width for the various table parts. Each piece should be about 1” longer than finished size in the materials list. You can use a hand-held circular saw for cutting to length if you don’t have a chopsaw. Even a  good handsaw works well for crosscutting. You can see the chopsaw setup I have in my own shop right here to the left. I really like it, but it’s not necessary. Even a jigsaw works well for the rough crosscutting you’re doing now.

A tablesaw is really the only practical tool for cutting lumber to width – an operation called “ripping”. Boards destined to make up wide components such as the table top and shelf need plenty of extra width to allow for losses from refining the edges later on with the jointer.

Depending on how you cross cut your wood, you can significantly increase the grade of lumber that ends up in your table. Watch the video to the right to see how I crosscut lumber to boost final wood at least one or two grade levels. The difference in final quality is remarkable.

With the legs, aprons, shelf and table top parts rough cut to length, it’s time to refine them. If you’re working with pre-planed lumber that comes ready-smooth from the lumberyard, then all you need is a small jointer to refine the edges. If you’re working with rough lumber you’ll need a thickness planer, too. These days small benchtop models work really well. You can get a decent thickness planer for less than $400 new. Crisp details are especially important with a table like this because nothing gets hidden behind routed edges or fancy profiles. That’s why you should consider tuning up your jointer and planer before beginning. That’s what’s up next – two detailed videos on how to tune these great little machines so they work really well.

Before going on to the next phase, you should have:

  • All table parts rough cut to length and width.
  • Table parts stacked with strips of wood placed between each layer.
  • Jointer and planer (if you’ve got them) ready to be tuned, sharpened and made ready for action.