How to Square Rough Cut Lumber with a Table Saw?

The difference between Timber and Lumber is their overall construction. Timber is referred to as uncut wood that is probably yet on the tree. Thus it is not prepared for sale. Whereas, Lumber is more of a cut wood that has been processed into planks, beams, etc. Although Lumber is ready for structural usage, some may notice that its shape has not been refined.

Even ready, Lumber may require some work yet to be carried out. The edges may not be symmetric and also sharp; thus, people use a table saw to clean out the corners and make them crisp in structure. Often Lumber is intentionally left rough and rugged as buyers can use it to design rugged structures for handy work.

How to Square Rough Cut Lumber with a Table Saw?

Rough cut Lumber may need plenty of paralleling, milling, flattening, straightening, ripping, and truing before it is ready. These are all factors that need to be executed in the initial phase after this comes sanding and finishing.

First and foremost, you must have a complete idea of the structure of rough-cut Lumber. The region with the largest surface area is the long grain (face). The top short edge-to-edge area is the end grain (end face), whereas the long side stretch is the long grain (edge). Each of these three parts collectively can have plenty of deformities and uncut edges. Also, these are the parts of a rough cut lumber board that you will be working upon.

Materials needed to square rough cut lumber:

  • Board
  • Jointer
  • Hearing protection
  • Miter Saw or Miter Gauge
  • Table Saw
  • Stop push block
  • Marker
  • Safety eyeglasses
  • Plywood
  • Jointer

We have curated a bunch of steps that, if followed, will result in a square and ready-to-use board.

Step 1: Flatten one side of the board with a jointer

Your board may be suffering from structural deformity in the form of a bowl or cup. The former is when the long grains on either side are bent, pretty much like a bow, whereas the latter is when the end grains are bent, similar to a cup. In worst cases, your board may have a combination of both these deformities.

flatten board with jointer

You need to place the board with one face against the cutter head and push the board through the jointer. Make sure you are applying pressure in a downward position of both the feeds of the cutter – in plus out. After about 4 to 7 passes, you will realize it has now flattened out completely.

Remember, if you have a solely cupped board, then place the concave surface on the jointer. This will reduce any shaking of the board in a side to side fashion. Whereas if you have a bowed board, then the same process follows. But it would be better if you had a longer jointer-table for longer boards.

You may need to adjust the board by crosscutting it to its desired length in extreme cases.

I am struggling with a small-width jointer. What to do?

No worries. The best solution would be to tear your board to make it wide enough to fit on your jointer. In case your task requires the need of wide boards, you need to tear down the big board into several narrow pieces. Ultimately glue them up and reassemble the actual size of a board that you require.

You can completely steer clear of this step by purchasing wood that has maximum flatness. Also, if you got some extra bucks to spare, then simply buy flat boards.

Step 2: Make sure the other side of the board is parallel

It would be best to use a thickness planner in this case. Place the already flat surface downwards and run it through the planner. You will be rewarded with both faces being parallel to each other. Depending on the wood you use (pinewood being the most effective), approximately 1/64” to 1/16” of an inch would be wiped out with each round through the thickness planer.

Another wise decision would be to make sure your board is 3 to 5 inches longer than you need on each end. This is because flattening a board through a thickness planer can cause snipes to form. The main reason this happens is due to excessive intricate cutting. Longer boards can basically cut off these snipes to maintain a well-worked and uniform piece.

Step 3 – Face has been flattened, now flatten an edge with the jointer.

Place it edge first on the jointer table and apply pressure to hold the board against the border steadily. This process will flatten the edge and also square the edge. Be warned that you do not want to use a table saw until your Lumber is squared. Un-flattened edges can be dangerous to work on.

Ever heard of a table saw jointer sled or a router? These can be handy options if your jointer doesn’t seem to be available.

Step 4 – Flatten out the other edge parallelly with the first – use a table saw.

One of the most critical aspects of squaring rough cut lumber is to make the edges parallel to each other. Make sure your board is cut to its planned width using a table saw. Running the flat edge alongside the table saw’s rip fence, both edges will naturally make them parallel.

You may be noticing that the steps are getting shorter as we progress. But here we go again.

Step 5 – Crosscut one end square

A squared end is necessary on your rough cut lumber board. It helps to decide and attain the final length. You can either use a crosscut table saw sled or a miter gauge for squaring.

As the miter saw would be more comfortable and less bulky, it would be a convenient option. Simply run the saw across the board on one end to give birth to a perfectly squared end. Although do you think your table saw is of good quality and can perform premium cutting? Well, most people have a reasonably usable table saw so this shouldn’t be a problem. Table saws can perform the job of crosscuts with almost impeccable perfection.

Also, miter saws are moreover used by people who need to perform quicker cuts in the lumber yard itself.

Often one is provided with a miter gauge along with the table saw. As long as you accurately set your miter gauge, it becomes easy to perform pin-point 90-degree cuts consistently. Even better is when you use a stop block as it helps in repetitive cutting.

Step 6 – Crosscut another end to decide the board length.

This step is crucial in determining the overall length of your lumber board. Measure from the already squared end to however long you want the board to be. Make a mark with a pen or a marker. Now perform crosscutting on this marked point with your miter gauge, miter saw, or table saw.

Here is a tip to increase your efficiency while cutting boards: Do you plan to work on multiple boards simultaneously? Do you also plan to get these pieces out of a single piece flattened board? If yes, then start by creating a square end. After this, you must place a stop block and run all the crosscuts in one go. This reduces the efforts required and also gives you an identical cut on all your boards. Save time, save resources, save energy, save electricity – a complete win-win for all. Right?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Board Foot?

If you ever get to visit a lumberyard, you will realize that they make sales according to ‘board foot,’ not ‘linear foot.’ In terms of measurement, a wooden board foot is approximately equal to 144 cubic inches. Typical day practice indicates that the length and thickness of boards are labeled. But guess what? They don’t mention the board’s width, so you might as well carrying a measurement tape.

Are there more wooden board deformities like bow and cup?

 Yes, there are also crook and twist type deformities. Crook is moreover like a disfigured banana, and the twist is like a mildly twisted curl. These two, including bow and cup shapes, can be eliminated during the milling process itself. It would be in your best interest to refrain from acquiring twisted boards. This is because the internal forces that cause the twist may most often not go away.

What do I do if I do not own a jointer?

Most lumberyards and sellers would be generous enough to straighten and flatten one edge. This makes it easier to tear the board with a table saw. Several lumberyard jointers can help to reduce your board thickness, but they will seldom turn out to be flat.

Final Thoughts

The process is overall easy only if you do your preparation work and be ready. Also, consider wetting your board with some water to check for the quality before beginning work. You don’t want to go through the grind to realize that you have been working with low-quality wood.

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