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Resawing Small Logs on the Band Saw Using a Shop-Built Rip Sled

With a decent band saw and a simple shop-built rip sled, relatively small logs can be resawn into lumber in the home shop. By relatively small, I mean logs of up to 6" to 10" in diameter (this of course depends on the capacity of your band saw) and up to roughly 2 or 3 feet in length. Attempting to cut full-length (i.e., 8 foot) logs on a home shop's band saw would be quite unmanageble, not to mention dangerous. If you want to cut the big timber, you should consider using a commercial grade saw mill machine.


DISCLAIMER:

The reader assumes all responsibility and liability associated with the hazards of working with power tools. The author has no control over how a reader will act as a result of obtaining information in this article. The author shall not be responsible for any errors or omissions that may be present in this article. Accordingly, the author shall assume no liability for any action or inaction of a reader.

This article is directed toward a hobbyist audience and is not intended for application in a commercial, institutional, or industrial setting. Commercial shops are generally governed by a complex set of worker safety regulations, such as those mandated by OSHA. Satisfying the compliance of such regulations is beyond the scope of this article.


CUTTING SMALL LOGS IN THE HOME SHOP

Note: This is an operation that should not be attempted on small band saws (i.e., benchtop models). A 14" 1HP saw would be the bare minimum for resawing logs; 1.5 or more HP would be better. I used a 1.5HP, 16" Jet saw, which has a 10" height capability. Most 14" band saws are limited in cutting height to around 6 inches; however, many models can be fitted with an optional riser kit to extend the height to 12 inches. Keep in mind that cutting 12" diameter stock on a 14" saw will be stretching the saw's capabilities. Go slowly when cutting. A good resaw blade is a must - 3/4" to 1" wide with a 2-3 TPI pitch will do quite well. Don't skimp on quality with blades. Timberwolf makes excellent resaw blades for most bandsaws.

Due to the irregular dimensions of a typical log, you cannot simply rip one on a band saw using the saw's fence. There is just no practical way to manually control the feed of the log and maintain a straight cut using this method. And under no circumstances should you attempt to rip a log free hand. At best, you will get a crooked, uneven cut; at worst, you could create an unsafe condition. You need a means of cutting the log in half in a safe, consistent manner. A simple sled can be constructed that adapts to your band saw. This sled acts as a feed mechanism to push the log through your saw with a minimal amount of side-to-side or rotational movement of the log. After the log is resawn into two halves, you can easily cut boards from those halves by conventional resawing with the band saw's fence.

The log resawing sled is essentially a slidable platform with a means of retaining the log in place. The sled has a narrow cleat attached to its underside to guide the sled along the band saw's miter slot. A headpiece and tailpiece employ set screws to hold the log into position, with the headpiece movable to accommodate different lengths of logs.

Don't expect this to be a means of supplying your shop with piles of lumber. This is a rather slow, tedious proces. For me, it was a means of producing some nice, small pieces of thin "craft" lumber. The kind of lumber I might use to build a birdhouse. If I want eight-foot lengths of 4/4 lumber for furniture projects, I will go out and buy it. This sled is also indispensable for wood turners who wish to cut bowl blanks and other turning pieces from small logs and burls. I have even heard of some pen turners who cut up old acrylic bowling balls to make pen blanks. You could easily adapt this sled to cut a bowling ball, though I haven't tried it (yet).

Download free plans for this band saw log-cutting rip sled (PDF)


The resaw sled. I constructed mine from 1/2" thick MDF, but plywood would work just as well. The tailpiece (left) has a handle for the operator to push the sled into the saw.
Larger views of the resaw sled can be seen here, here, and here.

My resaw sled can accommodate logs up to about 37" in length. Attempting a sled with a log capacity much greater than that would be too unwieldy. If you want to resaw 8-foot logs, consider a small sawmill. My bandsaw's height capacity is 10."

The headpiece of the resaw sled. T-nuts were attached ar 4" intervals along the length of the sled platform, allowing the tailpiece to be positioned to accommodate logs up to 37" long. The headpiece has elongated slots to allow precise positioning. Threaded knobs lock the headpiece in place. The headpiece has a series of set screws to retain the end of the log.
Another view of the headpiece can be seen here.

The tailpiece of the resaw sled, showing the set screws that are used to grip the end of the log. I ground the ends of all the set screws into points, to "bite" into the ends of the log.
Click here and here to see larger closeup views of the set screws.

The tailpiece and handle, seen from the rear.

View of the underside of the sled, showing the miter track cleat (I used a strip of UHMW plastic), and the series of T-nuts for positioning the headpiece.
A larger view of the underside here.

The sled in place on the band saw with a short oak log, ready to be cut. Infeed and outfeed roller stands are a necessity to keep the sled from tipping.

Side view of the log in place on the sled.

Rear view of the log in place.

View of the front end of the log as it approaches the saw blade. The log is about 9" in diameter and 20" long - an easy cut for my 16" Jet band saw, which has a 10" vertical capacity.

View of the front end of the sled with log.

Cutting the log. A slow, steady feed rate is best for this operation. Don't try to push it through too fast. Listen to your saw - if it sounds like it is laboring during the cut, slow down the feed rate.

Here is the log, resawn in half.

The two halves of the log. The next step is simply to resaw the halves into boards of the desired thickness. I chose to cut this one into thin boards about 5/8" thick. After drying, these should plane down to nice thin stock between 3/8"-1/2" for small projects. Before resawing, it's a good idea to paint the ends of the wood. This seals the ends and prevents the ends from drying unevenly and cracking.

A nice stack of freshly-cut boards.

I stashed my new pile of raw lumber up in the rafters of my shed to air dry. I placed "stickers" - thin strips of wood - in between each board to allow air circulation during the drying process. Next year the boards should be ready for planing.


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