Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 1, Issue 5
July 2007
The Three Kinds of Saw Cuts

If you have ever been disappointed by your results when hand sawing a joint, the problem could be that you are going about the task in the wrong manner. While sawing requires practice, it also is helped along by a few clever and quick tricks.

Years ago I read an English woodworking book that separated all sawing into three kinds of cuts: first-, second- and third-class saw cuts. Each type of cut has a different purpose. Third class sawing is for removing material with little regard for accuracy or appearance. Second class sawing is for cuts that require accuracy, but the final appearance of the cut isn't critical. And first class sawing is for situations in which the appearance of the completed kerf is paramount.

Third-Class Saw Cuts
This type of cut is fast, rudimentary and useful when breaking down rough lumber into manageable pieces. Use it only when the board is going to be refined further; for instance, in circumstances where you will shoot the ends with a plane or crosscut the board to a finished length with a powered saw or finer handsaw.

Begin by marking the cut-line on the face and edge of your board with a pencil. Place the teeth of your saw on the waste side of your line and use your thumb to keep the saw positioned as you make your initial strokes to define your kerf. Advance on the face and edge of your board simultaneously to increase your accuracy. Saw rapidly through the board until you get near the end of your cut. Then use lighter and shorter strokes to cut the waste away cleanly.

Third class sawing.
Third class sawing: A good sawyer can split a pencil line even with a rough cut such as this. However, accuracy isn't as important as cutting the wood to size as quickly as possible.

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