Specialty Sawing Vocabulary

A newcomer asks for definitions of terms like "resawing," "ripsaw," and "chopsaw." December 30, 2005

I have been in the industry for about 2 years. In the shop where I work, we only do frameless with melamine and outsource doors. I always see terms that I don't know, so I am finally asking.

Resawing - is that just cutting wood thin enough to use as veneer? What would make one bandsaw a resaw bandsaw and not another bandsaw?

Chopsaw - I know this is for crosscutting solid wood, but why couldn't you use a slider to do the job?

Ripsaw - Same as above, why couldn't you just use a slider?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor B:
Resawing is anytime you set a board up on edge and "rip" it. A bandsaw set up for resaw duties would have a wide blade so it will cut straight every time. I've got a narrow blade on my bandsaw so I can cut small radius curves. I could never resaw with that narrow blade, and you could never cut small radius curves with a resaw blade in a bandsaw. My "chopsaw" is a sliding compound miter saw. It is designed to crosscut at a predetermined angle. I rip on my table saw with a rip blade. I guess that makes it a ripsaw. "Ripsaw" is a term with which I'm not really familiar, but a table saw with a rip blade would be a ripsaw. If you've got a plywood blade in it, it wouldn't be a ripsaw.

From contributor P:
I think that a ripsaw is a saw strictly set up for ripping stock to width. There are straight line ripsaws that are specifically designed to feed and rip material quickly. Our shop does not have a dedicated ripsaw, so we just use a Unisaw with power feed for that job. I have seen heavy duty dedicated ripsaws in other shops that look like they could run all day 24/7. A chopsaw is, I think, kind of a generic name for any saw of the miter box type that is used for crosscutting material. Even abrasive wheel metal cutting saws are often referred to as chopsaws. A resaw is just as the other poster suggested - a dedicated (usually) bandsaw that utilizes a wide blade with usually a powerfeed unit to rip materials to thinner sizes. We often buy 8/4 material or larger to resaw down to get matchbooked grain patterns for projects requiring that. It actually uses quite an aggressive blade and cuts very quickly against a roller type fence. If you have a larger bandsaw, you can, I believe, affix a resaw type blade and do the same thing. If you only have a smaller one, it would be kind of difficult and the wider blades would probably not fit on the rollers or through the guides.

From contributor F:
Resawing: to change the thickness of a piece of lumber by sawing it into two or more pieces along the grain. This should not be confused with ripping, which means to change the width of a piece of lumber by means of sawing it into two or more pieces along the grain. In lumber dimensioning, the first and smaller of the dimensions is the thickness. IE: in a 1x12, if you resaw it, you would be changing the 1" dimension. Ripping would be changing the 12" dimension or the lumber's width. A resaw such as a resaw bandsaw has wide wheels to accept wide bandsaw blades which are well suited to the task of sawing large dimensions across the grain. It is called resawing because it has already been sawn to a dimension in thickness which is generally the thickness it would be in end use, so if a sawyer changes the thickness, he is said to be re-sawing. It is still called resawing no matter what type of saw is used to alter the thickness of the board. The last dimension of the three usually given is the length. When you change the length of a piece of lumber by cutting it into two or more pieces across the grain, you are said to be "crosscutting."

Chopsaw: slang for any power miterbox type saw whether it slides, tilts, or only adjusts to angles in one plane.

The reason I might use a simple non-sliding, non-tilting saw on a project is because sometimes it is less work. If I need to go onsite and miter some 3/4" by 2" molding, I sure don't need to be hauling a giant 12" sliding compound miter saw with me.

Ripsaw: a ripsaw can be used for ripping or resawing within its capacity. A slider is used for cuts across the grain or crosscuts.

From contributor K:
I still come across a new term once in a while. Two of my big ones were dado and groove. A dado goes across grain, a groove goes with the grain. Just wait until you get into CNC machining - that'll throw a whole new vocabulary at you. By the way, a ripsaw may refer to a straight liner rip saw, which takes rough sawn lumber with no straight edge and, you guessed it, gives it an edge capable of running though a standard table saw. Happy sawing!

From contributor D:
The main differences between a band saw and a re-saw are usually two things - the size of blades it can accept and the HP of the motor. A typical bandsaw usually has a maximum blade size of 1 1/2" and a maximum motor of 3 HP. A re-saw bandsaw will accept a 2" wide blade and can have anywhere from a 5 HP to a 7 1/2 HP single phase or a 3 phase motor. The throats on a re-saw are usually deeper, but not always.

There is also a dedicated straight line rip saw that you can buy. It boosts a usual 15 HP motor and has a conveyor that moves the wood through the cutting process. This machine would only be used for doing such cuts.

A chop saw is a slang term for chopping a crosscut in wood. Usually a mitre saw is considered a chop saw. The blade is turned or slanted to make different cuts.

A cut-off saw is used for cutting metal. The blade does not move, only the vice that holds the material is rotated to get different angle cuts.

From the original questioner:
Thank you for the fast responses. I now understand what is meant by resaw. Regarding the chop saw, I actually meant an upcut saw like the Whirlwind. I don't understand why someone would need that if they have a slider? Regarding the rip saw, I meant a gang ripsaw. What are the benefits of having one instead of a slider?

From contributor D:
A gang rip saw is for producing large amounts of board feet of wood. The blades can be set up for optimal cuts with little waste. These machines are massive and expensive. They usually have a 50HP 3 phase motor on them.

From contributor F:
Now you've got me wondering just what you mean by "slider." To me, a slider can be one of two things if you are talking about a saw. 1: A sliding miterbox saw. 2: A sliding table saw attachment or stock mechanism. In either case, I don't understand why you ask. An upcut saw is usually pneumatically operated and is way faster at crosscutting than a sliding miter box saw. A gang saw does a completely different task than a slider.

From the original questioner:
By slider, I mean a sliding table saw. We have an Altendorf F45 Standard. I am guessing that an upcut saw, then, is just for speed of crosscutting. I guess if you are busy enough, that would warrant getting one. I just saw a shop that had an Altendorf and a Whirlwind and I was wondering why they would have both. The shop was being auctioned off, by the way.

From contributor F:
Okay. I see where you are coming from. It all depends on the type of operation you have. Personally, being a one man operation doing high quality work, I prefer to do all my 90 degree cross cutting with table saw sleds and that is the same type of cutting that a sliding table saw does. Big production operations are not as concerned with quality as they are with quantity. They need to crosscut many parts fast and upcut saws with high tech stops are just the ticket.

From contributor T:
I gotta disagree with you, contributor F. I'm a small shop, 1-2 person, with an upcut with tiger stop. It is far more accurate and quicker than any other system I've used. By far, this tool has saved more time and money than any other tool in my shop.

From contributor F:
I don't see what you are disagreeing about. I think I said they were fast and accurate. I don't have one. I use my table saw because T saws are as rigid as they come. When I said I prefer my table saw, I meant I prefer it to the other tools in my shop that are capable of crosscutting and I mean chop saws. I don't have an upcut.

From contributor U:
I see you have good definitions for resaw. A sliding tablesaw is good for panel cutting in a smaller shop that does not have the huge beamsaw for panel cutting. It can do various tasks. Very good all around saw. An upcut saw would be found in a shop that makes face frame cabinets. Chopping wood strips that have already gone through the ripsaw, molder, sander. Then on to the assembly bench. Made for running all day long cutting wood strips to length. In a European (frameless) cabinet shop, it would be more for rough cutting stock to length before other processes. A gang rip saw would be typically found in a molding shop. Ripping up miles of strips each day, where a ripsaw cuts one at a time (still much faster than a tablesaw). Chopsaw is a primary tool for benchmen and installers. A sliding compound miter saw is the most desirable type, versus just a compound miter saw. A sliding tablesaw will allow squaring of much larger material than a sliding miter saw, such as doors.