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Today I resawed a piece of wood and ripped another board using a handsaw.

In contrast to ripping or crosscutting, resawing is very difficult.

What is the reason for that? Is it just the volume of wood fibres to cut through that make it a slow and difficult process?

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Is it just the volume of wood fibres to cut through that make it a slow and difficult process?

It can be this in a nutshell, yes.

Typically resawing is going through a greater thickness of wood, and sometimes a much greater thickness of wood, because you're sawing across the width of a board and not through the thickness. You're removing A LOT more wood with each push and/or pull in this scenario, so even using a rip saw1 the increased effort, and to some degree the drag on the saw, is proportionally higher.

Everything depends on the piece of wood you're cutting. Realize that sawing along the length of anything of square section, from a 1x1 to a 6x6, ripping and resawing are basically the same cut, even if when resawing you might be trying to make thinner pieces than in a 'standard' rip.

Some tips:

  • Practice as much as possible. The only way to get good at sawing is to do it more, as concentrated practice early on or my doing it again at every available opportunity. Or, ideally, both. In addition to working the actual muscles used you'll develop what is now almost universally called the muscle memory.
  • This should possibly have been point #1, but I had to put practice first ^_^ Try as much as possible to be selective about the wood you aim to resaw. Straight boards are very very preferable here! You may also find that air-dried wood is noticeably better than kiln-dried, but by no means should you avoid trying to resaw kilned wood entirely.
  • Make sure your stance is good and you're not getting in the way of the cut. With a Western rip saw you want your sawing arm to be working like a piston and your torso needs to be off to the side for this to work.
  • The thicker the wood (i.e. the wider the board) the larger you want the saw's teeth to be. Very much preferable to use a sub-6TPI saw here if possible, although like most of us you may routinely be doing this with a less-than-ideal saw. It'll still get the job done.
  • Let the saw do the work. There's a tendency with male woodworkers especially to try to brute-force sawcuts, either by pushing down or sawing really fast or perhaps both. Either tends to be counter-productive in the long run — you'll tend to tire yourself out prematurely, and the straightness of the cut will usually suffer if you don't take your time. Remember, like in so many things in hand-tool woodworking: it's not a race.
  • Lubricate your saw, and lubricate it well. While a scribble of candle wax is certainly an improvement over a saw with no lubrication on it at all, you can do better than that and for resawing you'll notice the difference2. Remember to do both sides!
  • Re-lubricate at frequent intervals; as and when needed basically. If you're using oil or wax the lubricant is obviously wearing off the surface continually (more quickly with the oil naturally). Fight the tendency to be lazy about interrupting the sawing to re-lube the saw plate.
  • If you're not already doing so, make sure the wood is very firmly held in a vice or by whatever arrangement you're using in place of a formal vice. If the board is able to shift about during the cut you'll have a terrible time of it; you could injure yourself or your saw.
  • You'll often saw from both ends towards the centre, not straight down through from one end. The longer the board the more this is necessary.
  • Don't saw too high, or too far away from the clamping force. The greater the distance from the pinch point the more the wood is able to vibrate, which in addition to sometimes sounding awful steals energy from every saw thrust. Best practice is to reposition the board multiple times for each half of the cut so you're always sawing in a sort of sweet spot or Goldilocks zone.
  • Once the cut has progressed past a certain depth it might be helpful to insert a wedge into the open end of the cut, depending on how the wood is behaving. Sometimes (often IME haha) the cut will pinch closed behind the saw rather than warping the other way and opening up slightly3.

Last but not least:

  • Not a must-do by any means, but consider making a kerfing plane or similar tool that establishes a significant groove on all four edges of the board for the saw cut to follow. This can greatly aid getting a straighter cut for those with less sawing under their belts.
  • If you find you want to do this more, and especially if you want to produce thinner pieces or even veneers, make or buy a European frame saw as advocated by Tage Frid. Or get a suitable bandsaw, naturally!

1 You might be magnifying the effort by a factor or two or more if not using a rip saw, although some modern 'hybrid' or 'multi-purpose' teeth can admittedly rip surprisingly well (and are often far easier to get!).

2 So either do a much more concentrated scribbling action with your candle/lump of wax, or wipe a good film of paste wax over the whole surface (note that unlike in wax polishing there's no need to wait for the wax to haze over before continuing). If instead of wax you prefer to oil your saws, again, aim more for a full film than a casual zigzag in the middle.

3 Pay attention to this behaviour irrespective of which way it's going. If a board opens up widely or pinches very firmly on the saw early in the cut it may not be worth continuing because your formerly fairly straight board may well become two thinner wooden bananas.

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