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Considering quality of cut and safety, I'm looking for suggestions on good tools/methods for cutting 1/8" knife blanks. The other dimensions would be 6-8" and 1.5-2.5".

I make straight razor scales out of 1/8" blanks, however until now I have been limited on selection and paying a premium. However I have not found a good way to cut such small pieces of wood safely and efficiently.

Currently the tools at my disposal are a very nice Bosch 12" radial arm saw and a very old and craftsman table saw on a wobbly stand with no guard.

I would prefer to do this with the radial arm saw but I am concerned about the quality of the cut since I can't really hold on to, or clamp the side being cut.

  • As is usually the case, asking for that One Best Way isn't the right question, because there isn't one. Instead there are many valid approaches each with pluses and minuses that you can pick from, depending on what tools you have available and your own preferences. – Graphus Jul 12 '18 at 11:48
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There are several ways to do this. The radial arm saw would probably be my last choice, though.

If you can find material 1 1/2 - 2 1/2" thick then you could just rip strips off of this with your table saw. This would probably be the easiest. Rip cuts (where you're laying the board flat on the table and reducing its width) are what table saws are designed for.

If you can't source material this thick then you'll need to resaw a board. (This is where you'd be standing the board on edge and reducing its thickness.) You can do this on your table saw, but a band saw with a wide blade would be preferred. Either way you'll need a tall fence that is absolutely parallel with your blade, both vertically and horizontally. Make sure the board is flat and the edge on the table is well jointed. You should use push sticks to keep your hands well clear of the blade. Also, if you're using the table saw position your body so as to avoid being hit by the work piece if it kicks back.

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  • +1 for first proposed answer. – Ast Pace Jul 12 '18 at 21:09
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Before I get into the Answer proper I wanted to say that I'm presuming from the outset that you don't need to produce perfect blanks like many commercial ones are. That level of finish is useful for marketing and sales because it gives a clearer picture to prospective buyers of exactly what they're getting, but you don't need to aim for that since you have the wood right in front of you.

And working towards getting surfaces that nice, when none of them will remain on the finished item, is pointless and you'll save a lot of time and effort if you produce blanks that are just good enough to work with.

There's tons of post-assembly shaping involved in knife handles so I'm assuming it's similar for razors, so you really only need the pieces to be flat (no bow etc.), of even thickness even if only approximately 1/8" thick, and reasonably smooth (a flawless surface is actually not desirable if bonding with epoxy and using light clamp pressure).


So how might you do this? Instead of concentrating on the actually tools you'd use to do the various steps here's the approach I'd take, which can be done in various ways:

  • Buy stock in board form.
  • Resaw over-thick to allow for flattening and getting to rough thickness.
  • IF NEEDED plane one face to get the wood to thickness. The other face doesn't matter unless you have OCD and can't bring yourself to work with wood that has a rough surface.
  • Rip strips of suitable width.
  • Cross-cut strips to length.

The wood's ready to use then.

Obviously you're going to quickly generate enough blanks that you'll need to store some since only one longish board 1/2" thick is going to produce more than you can immediately make use of, so it might be important (depending on the wood, your local conditions and any expected changes to those) to store the stock wrapped in plastic wrap or inside airtight plastic boxes to keep the wood stable.

Now, which tools to do the above?

You could do this using hand tools. This might sound crazy if you don't use hand tools much but every process is perfectly doable by manual methods, especially if you set up a production line to do repeat steps in one go.

This is the way I'd do it since I own no power saws, but I'm not suggesting it for that reason. Since you don't currently own the tools necessary to do all the steps (at all, much less safely) you have to do some buying and this is by far the most cost-effective route, although obviously there will be some sweat equity needed as well.

If you want to buy in a power tool to help with this, then I highly recommend getting a bandsaw. Bandsaws are the power saw for doing resawing and can rip and crosscut effectively too, so fairly easy to set one up to do all the sawing steps you need here, and down the line a bandsaw will give you the most bang for the buck because of how versatile they are.

Additional safety note:

a very old and craftsman table saw on a wobbly stand with no guard.

If it also has no riving knife then I would strongly strongly recommend you never use this to cut anything. Until such time that you've sorted out at least one of the important safety features (ideally both!) and have fixed the stand it's an accident waiting to happen, and accidents at the table saw can be life-changing or life-ending events.

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    Excellent answer on all points, especially regarding tablesaw safety. To OP: make that tablesaw safe or make it gone. – Gern Blanston Jul 12 '18 at 16:18
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However I have not found a good way to cut such small pieces of wood safely and efficiently.

There are several ways to cut small pieces safely and efficiently; you just don't have the tools you need to do it.

Currently the tools at my disposal are a very nice Bosch 12" radial arm saw and a very old and craftsman table saw on a wobbly stand with no guard.

If you can build a better stand and make a guard, you'll have the right tool for the job. Until that happens, get someone else to rip a board into long strips of the thickness you need. Then you can take the strips home and crosscut them to length with the radial arm saw. Have the strips cut a bit thicker than you need and buy yourself a hand plane to bring them down to the final thickness.

If you buy your wood from a local hardwood dealer, they'll almost certainly be able to rip the board to size for you using a table saw or a band saw. They might charge you a bit extra for the trouble, but you'll get a lot of blanks out of a single 96"x6"x1" board, and the extra cost will be small compared to buying your own machine and finding space for it. The band saw is the better option because it has a much narrower kerf, so you'll have less waste, but go with what's available.

If you can't get your dealer to help you out, then find a willing friend to slice up a few boards. It'll only take a few minutes per board, and a few boards will probably yield all the blanks you can use for a long time.

No friend? Find a local maker space. Most of them have reasonable daily rates, and again, with the right tools you can make a lot of blanks from a few boards in a short time.

I would prefer to do this with the radial arm saw but I am concerned about the quality of the cut since I can't really hold on to, or clamp the side being cut.

Although radial arm saws can be used in rip mode, they're not the right tool for the job. If you're not sure how to do it safely, you need to either get someone with experience to show you, or find a different way. I really think you'll end up with better results by getting someone else to rip your boards, or fixing up your table saw.

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