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Workshop Words – Rip-Cut vs Cross-Cut

December 9, 2015 by Scott - Saws on Skates


Happy Workshop Wednes-DIY! I had a thought the other day when I was typing some new plans. My thought was… “I’m using these woodworking terms and I wonder if everyone knows what I mean?” I know when I first started building, I would read some plans, see a word like “rip” and think “what does rip mean?” Then I would google the word, go back to the plan and continue reading.

It occurred to me that I probably have some new builders out there and a helpful feature would be adding some posts about woodworking terms. And so “Workshop Words” was born! Sure, I could have called it Workshop Vocabulary, but who doesn’t like a little alliteration?!

This feature is kicking off with the terms “rip-cut” vs “cross-cut”. Here’s my quick explanation: a rip-cut changes the width of the lumber and a cross-cut changes the length.

cross cut

First we’ll explore cross-cutting as that’s the type of cutting you’ll likely be doing the most. A cross-cut (in my plans I typically refer to cross-cut as cut, cutting or cut to length) is when you cut across the grain of the wood. OK, so I guess we need a little explanation about the structure of wood too. Wood grain or wood fibers run the length of the lumber. Think of the wood fibers as a bundle of straws. A cross-cut makes those straws shorter.

rip cut

A rip-cut is when you cut with the grain of the wood, or in other words, you’re making the bundle of straws narrower.

What are the best tools to make Cross-Cuts?
A miter box with handsaw, miter saw or circular saw (check out my circular saw cross-cut jig plan) are the best choices for making cross cuts. I’m not really a fan of them, but you could also use a jig saw. Cross cuts can also be made with a table saw if you use the miter gauge that came with your saw or if you build a cross cut sled. Do not use the table saw rip fence to make cross cuts. The rip fence is for ripping. Not only is it poor form to use the rip fence for cross cutting, but it’s also dangerous. Also, do not make a cross-cut with the table saw miter gauge in combination with the table saw rip fence. This is also dangerous.

What are the best tools to make Rip-Cuts?
A table saw or circular saw (my circular saw cross-cut jig plan can be made longer for rip-cutting) are the best options to make rip-cuts.

That’s a quick explanation of rip-cut vs cross-cut. Stay tuned for more Workshop Words.

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3 thoughts on “Workshop Words – Rip-Cut vs Cross-Cut

  1. atkokosplace says:

    This was very helpful! Yes please post more terms! Even if we know some of the wordings; it’s great to read the info again! Thank you for taking the time to teach us! Have a happy Christmas! Koko:)

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