American Basswood trees can grow anywhere between 60 to 80 feet tall (that’s around 18 to 24 meters high).
That is a lot of lumber. Certainly a lot more than the small basswood blocks you are used to carving with.
Basswood blocks come in a range of sizes for whittling and woodcarving. But, what do you do when that block is too big to work with?
In short, how do you cut basswood strips down to size?
If you want to manually cut basswood, you can use a coping saw that has a fine toothed edge. Alternatively, you can use a band saw (with a fence) to cut your basswood blocks. And, if you want to save yourself time, you can order basswood strips that are precut to size.
But, if purchasing precut strips aren’t an option, what do you need to consider? Well, keep reading to find out…
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What Is The Easiest Wood To Cut By Hand?
Generally, softer woods are easier to carve.
White Pine, for example, has a Janka hardness rating of 420. This means that this Pine wood type is relatively soft – making it a popular choice of lumber for woodcarving.
Basswood sits right behind White Pine on the Janka scale. It’s soft texture registers a Janka hardness rating of 410.
What Is A Janka Rating? The Janka Rating is a scale that measures how much impact a piece of wood can take. Wood types that are very durable, (and can withstand a lot of punishment), have high Janka ratings. For example, Black Walnut has a Janka rating of 1010.
How To Cut Basswood Strips
Use a Band Saw
Band saws are power tools that take all of the hard work out of sawing. But, this high powered saw can potentially rip through Basswood.
So, when you use a band saw on Basswood, try using cross-cuts (cutting across the grain), rather than rip cuts. This will help to reduce the chances of the wood splitting along the grain.
Now, while using a band saw on Basswood is the first option that comes to mind, it is still a bit of a pricey solution.
These workshop tools aren’t exactly cheap. And even a decent mid-priced band saw can cost upwards of a few hundred dollars.
Still, the WEN 9 inch Benchtop Band Saw is surprisingly affordable. And with its compact size – and a handle for portability – it fits perfectly into any sized workshop.
Also, if you are going to use a band saw, then you will need a good fence to help you accurately cut with precision.
So, learn how to make a fence for a 9 inch band saw by checking out Eric Sorenson’s quick tutorial below:
Use A Coping Saw
Sawing through basswood manually is going to take a fair bit of time. So, a coping saw is best used on those small projects that only need a block or two of Basswood. But if you plan on cutting a lot of wood pieces, then using a coping saw is going to get real old real quick.
Best advice when using a coping saw? Don’t attempt to cut through the wood quickly. Slow and steady needs to be your mantra when sawing through basswood.
So, you will want to cut through this timber by making numerous light-touch cuts in the same spot. Repeat that light slice over and over until you are all the way through.
To help you make those light cuts, you will need to use a saw that doesn’t add unnecessary additional downward pressure.
There are plenty of Steel Frame coping saws on the market. And while they are affordable, what you save in price now, you pay for in usability later on.
An Aluminum Frame coping saw is much lighter than steel frame saws. Plus, they have fewer twisting and tension related problems.
There’s no getting around it… aluminum frames cost more. However, the old saying about tools really does apply here; ‘If you buy a cheap tool, you’ll cry every time you use it. But if you buy a quality tool, you’ll only cry once.’
‘If you buy a cheap tool, you’ll cry every time you use it. But if you buy a quality tool, you’ll only cry once.’
So, one of the best aluminum coping saws on the market comes from ‘Knew Concepts’. It weighs a mere 9 ounces!
Use A Wood Cutting Service
Most hardware stores that sell lumber will offer pre-cutting services. This is where they will cut, plane, and size wood for free.
Lowe’s, for example, offer free wood cutting. Home Depot, will also cut your wood planks and boards to any size of your choice – at no extra cost.
Wherever you purchase your basswood from, ask if they will also cut the wood down to size for free.
You lose nothing by asking, and it could potentially save you a lot of time.
What Is TPI (And Why Does It Matter)?
One thing to bear in mind when purchasing a saw is its TPI (Teeth Per Inch) in comparison to the thickness of the wood you will be using it on.
The TPI of a saw (whether on a band saw or a coping saw) determines how well that tool can carve.
TPI measures the width, size, and depth of space between the teeth of the saw.
So, a saw with a very fine edge will have a high TPI. Whilst a tool with a low TPI can cut through very rough lumber.
And just why is TPI so important? Well, if you try to cut through thick wood with a fine saw, the saw will clog up.
Inversely, if you cut thin wood with a coarse toothed saw, the saw will cut through easily yet rip the grain apart.
So, when it comes to cutting Basswood, you’ll want to use a fine-toothed saw. These have more teeth per inch (i.e. higher TPI) which will make the job of sawing much smoother.
Can You Cut Basswood Without A Saw?
Yes, you can, but it very much depends on the thickness of the basswood.
If using a coping saw or band saw is not for you, then you could try using a Cricut Maker.
The Cricut is a cutting machine that can cut into a range of thin materials from leather to fabric, balsa wood and matboard.
More popularly used with Balsa wood, the Cricut can also carve its way through basswood.
But, it is worth noting here, that a Cricut Maker can only cut Basswood that is 1/32 inches or 1/16 inches thick.
So, if you’re stuck trying to figure out how to cut that basswood down, then;
- Use a lightweight coping saw to manually trim down basswood by using fine cuts.
- Alternatively, use a band saw to quickly and precisely cut basswood using a fence.
- When cutting basswood, always use saws that have a fine toothed edge.