If you are a woodworking enthusiast, hobbyist, or even a beginner, cutting wood will almost always be a part of your project. There are power tools and hand tools for this purpose, and how and what you cut will depend on the project. But, you can count on cutting on virtually any and all project.
Among the terms you’ll encounter in your woodworking experience are cross cutting and rip cutting, and it’s important to understand the difference between them and the difference between saws, blades, and teeth appropriate to each. We’ll help you sort them out in this piece.
We’ve done our best to describe these differences. But we also went the extra distance to find a couple of helpful videos that bring the descriptions home.
What Is The Difference Between a Cross Cut and a Rip Cut?
These types of cuts are the two you will make in your woodworking shop. The saw you use, the saw’s teeth per inch, smaller and larger teeth, and the direction of the cut as regards the wood grain are the distinguishing features of a cross-cut and a rip cut.
A rip cut, by definition, is a cut with the grain of the wood. With a rip cut, you are making the bundle of wood fibers narrower. Rip cuts are the most common cuts you will make on your table saw, cutting a wider piece of wood into a smaller piece of wood. The fence on the table saw is indispensable when ripping your board.
A cross-cut is a cut against the grain of the wood. After you’ve ripped the board into a smaller piece, you’ll cut it across the grain to the dimension called for in your project.
As an example, you have a 1″ x 6″ board six feet in length, and your project calls for two boards three feet in length and 1″ x 3″ in dimension. You’ll rip the 1″ x 6″ in half to produce your 1″ x 3″ dimension (we’ll make this easy and disregard the kerf for this example), and then crosscut that piece in half for your two 3′ pieces.
The first cut, the rip cut, is with the grain; the second two cuts are cross-cut against the grain. A high tooth count table saw blade can take care of this task for you easily. Thinner blades with that high tooth count blade can take care of this for you.
Do Blade Teeth Matter in Making Cross Cuts and Rip Cuts?
Yes, they do, depending on the saw (hand or power) you will be using.
- Cross Cut Teeth. They are designed specifically for cutting across the grain. Their tooth configuration and angle are different from rip cut blades and are sharpened differently as well. Their edges are angled, almost pyramid-like, with the sharpened side alternating between teeth. This crosscut saw tooth pattern is what makes them effective in cutting across the grain. A crosscut blade, then, is very different from a rip-cut blade and actually saws, or cuts, through the wood fibers and is likely to have larger teeth.
- Rip Cut Teeth. The rip teeth do not have angled edges and work more like chisels chipping through the wood rather than slicing through it. Rip cuts run with the grain and are simply making the wood fibers thinner, as mentioned earlier. The teeth tend to be smaller and are sharp uniformly.
- Hybrid Teeth. While traditionally saws had either cross-cut teeth or rip-cut teeth, today, it is possible to purchase a dual-purpose saw – one that is manufactured to cut in any direction, whether with or against the grain. In fact, they are mostly standard on hand saws today. While each manufacturer will label them differently – universal, or general-purpose, or as we have called them, hybrid – they all do the same cutting.
Cross Cuts and Rip Cuts in Videos
Words are an imperfect method of communication, and fortunately, they are not the only medium available today. So we searched for helpful videos so you wouldn’t have to and found a few that we thought would work well in this piece.
Closeups on the teeth of cross-cut and rip-cut hand saws, very well done, and with demos.
The second one, in particular, is especially helpful in showing the tooth configurations on the two types of blades and how to sharpen them. He also gives a good demonstration with a small piece of 2 x 4 to, if you’ll excuse the expression, hammer home the points. (see what we did there?)
As we noted at the outset, you’ll be doing both ripping and cross-cutting in your shop. It’s always a good idea to know which tool to use for the job, and now you know each of these cuts and the tools to use for them.