Uneven wood cuts prevent a clean, level, and square assembly in our woodworking projects. We know these are all essential to a stable, strong, and secure finished project, whether a desk, a chair, a table, shelving, cabinets, picture, window and door frames, baseboard trim, you name it.
- Stuff happens, and uneven cuts are one of those “stuff,” even for experienced woodworkers.
- There are remedies to fix uneven cuts, and they aren’t onerous or painful.
- The remedies can also become a part of your regular practice to keep all cuts even in the first place.
Clean, level, and square cuts and assembly simply give our projects a professional appearance and something in which we can take pride.
Experienced woodworkers understand this and have made enough cuts to know how to keep them straight. Yes, accidents do happen, and sometimes a cut on a piece of wood will be uneven, and we’ll know right away. But, it’s more often likely to be someone who hasn’t developed the cutting skills to get straight and even cuts.
Let’s see if we can help.
Some Causes of Uneven Cuts
Perhaps the piece of wood was not examined closely enough, and we find ourselves cutting a warped board. Sometimes that cutting surface was not the flat surface we thought it was when the cutting began; it is important to keep a board flat when cutting.
Perhaps our hand skills with a circular saw are not quite up to snuff, a bit unsteady, and the cut ends up going awry; or we were working with small pieces of wood with a circular saw, something we might recommend against as being somewhat dangerous even for an experienced woodworker.
These are some of the common causes of uneven cuts, yes. Sometimes the uneven cut is fatal to the piece or the project, especially when it is in a joint (think mortise and tenon, where the tenon’s fit needs to be tight to provide joint integrity).
Just as in basketball, where you can’t coach height, you can’t cut a too-small tenon bigger; the damage has already been done, and a new tenon needs to be cut to fit the mortise tightly. Filling a minor gap with glue might be enough if the gap is truly minor; a small shim might, along with glue, cure the cut, too.
However, if it’s a linear cut, no matter the span, it may not be fatal. There are remedies to recover rather than start all over again. In fact, and interestingly, some remedies also speak to steps you can take to make sure your future cuts are what you need them to be, and an uneven cut can be avoided.
Curing an Uneven Cut
No matter the cause, if you find your cut to be uneven and needing to be remedied to ensure a proper assembly, there are some curative measures that can even things out. While they may require some adjustment on other pieces of wood pre-assembly, they can still help result in a professional appearance upon completion.
Table Saw Fence
One of the benefits of a table saw is the fence, the guide against which your piece of wood will be pressed during the cutting process. The guide keeps the cut straight and true, assuming you have measured correctly and set the fence accordingly.
Perhaps the uneven cut symptom is just a little angle miscue at the tail end of the cut (if by hand or an unsteady circular cut). Set the fence to make a straight cut that will even out the piece, run it against the blade, and the uneven becomes even. While a miter saw might also do the trick, we prefer the table saw and a firm fence firmly set to the right measurement.
Similar to using the table saw to even out a bad cut, use a straight edge and your circular saw. Set the straight edge, whether it’s a long metal level or another piece of wood you’re sure is straight, and clamp it to your work surface. Run your circular saw against the edge of the guide along the uneven cut, removing only enough material to make the cut even.
Be sure to clamp the workpiece tightly, too, so it’s held in place. In professional kitchens, a wet towel beneath a wooden cutting board will hold the board in place; the same can be used in the woodworking shop to hold a workpiece in place, sort of a “belt and suspenders” measure, along with clamps, to make sure the board doesn’t move.
Plane (and simple)
Use a straight edge to mark the line needed to make an uneven cut even, and grab your hand plane. Remove enough material down to the line you’ve marked to make the cut even. While some of the bulletin boards we consulted mentioned using a rasp to bring the heavy end of an uneven cut-down, we find a plane the better professional tool to use in this instance. It’s easier to control and will do a better and smoother job.
A bit of sanding can complete the task, and the piece is ready to use.
A Combo Approach
A straight edge, some clamps, perhaps a wet towel, and a hand saw can do pretty much what the table saw remedy can do. The principle is the same, and for smaller work pieces, this might make more sense than firing up your table saw.
Video Demo With Table Saw Tricks To Get An Even Cut
We found a video that demonstrates the table saw gambit to make or cure cuts, and it’s pretty cool. We think it’s cool because we like the tongue-in-cheek approach taken by the videographer. His jig is kind of cute, and one any of us either have already or could have with a cut or two. You’ll see.
As we said, it’s not a fatal event, and projects can be salvaged. If you’ve had to make a correction to an uneven cut in one piece of a project, you might have to make an adjustment in the other pieces in order to achieve a solid, secure, and even assembly.
Keep this in mind, of course, but remember it’s likely to require only a few cuts to remove just a little bit of material to help that assembly come together well.
To avoid uneven cuts in the future, keep in mind the use of a jig, a straight edge, or a table saw and fence to make those cuts even in the first place. It’s a good practice and will save you from having to cure something down the line.