If you decided to read this article, you are probably one of the two:
a) You have no access to a saw and need to cut some wood
b) You are just curious to see which other options of cutting wood there are
Whichever group you are a part of, this article will hopefully answer all your questions. Granted, a saw is probably the best tool for cutting wood, whether it be a miter saw, chainsaw or the good old back saw. After all, it is why it was invented.
But there will always be situations where you either can’t use a saw, or you don’t want to. In this article, I will talk about some of the most popular ways to cut wood without a saw.
Some are pretty popular and used often, while others are very peculiar you and I will probably never use them. Still, they are good to know, if only to surprise your friends with the knowledge.
Remember the good old times when people used actually to work hard to cut a piece of wood? From where I’m from, we still use the old-fashioned Axe and prefer it over Saw in the first place. The good thing about using ax is that it has dual benefits. First, you get the job done of cutting woods, and secondly, and most importantly you end up exercising your body at the same time.
The thing about using ax is that it requires technique. A precise and consistent cut is what makes an ax most efficient. But, even if you don’t have the best skills, you can make up for that with good sharpness of the ax. A well-sharpened ax can help you to cut down any wood irrespective of its thickness. The only factor you have to be aware of is its time consumption aspect and the amount of hard work involved in it.
Now, when you proceed to use the Axe for cutting wood, you must first draw or set a line of reference along which you intend to cut the wood. After doing that proceed to cut the wood into small parts as close to the reference line as possible. Remember that consistent hit or blow on the same place is the key to cut the wood with minimal stress and ease. Repeat the same thing continuously until you cover the whole wood surface.
Once you have covered one side of the wood, repeat the same procedure on the other end of the wood. Repeat this process multiple times till the wood becomes weak and breaks (in almost equal proportion)
You will need to repeat the same procedure over and over again depending on the thickness of the wood you’re cutting. The more the thickness of the wood, the more time you will have to repeat this step.
Once the wood breaks under the force of your ax, you can use the same for trimming the edges of the wood. But, machetes or anything smaller and lighter is better for good trimming, especially if you are working on a home furniture DIY.
A knife is something that most people don’t relate to cutting woods. The problem is that people often limit the application of knife due to its small size. But, with a properly sharpened knife, you can easily use it for cutting wood. But, keep in mind that this will be limited to thin-sized wood. For example: if you have a long piece of wood that exceeds more than what you require, you can use your well-sharpened knife to cut that small extra length (on the thinner edge)
There are various methods you can approach to cut wood using a well-sharpened knife. One of the simplest methods is the “Slanting technique.” This technique involves cutting the wood firmly while holding the part of the wood which you need to cut. This created a kind of a slanted angle to allow you to cut the wood more comfortably and with minimal difficulty.
After cutting the wood, you can then trim the rough edge’s using the same knife for better consistency and smooth finishing
There is another method where you can cut the wood from all side using a reference line (same as what you do for ax). Once you have made significant cuts around the entire line of the wood, and it’s relatively easier to break, you can snap it using your hands. This, of course, will produce rougher edges, and you would need to spend a significant amount of time in trimming the rough edges.
Using the knife for cutting wood works well with thin wood that you would need for small DIY projects, or even for adding minor details to your home improvement furniture DIY’S
Like ax, Machete is also one of those wood cutting tools that are preferred ahead of Saw in many areas. Machetes are lighter and give you more flexibility and control over the wood cutting process. Most Carpenters, in particular, prioritize using Machete because of their capability to cut wood of any thickness. It is also more useful and efficient for cutting raw woods. Similar to Axe, using Machete for cutting wood also acts as a good exercising technique as it requires a good deal of your upper body strength to execute it correctly.
A well-sharpened machete can be used for cutting any thickness of wood, but traditionally carpenters use it for cutting low-medium sized thickness of the wood. This is mainly because of the time-consuming factor.
For cutting wood with a machete, there are several ways you can approach. The simplest method is identical to the “knife method.” You first make a line of reference around the wood where you want to make the cut. But, unlike the knife, you don’t have to hold the part of the wood you don’t require since you are dealing with significantly larger wood. You can then use your machete to cut small bits around the line. Do this until the wood becomes weak and easy to break. You can either use the machete of your foot to break the wood after it becomes weak. After that, you can use the machete to trim off the rough edges as well.
Another method you can approach is the slanted cut. If you can execute this properly, this method is quicker and more efficient. This technique requires you to keep the wood in a slanted position. You can do this by resting the part of the wood which you need to cut against a larger piece of wood (or anything elevated). As usual, you mark a line of reference around the wood where you intend to cut the wood. You then proceed to make the cut along the line using your machete, only this time you don’t make small cut bits. Instead, try to land a solid blow on the line (it’s ok to deviate a bit from the line). After that, you make a slanted cut above the line where you have already made the cut (remember to make the slanted cut on the part of the wood that you don’t need). If done correctly, this will take out a huge chunk of wood. You only need to do this twice or thrice (depending on the precision) before the wood breaks.
As absurd as this may sound, you can use drilling machine to cut wood as well. Although this may be highly uncommon, you can use your drilling machine if you don’t have any other alternatives available at your disposal. Using drilling machine is pretty much a straightforward technique. There’s only so much you can do with a machine that makes small holes on the wood.
Using drilling machine is most suitable to flat-surfaced wood since that provides a good and stable surface for you to make perforations along the line.
For using drilling machine, you first make a line of reference along the wood where you want to make the punctures. After doing that you simply make perforations along the line until you reach the end of it. This will make the wood weak and easy to break.
This method may produce a lot of irregularities, and it is also time-consuming. Also, you can’t use your drill to trim out the rough edges, so use a machete (or any tools depending on your convenience) for this purpose
Chisel & Hammer
Chisel is again another alternate tool that you can use for cutting wood. Chisel, in particular, is a special tool that Carpenters use to make minor and accurate cuts on the wood for any home furniture DIY projects. But, you can use it for cutting out the whole wood as well, if you don’t have a saw at your disposal.
The first thing that you would need is a chisel with a sharp edge. Most Carpenters keep their chisel sharpness at an absurd level to help them make those small cuts accurately. Also, if you do it correctly, using Chisel produces less rough edges allowing you to eliminate the need to trim the edges by a good amount.
You will also require a hammer if you want to use the Chisel. However, you can replace Hammer with any heavy objects that can land a significant blow to aid the Chisel.
Find a good and uniform surface to keep the piece of wood you need to cut. Just as a precautionary measure, remember to keep the “bevel side” up and the sharp edge side on the wood (some people, apparently). The Chisel should be held in an elevated manner, and NOT in a perpendicular angle (90 degrees). The most suitable angle would be between 16-20 degrees.
Once you have done that, hold the chisel firmly and steadily with your submissive (left/right) hand, while holding the Hammer with your dominant hand (left/right). Using the Hammer, make repeated blows to the bevel side of the Chisel. Lever it up to clean out the chipped wood as a result of the repeated blows.
You can then trim out the rough surface or the edges using the same technique, but with lighter blows.
Another tool that every Carpenter’s have on their toolkits is “Plane.” When you think of a plane for cutting wood, don’t think of the traditional “Cut” where you need to break the wood eventually. The application of plane comes in the form of trimming out the entire surface of the wood. So, if there is a situation when you are working on your home furniture DIY, and the wood seems “too thick,” you can use Plane to thin out the surface and the entire wood as a result.
For using the Plane at optimal efficiency, you have to make sure that the blade of the Plane (which lies below the plane) is properly sharpened. After that, the next most crucial thing is to adjust the “dept wheel” which will depend on the depth of the wood you need to remove.
Once you have made the adjustments, you can then proceed to thin out the surface by moving your Plane along the surface of the wood. The last and probably the most crucial factor involved in using Plane is to sweep it “along the grain.” If you don’t move it along the grain, you will just end up destroying the integrity of the wood, and it becomes more than useless once that happens.
These are only six of the many alternatives available for cutting wood without a Saw. When you are working with home improvement DIY’S, you need to be aware of all the types of equipment that you can use. All the above tools have their specific applications, so you need to determine where to use what. Remember, knowing how to use various tools will always give you more flexibility and increases your work efficiency by a significant amount, as opposed to relying only on one particular tool.