Once the boards had acclimated, it was time to rough-dimension them. I have learned from hard experience that it’s better to make the initial rip cuts somewhat oversize, especially in flat-sawn stock. Boards with this grain orientation have a greater tendency to twist or bow when cut, and an oversize piece gives more room to correct this. Also, I prefer to rough-dimension stock prior to planing to final thickness. Wide boards often have some cup to them, and ripping them to near-final width means that less wood thickness has to be removed to flatten them.
I begin the process by doing a rough layout of the pieces required for the project, picking the best combination to give good grain, while avoiding any obvious trouble spots. I’d rather throw some stock away than include bad wood. Then, I crosscut to workable sizes. In this case, all the parts are going to be 3″ wide, and I picked stock in excess of 6″. Since all pieces were paired (I’m making two bents), I could crosscut and get two matching parts from each piece. Don’t forget to allow some extra length on each piece for later finish planing (snipe) and unexpected problems (end checking). Life isn’t always this simple but I’ll certainly take it when it is!
The next step is to get one reference edge on the board. Since these edges are rough, I start with a scrub plane set light, and then finish with the jointer plane. I’m not worried about a reference face yet – that will come after everything’s cut to rough width.
Now that I have a reference edge, I can lay out my rip cuts with a marking gauge, being extra-generous on this first pass. This was a good precaution, as you’ll see later.
Now for the hard part, ripping to rough width. A good, sharp rip saw is worth its weight in gold here. Mine is a 6.5 ppi Henry Wilson & Sons that I sharpened not too long ago. A coarser saw, 5 ppi or so, would make things go faster, but this one did well enough. I used my paired saw benches to support the opposite ends of the board, giving a sawing space between them. Fortunately, this was short stock. Any longer, and support of the ends would have been a problem. Oh yeah, that’s why I’m making these saw bents!
With the cuts completed, the boards go back on the bench for a look. Yep, as I feared, there was some bowing in some of the pieces. That will have to come out, but we’ll save that operation for next time. Stay tuned!