Rip And Rotate


Some time ago I developed a process for obtaining rift and quarter-sawn stock from regular construction grade pine lumber; I called this process Rip And Rotate.  I have no doubt that I did not actually invent this process but I’ve never seen it described anywhere.

I want to make clear right up front that this is a LOT of work and this is NOT a process that I generally recommend.  I do however receive a fair amount of questions from folks who want to know where I get clear pine or want to know what the process is.

There are three reasons that I go to all the trouble to go through this process:

  1. Two-by lumber is cheap, even cheap hardwood goes for about $2.50 a board foot in ” thickness.  This process yields lumber at less than 1/2 that cost.  If I had a cheap source of hardwood lumber I would probably not do this.
  2. I like the look of clear coated, knot-free, rift-sawn pine.
  3. I can make “boards” in whatever thickness I desire.

To make this process work you’ll need the following:

  1. Tablesaw, the use of a splitter or riving knife is highly recommended; a thin-kerf RIP blade is also recommended.
  2. Planer.
  3. Jointer (not absolutely required).
  4. Clamps.
  5. Preferably a dust collection system.

I use the lumber from this process primarily for shop cabinets and some simple furniture items.  One could potentially use it in a complicated furniture project but the high moisture content would make that a little risky.

Here is the sequence for the R&R process:

Step 1:
Select stock with a grain pattern that when viewed on end looks fairly flat, this will yield more "straight" rift-sawn grain patterns later in the process.  Tighter grain is better also.  I usually buy 10’ long 2x10’s, or sometimes 2x12’s from Menards.  I’ve found them to be of pretty good quality and at this size they are all Yellow Pine; I don’t think “whitewood” (as it’s called) would be a good choice for this process.  When I’m buying this stuff I’ll buy 10-20 boards at a time.

Step 2:
Lop off the 2x stock in convenient to work with lengths.  This is dictated by your project but you'll want these lengths to be 2 to 4 inches longer than the finished length requirement.  There is a fair bit of estimation going on here to end up with the desired footage of stock for the project at hand.

Step 3.
You'll want to use a rip blade and some type of splitter in your saw.  This 2x lumber has a strong tendency to warp especially on the first cut down the middle.  A splitter will significantly increase the safety of this operation.  A thin kerf rip blade just makes it go faster and easier.  The blade should be an inch or more above the stock when cutting to help avoid kick-back.

Step 4.
Determine where a good ~1/2 way point will be for a rip and do it.  This is done to make the stock fit on a jointer unless you have a 12" unit.  This step and the next jointer one are optional but it does make the process a little easier since you begin with mostly straight and flat stock.

Step 5.
Joint one face of the stock.

Step 6.
Plane the stock to a uniform thickness.  This is critical because these planed surfaces will become the mating edges of the glued up boards.

Step 7.
Pick one edge of each board and joint it.  This is for the rip fence reference, this step is optional.

Starting Board starting Board On-End
This is a top view of a selected board at the Step 2 stage of the process.

This is the same board shown on-end.

Step 8.
You should now have a bunch of boards about 1 3/8" thick.  You should have done some planning to know the different rough stock thicknesses you'll need in your project.  Based upon your planning, you'll need to do a BUNCH of rip cuts to the stock.  If for example your project calls for some 5/8" thick panels, you'll want to make enough rips of 7/8" to 3/4" wide in order glue then up for these panels.  The exact dimension of this rough width depends upon how straight the glue-up is.  I've done this a few times so I make this only 1/8" oversize; allow for more if uncertain.

Ripped Board Ripped Board On-End
This is the same board as above after Step 8.  The strips are pushed together to show the grain pattern obtained after this  step.

This is the same board shown on end.

Step 9.
Sort all your (same thickness) rips for grain matching, this is the fun part of the process.  Basically what you'll get is a whole bunch if sticks to edge-glue together.  I sort all the lower grade sticks to one end, these usually become the "extra" stock but as you can see from this example, there would be a fair amount of clear even in these "bad" sticks.

This sorting will allow you to control the grain patterns and cull out any knots or otherwise low grade or problem sticks.

Sorted Sticks

Step 10.
Glue up the strips to form wider boards to whatever rough width you need.  I wipe the excess glue away using a wet rag, there will be a LOT of glue.  If you don't have two or three bottles of glue you'll need to get it.  All the normal procedures for glue-ups will apply; the difference will be that there are many more boards than normal in this case.  Combine that with slippery glue any you are guaranteed to have a big mess and a lot of frantic clamp action on your part.


Step 11.
Let the glue ups sit at least a day before doing any thicknessing; a few days sitting idle wouldn’t hurt.

Step 12.
Plane the glue-ups to the desired finished thickness.  At this point you are actually at the "normal" part of your project.  What you’ll have here is a bunch of rift-sawn pine boards of varying grades (controlled by you).

Again, as you can see this is a lot of work, I don't recommend this process unless you really want the look it gives you.  If you have the tools and your shop is set up ready-to-go then it isn't really that big of a deal.   The process takes me anywhere from 2 - 4 hours per 30 square feet.  It also generates a mountain of chips.