My woodworing ideas and tips #6: Marking and cutting

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 07-05-2008 08:58 PM 1646 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Measuring thoughts Part 6 of My woodworing ideas and tips series Part 7: The lowly butt joint »

OK – this is probably going to be very simplistic at best for most, if not all, of you. But I’m really trying to keep my head in the woodworking game.

I’m thankful for the support my fellow LJ’s have been giving me by reading and responding to my blogs.

So onto today’s “tip.” As we all know making/marking a line to use as a guide to cut your board to final length is quite important. If you don’t mark the piece, you have no idea or are just guessing where to cut.

I use a Sharpie to mark out my rough cuts. Some folks use chalk. But I don’t like chalk just because it’s messy and reminds me of Mrs. Walker and her obsessive compulsive need to have a student every morning and every afternoon to clean her chalk erasers. Soooo I have a deep seated aversion to chalk. :-)—- Actually while the Mrs. Walker story is true, I just don’t use chalk. The Sharpie is just more convenient for me.


For my actual cut line I like two methods. A plain pencil line. I make a mark at the end of the square (or at the mark I’m using with a tape).


Then I flip the square around and place my pencil tip onto the line.


Then I slide my square up to the pencil and make my mark.



Another method is to use a marking knife.


A utility knife, like what I used here – is ok—- but a marking knife is a better option. I just could not find my marking knife to do this little tip blog.

When I use a marking knife to score a line I like to use this little tip I learned in a class. Because the scored line is essentially a “knife wall” you can use a chisel to make a “trough” to place your saw blade into before you cut.

I had to blacken out the chip for it to show up in the picture.


You can now use this chipped out portion to slide into the tooth of the blade and you’ll get a perfect cut every time.


Now onto the argument about cutting on the line, on the left of the line or to the right of the line. Take the pencil line or leave it. We woodworkers sure have a lot of questions. Well here is the definitive answer (ain’t I humble??) I take the line—- almost. I like to leave just a hair of the line.

OK – that’s all I can muster today. I hope it’s not to simplistic and maybe just a scooch helpful to someone.

Good health and happy sawdust making to you.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

15 comments so far

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3784 days

#1 posted 07-05-2008 09:08 PM

Thanks, Betsy!

I never knew about the chisel trick!

Tips, Pictures, Demonstrations and Typing- all left handed. Ahh! a woman of so many talents. :>)


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Callum Kendall's profile

Callum Kendall

1918 posts in 3732 days

#2 posted 07-05-2008 09:22 PM

Great idea!

Thanks for the post


-- For wood working podcasts with a twist check out

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3968 days

#3 posted 07-05-2008 09:44 PM

I’m glad I’ve finally got a definitive answer on cutting to the line. Thank you Betsy I do believe you’ve saved my marriage. ;-)

The rest is good. It’s worth the while to have a collection of this information for reference.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3925 days

#4 posted 07-05-2008 09:59 PM

Lew – not so much talent – just desperation to stay connected to my woodworking obsession.

Russell – now I’m a marriage saver – need to update my resume!

Thanks for reading AND responding!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Sac's profile


268 posts in 3662 days

#5 posted 07-05-2008 10:14 PM

Good Post Betsy. I like the pencil as well. I have chalk from years ago. The pencil to me makes a more definitive line to follow. I’ve never thought about a sharpie for rough cuts. Good Idea. I’ll have to go look at a marking knife. I’ve never used one. Personally I don’t care for utility knives for marking My line always seems to jump off on a grain line. But that’s just me. I have been cutting to leave some of the line. But if I am not carefull I’ll cut the wrong side of the pencil hairline. So your post has just told me I need to start marking an X on the cut side.

Thanks for the tips Betsy. I’ve been waiting for this follow up from the last.

-- Jerry

View Suliman Syria 's profile

Suliman Syria

424 posts in 3833 days

#6 posted 07-05-2008 10:19 PM

Clevar idea !

-- Suliman , Syria, jablah ,

View Allison's profile


819 posts in 3828 days

#7 posted 07-06-2008 05:05 AM

I am in total agreement myself, I do not like chalk. I too try to just go down the middle of the line. I never have been good at one side or the other. It’s like a passion for me, I want to see a bit of the line on both sides. Betsy, Do you suppose that’s a girl thing?

-- Allison, Northeastern Ca. Remember, Amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic!

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3925 days

#8 posted 07-06-2008 05:31 AM

Actually Allison—- I only want to see a smidge of the pencil line on one side of the blade (the good side not the waste side). Being able to see only a tiny bit allows me to know that I’ve not taken off too much and that my piece will not be short. I can then tweek it if necessary. If I leave the mark on the waste side then I know my board will be too short and I have to start over.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View romansfivefive's profile


302 posts in 3802 days

#9 posted 07-06-2008 03:06 PM

I learned so much thanks

-- The CNC machine can either produce the work of art you imagined, or very decorative firewood.

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3797 days

#10 posted 07-06-2008 03:37 PM

thanks for the post betsy! i really like the chisel trick, i might have to try it out sometime!

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3903 days

#11 posted 07-06-2008 06:34 PM

Woa Betsy, you’re gettin’ a little close to that power tool!

I’d never heard the chisel trick before either. Thanks.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3925 days

#12 posted 07-06-2008 07:01 PM

It felt good being that close to my chop saw Blake. But what you can’t see is that it’s unplugged. Unfortunately for me, it will be at least the Fall before I can plug it back in. Hence I’m writing these little tips to keep my head in the game.


-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View moshel's profile


865 posts in 3712 days

#13 posted 07-14-2008 11:56 AM

Thanks Betsy for the post. as for the chisel trick, i saw somewhere that when cutting with hand saw, you can use the same trick along the line of cut (end grain cut) and make a very easy to follow “tunnel”. not sure but i think it was in wood whisperer video.

-- The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep...

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 3869 days

#14 posted 07-14-2008 12:08 PM

I am enjoying your posts, you do a good job with explaining things.

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3925 days

#15 posted 07-16-2008 02:43 AM

Thanks Ed—I try hard.

Moshel—- I’ve seen the same thing with a saw. It works well.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

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