How to Use Your Band Saw to Make Book Matched Decorative Panels
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A beautiful decorative panel book matched on the band saw Beautiful decorative panel created by book-matching

At its essence, creating a book-match means resawing through the thickness of a board. Once the cut is complete and you’ve opened the two pieces, like a book, the grain on each of the two cut faces will almost perfectly mirror one another.

I’ve used book-matched panels on a number of projects. On a small scale, they make great jewelry box lids, but if you own a saw with enough resaw capacity you can create book-matches on a larger scale. I’ve produced book-matched door panels, for instance, and used them on adjacent doors, so each is the mirror of the other. It’s a striking effect. I’ve also created tabletops from book-matched pieces.

The band saw is just the tool for resawing a book-match. You’ll need a resaw fence and, with a few simple setup tips, you’ll be cutting like a pro.

Setting Up the Saw
Prepping the band saw to make decorative panels with a wide band saw blade Prepping the Band Saw for book-matching decorative panels with a wide band saw blade

Before you start cutting, the first thing to do is make sure your band saw is properly set up for resawing. If you plan on cutting fairly wide boards, you’ll need a saw with plenty of capacity.

The general rule with resawing is, “the wider the blade, the better.” I prefer a blade that’s at least 1/2" wide. The blade you select should also have an aggressive tooth pattern with no more than 3 or 4 teeth per inch (tpi). With your blade installed, you’ll want to check the blade tension and tracking and confirm that the table is perfectly perpendicular to the blade.

Reflecting on the Book-match
Looking at wood with a mirror to see what it would look like after book matching. Holding a mirror up to your board to get an idea of what it will look like as a book match.

Selecting your stock is the next step, and when you’re book-matching, there’s a nice little “preview” trick you can try. Want to see what the book-match will actually look like before you ever make a cut? Hold a mirror at the edge of the candidate board, as shown above, and you’ll see the mirror image of the face grain. This gives you a very good idea of what your book-match will look like after resawing.

Marking Your Cut
Marking the cut for book matched decorative panels. Using an adjustable square to make a line down the center of your board and mark the cut for the book match.

Now that your saw is all set and you’ve used the mirror trick to select a board that will best show off your book-matching efforts, it’s time to move on to the cut and split your board into two pieces. Before you actually start cutting, use a small combination square to help you draw a line down the center of your board, as shown in the photo.

Setting the Fence
Setting the single point fence in preparation for cutting the book matched decorative panels. Positioning the fence in preparation to make the cut that will create the book match.

I like using a single-point fence for my resawing operations. This type of fence allows a woodworker to make slight corrections for blade drift during the cut — adjustments that would be impossible with a regular fence.

Set the fence on the band saw table and hold the board you intend to resaw against the fence. The “point” of the fence should be 1/4" in front of the blade so the board contacts the fence before the blade. Next, use the line you marked on the edge of your board to set the distance from the blade to the fence. Clamp the fence in place with your line centered on the blade.

Making the Cut
Using the band saw to resaw the board into two book matched decorative panels Using the band saw to resaw the board and make two book matched decorative panels.

Resaw the board by holding it against the fence and gently pushing it into the band saw blade. I recommend using a push pad, instead of your hand, to hold the board tight to the fence. Gently guide the board so the blade remains centered on the pencil line throughout the cut. As you near the end of the board, you should switch your hand positions to pull the board past the blade instead of pushing it. This keeps your hands well clear of the cutting path of the blade.

Assembling and Finishing the Bookmatch
Clamping and gluing the cut boards together to finish making the book matched decorative panels Gluing the boards together to complete the book matching project.

If you’ll be using your book-matched pieces as one wide panel, you’ll need to glue them together, as shown in the top photo, this page. If the assembled panel will be wider than your planer, plane off the band saw marks before gluing the panel together. Carefully joint the soon-to-be-glued edges so you have a nice, nearly invisible seam.

With a little finish, your book-match will really “pop.” Many people will look at it and wonder how you created such a beautiful mirror image.

posted on February 1, 2009 by George Vondriska
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