Here’s the Difference Between a Cross Cut and a Rip Cut

A carpenter preparing to rip a 2x4 board.

Two primary cuts are used in carpentry, forestry, and woodworking: cross cut and rip cut. These terms are often confused, and beginners often struggle to remember the difference.

This article will give you the information you need to know about each one.

What is a cross cut? A cross cut is made perpendicular to or across the grain of the wood. A cross cut always results in a shorter piece of wood. This is opposed to a rip cut, which runs parallel or with the grain of the wood, resulting in a narrower piece of wood. Cross cuts can be made with either hand or power tools.

Keep reading to learn when the different cuts are used, which tools are best for each, and how to perform each one.

Cross Cut vs. Rip Cut

The cross cut and the rip cut each have their uses, tools, and best practices. It’s necessary to know the difference between them and be familiar with the best tool for the job. 

Understanding the Cross Cut

As stated above, a cross cut is a cut that goes across the grain of the wood. It’s easy to remember the direction of this cut because it is in the name: a cross cut.

Your saw blade will run perpendicular to the grain of the wood on a cross cut.

Applications

Cutting down trees is an example of using a cross cut. People who work in forestry use this type of cut most often for felling trees, cutting tree trunks into shorter pieces, and trimming smaller branches from the tree.

In carpentry, a cross cut would be used for shortening a piece of lumber.

For example, it is common for a house builder to measure and use a cross cut to create specified lengths of lumber for wall studs and headers.

What a Cross Cut Blade Looks Like

The blade of a cross cut saw has teeth angled in an alternating pattern. The inside edge of the teeth is beveled.

Making a cross cut is rougher than a rip cut, so the teeth of the cross-cutting blade have various angles and are higher in quantity.

Types of Cross-Cutting Saws

There are five main types of cross-cutting saws:

  1. Hand saw: these have either a single handle for one person to use or handles on both ends for two people.
  2. Chain saw: manual, gas powered, electric, or battery powered
  3. Circular saw: portable, electric or battery powered, hand held, with a circular blade
  4. Miter saw: electric powered, stationary base with a platform to place the piece of wood on and a circular blade mounted to an arm that pivots down to cut the wood.
  5. Table saw: a table with a stationary electric-powered circular blade. 

Graphic detailing cross cut vs. rip cut.

Understanding the Rip Cut

A rip cut runs in the same direction as the grain of the wood. Your saw blade will run parallel to the grain.

Applications

A rip cut is the type of cut used in a sawmill. In forestry, the tree is cut down and shortened to a specific length with a cross cut and then narrowed to the appropriate width with a rip cut. 

For example, a 2 x 8 wall stud for a house was cut 2 inches wide with a rip cut. 

What a Rip Cut Blade Looks Like

It is more challenging to make a cross cut than a rip cut, so the blade for rip cutting acts more like a chisel.

The teeth on a rip-cutting blade have more space between them to remove more remnants.

The edges of the teeth on a rip cut saw blade are flat, not beveled like on a cross cut blade, and they run in the same direction versus alternating.

Types of Rip-Cutting Saws

The table saw is the most common tool used for making a rip cut.

Hand saws and circular saws can also have rip-cutting blades. In addition, a jig saw can be used for making a rip cut, but jig saws are most commonly used for making curved cuts.

Best Ways To Make a Cross Cut

A cross cut can be made quickly with a miter saw, the most common tool for this type of cut. (Dewalt is an excellent brand if you’re considering purchasing a miter saw.)

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Simply place the piece of lumber on the platform, turn the blade on, and use the handle to pull it down and cut through the wood.

Another way to make a cross cut is to use a circular saw. Since the circular saw is hand held, operating it for a cross cut requires slightly more coordination.

For this method, you would place the piece of wood on a platform like a table or a sawhorse, hold it firmly with one hand while holding and operating the saw with the other hand to cut through the wood. 

A hand saw or chain saw can be used in much the same way. The miter and the circular saws are electric powered, and both are commonly used for making a cross cut. 

A table saw can also be used to make a cross cut but is not usually the go-to tool for this if one of the other two is handy.

A table saw is stationary like a miter saw, but the platform is a table, and the saw blade is fixed in position. 

To use a table saw for a cross cut, you would line up the piece of wood with the saw blade, turn the blade on, and push the wood into the blade.

Best Ways To Make a Rip Cut

Table saws are the best tool for making a rip cut, especially if you’re working with a long piece of wood where accuracy is essential. (Here again, I recommend Dewalt.)

DEWALT Table Saw for Jobsite, Compact, 8-1/4-Inch...
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To use a table saw for a rip cut, be sure to use a miter gauge or a rip fence to guide the piece through. For safety, always use push sticks to push the wood toward the blade.

While it’s more of a chore to make an accurate rip cut with a hand-held circular saw, hand saw, or chain saw, it can be done.

With either of these tools, you would need to make sure the piece of wood is securely held with plenty of room for your body to move with it.

Related Questions:

How Do You Maintain a Cross Cut Saw?

A cross cut saw should be kept clean and sharpened by a professional with care taken to ensure the teeth on the blade are in tune (proper spacing, alignment, and shape of teeth).

In addition to sharpening, cross cut saws need to stay well oiled to prevent rust.

Can You Rip With a Cross Cut Blade?

A cross-cut blade should never be used for ripping. The debris from chipping away at the wood are highly dangerous and potentially fatal. 

Final Thoughts

Always remember that safety is crucial when using saws for either cut. Never cut corners with safety equipment and practices.

Be sure to refer to the tool’s safety guidelines, and never work while tired or impaired.

Last update on 2022-09-25 at 07:38 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Rich

Rich

I'm a hobby enthusiast with a real love for painting miniatures. I also happen to run this site and write the majority of its content!