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cutting faux wood beams

Helpful Tip Tuesday - Making the Cut

Helpful Tip Tuesday - Making the Cut One of the great features of faux wood beams is how easy they are to cut and shape. You don't need specialized saws or blades. Heck, you could do the entire project with a paring knife if you had to. You can cut the polyurethane beams with all the same tools you use to cut wood (plus one or two that you wouldn't normally use for woodworking). Here are the most common options. Important: As you know, saws cut things (including flesh and bone) and spew stuff everywhere (including your face and eyes). Use blade guards. Wear safety glasses. Stay alert. Stationary Power Tools A power miter saw (chop saw) is a great tool for making fast, perfect cuts. But that's only if your saw is big enough for your beams. Even a big 12-inch sliding saw runs out of capacity when you're working with larger beams.   A table saw lets you cut any beam to size, one side at a time. But you need skill and concentration to move a big beam smoothly through a small blade. You'll need a steady-handed helper to support longer beams as you cut them. Use a miter gauge extension to help you hold the beam square as you cut it; a brief slip can make a nasty gouge in your smooth cut. If you do need to rip a beam to a smaller height, it's the perfect tool for that chore.   A bandsaw can work well for trimming the end of a short beam, either square or at an angle. Trying to control a long beam would be a challenge.     Portable Power Tools Bringing the saw to the beam is often easier than bringing the beam to the saw. The bigger the beam, the truer this is. A circular saw works very well for straight, smooth beam cutting -- especially a lightweight model that's easy to handle. As with a table saw, you can cut any size beam by cutting each side individually. And for bulky beams it's a better tool than a table saw, since the big beam can sit stationary while you handle the small saw. Use a Speed Square or similar tool to guide the saw for perfectly straight cuts.   A jigsaw is an exceptionally versatile tool for all kinds of beam cutting. You can use it to cut any size beam to length, using a wide blade and a Speed Square to help keep the cuts straight. Beyond that, you can use it for cuts that none of the other saws we've mentioned can do. Cut an irregular line to fit against a surface like brick or stone. Cut a hole to fit over an electrical box. Cut a notch to fit around an obstacle. If I had to choose just one do-it-all tool, I'd pick a jigsaw. Hand Tools But you don't need lots of power to cut faux beams, and hand tools can do an excellent job without a lot of sweat. A fine-tooth handsaw can cut a beam to size in short order. You can attack the cut in two ways. One is to start with the beam open-side-down on your work table, and cut straight through starting at a corner. This takes some skill in starting straight and following the lines around all three sides of the beam. The other approach is to start with the beam open-side-up. Cut through one leg of the U, then through the other leg from the other side, and finally through the third side, using the first cuts to guide the saw the rest of the way. A hacksaw can also work well. It makes a smooth cut, and you might find its narrow blade easier to control than a handsaw. You work around its limited cut depth by proceeding from one side to the next around the beam. Use a fairly coarse blade (14-18 teeth per inch) for best cutting.     Sawing faux beams is really a piece of cake, any way you slice it.