Gang-Cutting Perfect Blocks
Masking tape and a sharp knife are hard to beat for production precision
A gang-cutting method for cutting to make a batch of blocks of identical length from long strips of poplar.
Matt Jackson uses masking tape and a marking knife to make the process quick, simple, and accurate.
There are all sorts of stop-block systems out there that are great, but Matt likes this system because it is so quick.
The key to accuracy is consistency
The stock has been milled to identical width and thicknesses.
Equipment accuracy is also critical. Make sure your saw blade is perpendicular to the table both vertically and horizontally. The pivot/slide mechanism should be tight with no play in the movement.
Step by step:
- Assemble the strips of poplar into a bundle, two stacks of three, in this case, and roughly line up the ends of the blanks.
- Mark the length (8-7/8 in.) on one of the blanks. Matt marks 10 in. and 18-7/8 in. because he doesn't like fumbling with the end of the tape measure. He leaves an extra 3/4 inch at the end.
- Use masking tape to bind the bundles together (Scotch brand is strong and stretches well). Stretch the tape around as much as you can without tearing the tape.
- Wrap another layer of tape, so that the bundle will ride squarely against the miter saw fence.
- Add another wrap of tape to each end of the bundle.
- Cut the bundle at the mark making sure the bundle is flat of the table and tight against the fence.
- Double-check the second length mark and cut the bundle to length.
"It's no fun to make mistakes, even very accurate ones."
He uses that block as a pattern for more blocks of six.
- Use the pattern to mark the length onto a block of longer stock. A marking knife makes a crisp line, and a tail drew away from the cut line remind him which side of the line to cut.
- Add a strip of tape on each side of the mark.
- Cut on each side of the scribe line. The second cut yields an identical block of sticks.
- Cut a full-blade width kerf off the end of the offcut and measure the next block.
- But first, add another strip of tape so that the block rides flat against the fence, not tilted.
That covers the high points of Matt's gang-cutting method.
—Matt Jackson is a master carpenter, remodeler, SketchUp Wiz, YouTuber, and contributing editor to ProTradeCraft. He lives and works in Rapid City, South Dakota.