Kerf Cutting. How to Bend Wood with your Mind. I mean saw.

During my unscheduled hiatus I wasn’t a lump.  I cooked things, built things and ripped apart things.

I find manual labour soothing.  Measuring stuff, concentrating, contemplating the design of something.  Hitting things really, really hard with a hammer. All very soothing.

One of the things I focused my attention on was weaving a sort of round basket out of bamboo to cover up my garbage can and huge green bin.  This house has no hiding spots.  Nowhere to put things like garbage cans, snow blowers or bodies so that they’re out of view.

That’s why I had to build this cover for my recycling bins.

And that’s why I had to attempt this woven bamboo basket thing.  These were my materials.

Kerf Cut 10


It totally didn’t work.  Not even a little bit.  Apparently even though I was ready to do some manual labour my brain wasn’t.  I mean this basket thing I wove was a complete disaster.  If I were to do it again I’m sure I could get it to work but I can’t be bothered.  I’ll try something else eventually.  Maybe stack up all the neighbourhood cats on top of each other around my garbage cans.  Practical AND soft should you happen to fall into them.

However my time with the bamboo basket weaving wasn’t a complete write off.  The one and only thing about it that worked was my first attempt bending a piece of wood.   To make my garbage shield I had to bend the piece of wood you see at the bottom of my materials picture.

I was able to bend that piece of wood to 90 degrees by using a technique called kerf cutting.  And here’s how you do it …




Kerf (def)

Kerf refers to the width of cut a sawblade makes when it’s cut through wood.  When you’re cutting a board you have to allow for the width of the sawblade  and its teeth when you’re cutting.

Kerf cutting is making many kerf cuts (cuts the width of your sawblade) along a piece of wood.
Kerf Cut 1

Normally you would use a table saw to do this. It would be much more precise and much easier than doing it with a handsaw.  Even though I have access to a table saw, I figured many of you would not, so I wanted to see if kerf cutting was possible with a regular saw.
Kerf Cut 2

It is.
Kerf Cut 3

The most important thing about kerf cutting is making sure you cut through enough of the wood.  You need to get so close to the edge of the wood that it’s scary.  That you’re sure it’s too close and you’re going to cut your wood in half.
Kerf Cut 4

Once you have enough cuts for the amount you want the wood to bend, you cross your fingers, make an “I’m scared” face and start bending.  If the wood seems to be resisting, you haven’t cut through far enough.
Kerf Cut 7


At this point you should be able to bend the wood the same way you can bend a bendable straw.
Kerf Cut 9


It looks good, it worked, I’m pleased.
Kerf Cut 5

Now if it were only large enough to cover a garbage can I’d be set.


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  1. Lindy says:

    We would buy your book Karen even if you just compiled every post you have done to date!!!! That is how much we enjoy your verve in life and the joy of experimenting. Your writing skills are not too shabby either. with love for The Art of Doing Stuff,


  2. puspendu says:

    This is really nice post. This post has really impress me through its quality writing. In this article i watch some new writing style which is really nice. So thanks for sharing such a awesome post.

  3. ryan says:

    Did you succeed at first try? I’m asking because the first few times i tried, i cut too deep and of course, the wood snapped! Very frustrating. But it is very satisfying to see it actually work. You just can’t be careful enough!

  4. mathpuu says:

    omg, so smart ,i dont see this before

  5. That’s amazing technique. But I still wonder about “cut through enough of the wood”. How is enough? Could you share your experiences? Thanks.

  6. absolutely have to be careful, just a little power can also cut it. you really handy

  7. Mark Hard says:

    Yeah. The headline was quite deceive.

    I though you had some unnatural powers to be capable of banding the wood.

    Thanks a lot of the read

  8. Yvonne says:

    Got an Idea for your bamboo if you still have your heart set on weaving it….. get a tough cord and set it up as the warp and use the bamboo as the weft. kerf 2 pieces of wood for top and bottom of a frame, use 1×2’s to complete the frame and the bamboo ‘cloth’ to cover it all! Use screws to fasten it in place. You’ll have a movable bamboo screen for your garbage cans and your neighbors will all be curious about where you got it! Have fun! :-)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Yvonne – Well … that’s pretty much what I did, LOL. Although you’re right, I used the bamboo as both the warp and weft. Which clearly was the problem, LOL! I’ve decided to go a different route though. (not using bamboo) ~ karen

  9. LeeAnne says:

    Geez Louise! That is SOOOO cool! Sorry for delay in post but I will catch up.

  10. mia pratt says:

    Basket weaving never works unless you’re naked in the tropics on an isolated beach with no internet, phone, take-out, man, or other distractions the normal, sane person has. That’s the only time I’ve ever been able to weave one. And I’m sure, the last. If I tried today my brain would explode. You are brave. You have paddled the Amazon of projects. So the canoe sprang a leak…at least you weren’t eaten alive by Piranha, right? Things could have been worse. You kerfed instead…a wise and courageous move, a checkmate of consciousness. And you don’t want to be naked doing that!

  11. Janet says:

    You are one brave woman! I’d be so afraid that I’d go right through the wood when I was just about finished.

    Glad you’re back, and happyish.

  12. Barbie says:

    Next up….I’m going to ask our friend…who built our house! Pretty sure I’m not going to experience victory there though! I don’t mind if he is right! He should be right! I just want to impress him…. as he used to be impressed with me years ago when he first met me and found out that I had a whole garage full of power tools that I did wood work with….

  13. Barbie says:

    I am totally calling my husband (the know it all) to see if “he” knows what “kerf cutting” is….I BET I will finally know something he does NOT! stay tuned!

    • Karen says:

      LOL. I’m waiting … ~ karen

      • Barbie says:

        He described something entirely wrong for Kerf cutting! He does lots of woodworking…has an entire 2000 sq ft. shop in fact! As I got ready to explain to him what it actually “was” I informed him he was NOT allowed to say “Oh yeah, I knew that” and explain why he had not understood the question.

        This is a good day for me. This does not happen often……as you can probably tell! LOL

  14. Pam'a says:

    Nice kerfing, Karen! And if anyone’s interested in seeing some other things you never knew could be done with wood, check out a site like Amazing stuff!

  15. caryl says:

    Wow we are a greedy lot-glad you’re back for our amusement. I actually loved the prelude to the kerfing. Hitting things really hard—covering up the garbage!! You will be just fine and I love you for it!xoxox

  16. Laura Bee says:

    Very cool ~ you really did that in one try! I would be chicken (no offence girls) and use a metal ruler as a jig & also use it to get the cuts evenly spaced. I’m not OCD or anal retentive – just a picky Virgo.

  17. rktrixy says:

    Another way to make a curve is to work with several thinner pieces and then laminate (glue) them together. I think they also wet the wood to do this as it relaxes the wood fibers.

    Warning: this is coming from some cob-webbed corner of my brain!

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