How do you rip laminate strips?

Brian J Knudsen

Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes
I've read that people make stems out of laminate. This is a skill I'd like to learn. How do you rip 1/16" or 1/8 strips? Table saw? Band saw? Do you use a sled? Hoping to keep my fingers.

Thank you,
For a laminated stem, I use whatever cutoffs are lying around on the rack. 1/4" strips will work if they are soaked for a day or two. I have stem forms, so after soaking, I bend them around the form which best fits the canoe, clamp and allow to dry for about a week. After drying, I glue with G-flex and re-clamp making sure to put wax paper between the form and the first strip.
Brian. I have used a table saw or a band saw. I would say use whichever tool you are more comfortable with. If you have access to a planer then you can get them nice and smooth on both sides for laminating. You can soak and steam or if the wood you use is flexible enough you may be able to just use a heat gun to bend it around a form before gluing. It all depends on how sharp the bend is, the thickness of the wood and the flexibility of the wood. Air dried bends better than kiln, but I've always had fine results with kiln dried ash.

I've glued up laminates a few times - I used a table saw to cut the strips. But I've found that most of my stem work involves replacing relatively small lengths of the old stem from the tip down. For these I pencil out the shape needed on a chunk of cedar or some such wood then cut the shape using a band saw. I then make a scarf cut in the existing stem using a fine saw or reciprocating saw. Then I use a table saw equipped a sanding disc to sand away material to form a mating scarf cut in the new wood. Through repeated sandings I get the scarf cuts to match angles so that the new wood matches the profile of the original stem. I then use a plane and/or sanding disc to bevel the ends of the new wood to match the edge angle of the existing stem.

But if you want to try making a laminate why not use rib material. It's pre-cut to a uniform 5/32" thickness so it'll glue up easy - you'd just need to cut it into 1" wide strips. It steam bends easily and it will readily accept ring nails. You'd just need to make a form to bend the wood on. By the way - if you go the laminate route there is no 'spring back' when you remove the clamps after the glue or epoxy has dried, so your form can match the inner curve of the stem.
Ripping thin strips on a table saw can be a bit dicey. DAMHIKT. It is easy for a kickback to occur if you rip between the blade and the fence. There are a lot of Youtube videos that illustrated various ways of making a gauge seated to the left of the blade allowing you to rip very thin strips safely. Basically the gauge is set up as a stop spaced the thickness of the desired strip to the left of the blade. The fence is then moved after each cut. One of the slickest system I have found is to make your gauge using lock down magnets to secure it. They are available from Rockler and likely Woodcraft also: Pricey but they allow you to make a very handy saftey item.
I use a zero-clearance insert in the table saw opening, so the ripped strips don't wander into the "normal" wide clearance insert. This is basically a piece of baltic birch plywood, cut to the size of the original insert. I use set screws to level the new insert to the table, clamp a couple pieces of scrap 2x4 over it, then raise the spinning saw blade through the new insert, as high as you like. The new insert now has a slot the width of your blade. When using it, install a riving knife of any sort at the back of the blade, to keep the ripped strips off the blade.
Like others, on a table saw w/zero clearance inserts, AND feather boards - 4 - 2 before and 2 after the blade, holding the strip both down to the table and against the fence and infeed & outfeed tables. I've cut 20' x 1/8 " thick strips (for a stripper) with this setup no problem.