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November 09, 2008

Preventing Burn Marks on Cherry and Maple

I received a great question from Ray the other day and I though I'd share my response with you.  Here's Ray's question:


I have a question more than a comment. I read somewhere that you can clean up saw burn marks in cherry using, I thought, mineral spirits. It doesn't work. Do you know of anything that can be used?



The only thing that will truly get rid of all the burn marks caused from saw blades (or router bits) is to remove the material either by planing, sanding, or scraping.  I prefer using a smoothing plane if the area is flat and scraping other areas.  Sand paper is a last resort simply because it takes forever to remove enough material.

There is one other way to get rid of burn marks and that's to prevent it from happening.  Burn marks on wood are generally caused by misaligned table saw blades or dull router bits.  Spending some extra time tuning up your table saw and keeping your blades and bits sharp will go a long way in preventing those ugly burns.

For more information on tuning up your table saw, see our video:

Tuning Up Your Table Saw

Also, use a steady, consistent motion as you push the stock through the saw blade or router bit.  Stopping or even slowing down for even a second will cause some woods like cherry and maple to burn.  

If you're still getting burn marks with sharp router bits, here's some tricks to try.  If the profile you're cutting will permit it, sneak up on the final depth.  For flutes, rabbets, or dadoes, cut about 3/4 of the final depth and then remove the remaining material with the final pass.  When routing edge details, if possible, remove most of the material in one pass, move the fence back slightly, and then finish the cut. The less the bit has to work, the less likely it will be to leave burn marks.

If you have a variable speed router in your router table, try slowing the speed down a little a see if it helps on a scrap piece.  

Another trick to try is to wet the material with a sponge before making the final pass in the scenario above.  I haven't tried this method before, but I've read of others having success with it.

I hope these suggestions help.  If anyone has any other trick or tips about preventing burn marks on wood or suggestions on removing burn marks, leave them in the comments section below.


Comments (5)

Hey Craig, I just wanted to say thanks for putting all of this great info into one resource. I took the time to look through your "tips and techniques" page...there are lots of great ideas in there. Yet another thing I love about woodworking, everybody has their own tricks that they have learned along the way. Thanks for sharing yours.

Look forward to digging into your site even more in the future.

Take care,
The Silent Woods Project


I fully agree with the other comments as they are very important, My advise is to choose the direction of feed regarding grain to avoid tear outs and Keep the stock feeding at a constant rate do not slow down or stop this is where the burn accures.

I agree with the fact that you need to keep your bits very sharp, that helps a ton. I have also found that if you are between sharpening, that keeping them clean is also a big factor. Pitch can build up that contributes to the blade or edge burning the wood. Usually the burning effect is caused by more than one symptom, have a fence out of square and a dull or dirty blade together causes most of my problems.

Rob I:

Is it possible to take 2 passes (with the router)
with in ogee bit?

Woodworkers Resource:

You can work your way into the wood a little bit at a time if you need to, but the bit has to stay at the same height throughout the process.

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