What Is a Kerf Cut?

A kerf is a cut made by a saw or other cutting device.

Kerf Waste

Each saw blade or cutting device creates a kerf area.Each saw blade or cutting device creates a kerf area.
In some applications, a kerf refers to a deep cut used to undermine the strength of a mineral seam or a piece of wood. Kerf can merely create a waste product, or it can be a tool to shape wood.

According to the USDA, in the mid-1920s, 23% of a log harvested through a traditional logging operation ended up as sawdust rather than lumber or other primary product. This sawdust waste is due in part to kerf waste, a necessary byproduct of cutting. Modern thin-kerf methods can reduce this kerf waste.

Decreasing Kerf Size

Certain cutting applications, such as cutting materials for circuit boards, require very small kerf width. Since specialized cutting methods like waterjet cutting create smaller kerf width, these specialized methods can be used for precision applications. Some saw blades, called thin-kerf blades, are specifically designed to decrease kerf.

Bending Wood Using Kerf Cutting

Sometimes, a woodworker can use kerfs to his advantage by intentionally cutting kerfs into wood as a way to allow space for the wood bend. The woodworker uses a saw to cut slots, or kerfs, in the wood on one side. These kerfs will compress when the wood is bent.

Using Kerf Cuts in Mining

Kerf cuts can also be used to weaken mineral formations during mining. Lasers can be used to quickly and accurately cut kerfs in the mineral formations. These kerfs can be used to relieve pressure on the mineral formations, thereby allowing them to break with less effort. This makes excavation easier and more efficient.

About the Author

Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.