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I have 6 of 2.4m x 250mm x 125mm railroad sleepers (ties) and I want to cut them in half so they will be 2.4m x 250mm x 62.5mm

I'm looking for suggestions on the best tool to achieve this, I accurate cuts.

  • My plane is to use them to construct an outdoor table. – SPlatten Jun 8 at 13:17
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    Sleepers are heavy lumps of wood that are used under rail tracks, thats exactly what these are. They are very heavy. thomsonsawmills.co.uk/shop/new-sleepers – SPlatten Jun 8 at 13:23
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    @isherwood In the UK, it became fashionable about 20 years ago to use old railway sleepers for garden projects because they were virtually indestructable (creosote-loaded) and cheap, because they were waste. Now we're not alllowed to use ones with creosote, and they are far from cheap, so people buy bits of wood the same size and shape. They are sold as sleepers. – SiHa Jun 8 at 13:45
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    To summarize the outcome of this fiasco, 1) the term "sleeper" is apparently a regional colloquialism for railway bed timbers, and 2) these aren't actually railway sleepers--they're landscape timbers in roughly the same size, pressure-treated as lumber often is and not as railway timbers are in the U.S. – isherwood Jun 8 at 15:22
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    @isherwood in the US we call them "railroad ties", in pretty much the rest of the world, they call them "sleepers", so any "regional colloquialism" is on us Americans. :) TBH, I read "sleeper" but with my misreading of 2.4 meters as 2.4 millimeters, I totally threw out any definition I had of "sleeper" and focused on what I thought the dimensions were, otherwise, I'd have been just as confused as you. – FreeMan Jun 8 at 15:40
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I initially totally misread this and was thinking the pieces were 2.4 millimeters thick, not 2.4 meters long. To that end, I've removed comments about hand-sawing - that's... impractical for this type of operation. Power tools are the appropriate answer here.

I'd recommend a band saw for resawing operations like this. Generally, band saw blades take a thinner kerf than a table saw will, so if you need each piece to be as close to the 62.5mm as possible, this would probably be your better bet. I believe you'll find it easier to find finer teeth on a band saw blade than a table saw blade, and for cutting a piece that's only 2.4mm thick, you're definitely going to want something with very fine teeth if you're looking for a reasonably nice finish - 2.4mm is in the "thick veneer" range.

Upon my reread of the dimensions in question, you will not be too terribly concerned with a fine-tooth, narrow blade for kerf minimization. You'll want a wide blade for straighter tracking, and few, big teeth for fast cutting in tough wood.

Additionally, you want a 250mm (~10") deep cut. On a normal table saw with a 10" blade (fairly standard in the US, not sure about other locales), you won't actually be able to cut all the way through this depth. A band saw will be your only option. You'll need a big band saw that can handle that depth of cut.

The hand-held circular saw mentioned in the comment to this answer:

  • Will not have the depth of cut you need.
    • The blade is 190mm in diameter, you'll only be able to cut with the 95mm radius, but you don't get full access to that - the depth of cut is only 66mm according to the specs on the page linked.
    • flipping the sleeper over will only get you a partial cut on the other side.
    • You'll still have plenty of wood (250mm - 66mm - 66mm = 118mm) left in the middle that you'll have to cut another way. You're only going to cut 1/4 of the way through your sleeper with each pass!
  • Will not have the control necessary for getting an accurate cut. The sole plate of the circular saw will only have 62 mm (~2.5") to sit on the wood - it will be way too easy to tip the saw, ruining the vertical cut you're trying to make

You don't indicate how many of these pieces you've got to cut, but you might actually want to consider using a hand saw for this - you're only cutting through a 2.4mm depth. A Japanese-style saw can be had with very fine teeth, and for that thickness thinness of material, you'll find that the cut will go pretty quickly by hand.

Also, don't forget that you'll want to measure and cut to take into consideration the kerf if you need both pieces to be the same to the 10th of a mm.

In either powered-saw case (band saw or table saw, as mentioned in another answer), be sure to take great care that you don't lose any fingers (this remains as generally good advice). - you're working with some fairly small pieces...


  • You will need a band saw to resaw these sleepers.
  • You're dealing with pressure treated lumber, so they will be heavier than non-treated lumber
  • You'll want to make in-feed and out-feed tables to help support the work.

All-in-all, you may want to consider asking the sawmill if they can resaw them for you - they'll have the proper tools and the know-how to do this quickly and safely. Don't just "ask" them to do it, but be prepared to pay for the service - it will be far cheaper than investing in a band saw that will have the capacity you need. Unless, of course, you want a new toy tool. ;)

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  • Thank you, these are so heavy I was going to purchase this today: diy.com/departments/… – SPlatten Jun 8 at 13:10
  • Totally misread the OP and thought these were 2.4 milimeters thick. I now see that they are 2.4 meters long. That invalidates a lot of what I said. – FreeMan Jun 8 at 13:29
  • @SPlatten please note - I've basically rewritten this answer based on my more careful reading of your OP and your added comment. – FreeMan Jun 8 at 13:50
  • @SPlatten Are you kidding me? 190mm is the blade diameter, not the depth of cut! It's maybe a 60mm depth of cut, tops. You need a 250mm depth of cut, a circular saw of that size could only be wielded by a cave troll or the Incredible Hulk. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 8 at 19:18
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    "I initially [...] misread this [as] 2.4 millimeters thick, not 2.4 meters long." This seems to be the one advantage of the imperial system! No one would confuse "3/32 in" for "7.9 ft." Why, no one would even suspect one of them is 100 times the other. :-) – jpaugh Jun 8 at 21:10
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I work in a facility that works with large (squared) timbers. What you need is a band saw.

Expect this to be a huge beast of a saw. Expect to have to provision a whole separate 30-50A 240V circuit just to power the saw. At our shop we use the big daddy aka widowmaker, which takes 480V power, and we have four workers personhandling the timber.

Another more practical method is to use a portable sawmill type rig, like a Wood-Mizer LX25, as seen on PureLivingForLife's Youtube videos of 2-3 years ago. Those have a long sliding rack that the saw head moves on. The saw head is either a chainsaw blade fixed on both ends, or a band-saw (PLfL uses a band-saw).

They're made to turn logs into timbers, but they also turn timbers into smaller timbers.

PLfL reports they change their band-saw blade, do the finishing cut on piece 1, do the rough-cut on piece 2, then change the blade again. The blades are sent out for sharpening, so are reused many times. So whoever you find who will do this for you, buy them a couple of blade sharpenings :)

Also run a metal detector through the sleepers, hitting a metal spike, railroad screw or nail can be catastrophic!

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    I think the gender-neutral term would be "handling." "Manhandling" (whether used as a pejorative or a term of pride) has a particular "red-neck" cultural viewpoint embedded within it. I don't think there's a way to neuter the gender while respecting the culture it comes from. – jpaugh Jun 8 at 21:20
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    @jpaugh, "Wrestling (with)" or "grappling with" could work, too. Simply "handling" doesn't convey the implied stress, I think. – paul garrett Jun 8 at 21:25
  • and there's absolutely nothing wrong with "manhandling" unless you choose to take offense at it. – FreeMan Jun 9 at 10:40

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