How to cut a straight line

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Blog entry by Harold posted 11-25-2007 04:05 AM 2339 reads 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This method may seem somewhat unusual but with time it will result in perfect cut.
I begin by warming 2 cups of water to approximately 110 degrees. To this you will add 2/3 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. To the sugar water solution add 1 ½ tablespoons of a dry active yeast. Sprinkle the yeast into the water and then let it sit until the yeast begins to foam, this is referred to as “proofing your yeast”
Once the yeast has “proofed” you will add 1 ½ teaspoons of salt and ¼ cup of vegetable oil, stir this in and begin adding 6 cups of bread flour, all flour is not the same so you will have better results using bread flour. You will be able to stir in about 4 cups before you will have to begin kneading.
Dust a section of your counter top and turn the dough out, lightly dust the doughball and press firmly forward as if your were trying to stretch the dough, then turn the dough 90 degrees and fold towards your body and press forward again. Continue this until you have worked in all the flour. The kneading process will take anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes. After you have completed kneading the dough, oil a large dish liberally, this will prevent the dough from sticking as it rises. Place the dough ball in the dish and roll it to coat the entire surface. Place the loosely covered dish in a warm, draft free area to rise ideally 80 to 90 degrees. Check the dough periodically; what you are wanting is for the dough to double in size. Once the dough has doubled gently press the dough down and remove it from the bowl and place it on the counter top, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and quickly shape and place it into three liberally oiled bread pans. I use a bread pan specifically because it gives me a flat surface from which to reference my cuts. This is a woodworking exercise remember.
After the dough has been placed in the pans, cover and let rise once again. Once the second rise has been completed, you place the unbaked loaves in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes. Somewhere around 20 minutes I will remove the bread and coat the tops with olive oil. This will help to firm up the crust and make it easier to begin our cuts.
Once the bread has baked, remove from the pans and let it cool. The aroma at this point is somewhat of a distraction but with time you will be able to resist the temptation.
Once cool I will sit the dough on a level cutting surface and begin my cut, paying careful attention to not press too hard as this will deform loaf as well as the cut, and will require an additional cut to get it perpendicular. When you are comfortable that you have cut a plumb/straight line turn the loaf on its end and check it with a square. Don’t get discouraged, it may take several cuts to find the perfect combination of downward force and cutting motion. I myself have went through a whole loaf, only to get that perfect cut at the heal. The only downside to this method of basic woodworking skill improvement exercise, is that homemade bread must be eaten soon after slicing, I have however calculated that the energy expended during the kneading process will more than offset any negative health concerns. I was taught this by my grandfather, although I didn’t understand the lesson at the time, his words today are undeniable, “if you can cut a straight and even slice of bread, you can cut anything”

I can recall watching him work, he never looked at the backside, he just knew it was right. Something’s just work, and when we skip a step, something’s just never will.

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

16 comments so far

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5090 days

#1 posted 11-25-2007 04:47 AM


I grew up cutting all of my sandwich bread by hand. And by golly, it really is a skill that I carry today.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 5274 days

#2 posted 11-25-2007 09:14 AM

Huh???? Did I land on the wrong Forum? Well, now I can make bread now :-)) Thanks.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Andy's profile


1718 posts in 5117 days

#3 posted 11-25-2007 01:30 PM

I love the analogy Harold!. Cute,but true. I have been baking bread for years and I just made 2 batches this weekend. Baking/cooking has many parallels with woodworking.
You start with a plan/receipe,then you get your ingredients/materials,then you try to follow the instructions carefully. Any shortcuts taken along the way will show in the end. If the bread turns out to be inedible (not likely) you can paint it and use it for doorstops….with failed wooden projects (more likely) I have a wood stove that needs to be fed regularly. :-)
Seriously,if kids learn to cook at an early age,and especially baking bread,they learn skills that help them in life.
Thanks for the wit.

-- If I can do it, so can you.

View shaun's profile


360 posts in 5114 days

#4 posted 11-25-2007 01:48 PM

Ive got this sudden craving for a roast beef sandwhich….....

-- I've cut that board three times and it's still too short!

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 5147 days

#5 posted 11-25-2007 01:58 PM

So, if you can cut bread, you can cut wood? Is that like if you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a ball?

-- Working at Woodworking

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5369 days

#6 posted 11-25-2007 02:13 PM

I used to bake all of my bread .. 7 loaves at a time.(now just one here and there). the first loaf out of the woodstove went to practicing the straight cut …hot out of the oven with lots of butter…
slicing bread is indeed a challenging skill.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View snowdog's profile


1181 posts in 5191 days

#7 posted 11-25-2007 02:41 PM

My grandmother taught me to cook when I was 5 and helped me hone my skills until she died. She is still teaching me from the grave (I am sure) with my memoirs I have of her in the kitchen and else were. Teaching kids to do anything is great but cooking is a skill they will use the rest of their lives.

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View toyguy's profile


1760 posts in 5046 days

#8 posted 11-25-2007 03:16 PM

””“begin adding 6 cups of bread flour, all flour is not the same so you will have better results using bread flour. ’’’’

Now I read this, I have to tell ya, cedar flour just didn’t work. :-)

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5171 days

#9 posted 11-25-2007 05:26 PM

I wouldn’t be as big around as I am without homemade bread. When I met Carleen I was a skinny cowboy. she started making bread and pie and, lordy, pretty soon I was as big as a wall tent. Carleen quit making bread because of it but the 80 year old neighbor lady slips me a loaf over the fence once in a while. I make sure it’s all gone so Carleen never finds out. Oh, I never give a hoot if I cut it straight. The only straight is to my mouth.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Harold's profile


310 posts in 5056 days

#10 posted 11-25-2007 07:48 PM

I had actually taken pictures of the process yesterday to better illustrate the technical simularities. unfortunately I have yet to figure out how to post pictures to a blog or comment. I do like the ” if you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a ball” analogy. In fact a few weeks ago I got the idea that I could use my drill press as a substitute/vertical lathe. Now although the fundamental aspect seemed sound in theory, in paractice however it didn’t work as well, the dent in my forehead can attest to this. Once my vision returns to normal I may revisit this groundbreaking/albeit extremely painful experiment. I truly believe stubborness is a virtue. My wife however is somewhat skeptical, but she will concede that if being stubborn is indeed a virtue, I will be gauranteed sainthood at somepoint in the future, I don’t know exactly what she means by this, but I think it’s a compliment, so I say thank you.

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

View rookster's profile


67 posts in 5359 days

#11 posted 11-25-2007 08:55 PM

Harold, thanks for sharing. It started all wrong, but I had faith and was rewarded!

-- Rookster, (

View Karson's profile


35278 posts in 5609 days

#12 posted 11-25-2007 09:27 PM

Harold: I can attest to the straight cut methods. I don’t usually bake the bread. My wife has considered that her workshop. But I do participate in the unveiling of the internal grain structures of the loves.

My wife can’t cut a straight line to save her. It sloops to the underside of the loaf and it is also about a 5 deg angle across the top. It isn’t the prettiest cut but as my dad used to say when they were butchering beef. “If the meat isn’t on one slice it will be on the other.”

Words I try to live by.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5171 days

#13 posted 11-26-2007 01:36 AM

Harold, the way to turn your lathe into a drill press or versi-vicey is to get a Shopsmith. I do it all the time. It’s also my disc sander and a good one too.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Harold's profile


310 posts in 5056 days

#14 posted 12-03-2007 05:45 PM

now I have a photobucket so here are couple pictures, first the test loaves
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
next my first cut
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
you can see how the bread is not quite plumb
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
and thats it, it takes practice to train our eye to recognize plumb, but if you have a point of reference, in this case that flat bottom of the bread you work from that.
With time you will be able to cut virtually perfect from one side, now it does take time, but I always try and and make my cuts plumb and reference off my bench top, for example if the tenon or perhaps a dovetail is angled I will lean the piece in the vise so I am cutting straight down and only worry about the back side once I near the end of my cut.

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5369 days

#15 posted 12-03-2007 11:05 PM

I’ve never cut a loaf this straight – ever.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

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