It’s unfortunate that I’ve waited this long to become familiar with a handsaw. The basics apply to any saw whether it is hand or power, but for such a simple object there are a lot of nuances to a handsaw. It was interesting to learn about tension in a saw (not trying that any time soon) and the specific thrust angles of saws. Learning about set helped me to better understand what my bandsaw blade is doing too.
Throughout the entire process I tried to immerse myself into the world of handsaws. I now know the difference between negative rake, zero rake, and positive rake. I know what fleam is and what it is for.* I know what a comfortable handle feels like. And I know the satisfaction of using a sharp saw. Maybe even more important is that I was reminded of what it feels like to mess everything up, but have the opportunity to do it all over. Few things are beyond repair.
I tried my best to use this little project as an opportunity to experiment with other things as well. The saw nuts were soaked overnight in a homemade metal polish; it’s a common enough recipe but I had never used it before and wanted to see for myself if it worked. Bad information gets perpetuated because people pass off theories and ideas without any experience. The home brew worked great on the saw nuts (which are brass) but didn’t phase the saw plate. After soaking overnight, I rinsed them off under water and lightly rubbed them with a Scotch Brite pad. Then I polished them up with Brassos. This whole process was less about having shiny nuts and more about learning a process that I hope to use on a future project.
Re-sharpening became therapeutic. Correcting my mistakes resulted in removing a lot of metal. The trick to recovering was understanding the mistakes I made and listening to the advice of others (Big “Thanks!” to many of you). Instead of shaping from both sides, I stuck to one side only. I still had to skip every other tooth and re-position my file on the second pass, but it was much easier to keep the teeth at a consistent height. This solved the problem of the big tooth/little tooth pattern.
I also slowed down and paid attention to every tooth. I discovered (how I missed this in all the videos I watched is beyond me) that, when shaping, you don’t count strokes. Instead, you pay attention to the flat created by jointing and the gullet. One tooth might only need four strokes to be shaped correctly, the next might need ten. And it is a game of pressure. You can put pressure down to even out the front of one tooth and the back of another. You can put pressure toward the front of a tooth if you need to take off more material there or you can put pressure on the back of a tooth if that is the heavy side. It’s amazing how little pressure is needed, it’s a lot like driving a car; you need only move the wheel slightly to change directions.
The end goal was to have a usable cross-cut saw. That was accomplished. But learning to tune the saw was also beneficial to using the saw. It’s a lot like learning to speak the language of the saw, now that we understand each other we can have a much better conversation. I know how to take care of it and as a result it will take care of me.
Now I’m ready to do another one. What about you?