Saw 5: Finished

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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.

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Vinegar, salt, & flour. Soak overnight and rinse. Easy. 

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.

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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.

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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?

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. dzawacki says:

    Great story, Eric! It is inspiring me to find an old handsaw and restore it to its beauty like you did. More importantly, I feel like going out and learning how to sharpen a saw properly. Do you have any good videos to recommend?

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    1. To Dzawacki: there is an incredible video on YouTube by Andy Lovelock called “Sharpening Western Saws”. It’s long – over 2 hours – but there is so much good information. I highly recommend it. But (caveat) you should read other people’s takes on it, as different people may have slightly different takes on it.

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      1. dzawacki says:

        You know, sometimes I actually have two hours to be engrossed in a video. I’ll add it to my watchlist. Thanks!

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      2. Eric Key says:

        I know you’re talking to someone else, but thanks! I want to check it out too.

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    2. Eric Key says:

      Thanks! I watched a video of Ron Herman from the Popular Woodworking Videos website. I also checked out all the free information from Tools for Working Wood. And I haven’t seen it yet but I’m planning on watching Paul Seller’s video too. If you’re near Indianapolis, Ron Herman will be teaching saw sharpening at The Woodworking Shows Feb. 2-4th.

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  2. Jared Tohlen says:

    Great work, Eric! I have restored a few saws now and love the process. It has become apparent to myself I enjoy saws quite a bit. However, I haven’t ventured into saw sharpening or handle making yet. I’ve let myself be afraid of messing up and keep making excuses (“I don’t have a saw vise!”). Consider me inspired! I’d be curious to hear or see a full rundown of what your sharpening process was and what minimal shaping tools you think would be necessary for the handle.

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    1. Eric Key says:

      What?! No saw vise? I’ve heard they are pretty easy to make…I’ve seen your stuff. You can easily make a saw vise and sharpen a saw. All you need for the handle are some chisels, a coping saw, and a rasp. What are you waiting for?

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  3. meanmna says:

    I loved following this. Thanks!

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    1. Eric Key says:

      I enjoyed having you follow along!

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  4. DR_Woodshop says:

    BTW – I successfully updated my wordpress account and avatar now so that it is closer to IG. Yea!

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    1. Eric Key says:

      Your avatar is awesome! Makes things a lot easier for sure.

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  5. donovandak says:

    Wait how’d you get the plate so shiny? When last I saw it it was still sort of dull after the Naval Jelly, or is this a trick of the light?

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    1. Eric Key says:

      It was a little dull after the naval jelly…pretty much just like using vinegar. I used sandpaper up to about 220 then switched to 0000 steel wool. It has a little wax on it too.

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  6. jason davis says:

    When you started your blog about the saw I started to try and recondition an old rip saw that I had. Thanks for the inspiration. (I’m at the part where I need to start over).

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    1. Eric Key says:

      Great! You’ll get it with a little persistence.

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  7. alsatiannd says:

    Now show us how to straighten a kinked or bent blade. I love my Disstons no matter how much I don’t know. I don’t even care that my best rip saw is actually a Disston pruning saw. pfft. I’m happiest ripping a board on my saw bench, the thicker the better, English method or French method. I go both ways.

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  8. Todd Reid says:

    Found this today while on the internet and wanted to share it with you. It’s a Blog called the Rocky Mountain Saw Works http://www.rmsaws.com/p/about-us.html most notably is at the top of the page in his artwork the saws have four screws and not three like we are used to seeing. Maybe it’s the answer to the four holes in your saw. Great job again and I’ll go pick a saw up and mail It to you so you can finish it for me. lol!

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    1. Eric Key says:

      That is fantastic! Did you look at any of the stuff he has for sale? His prices are amazing. His saw plate logo is pretty sweet too. Thanks for sending that link. I’m going to poke around over there a bit more. Oh, and you can keep your saw. You’ll get way more satisfaction out of doing it yourself. 🙂

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      1. countercosta1952 says:

        I can vouch for the quality work done by Bob Summerfield aka Rocky Mountain Saw Works. Bob has restored and or sharpened all of my saws. These saws will be in my family, I hope, for generations. He’s done panels, tenon, sash, back and mitre saws for me.

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      2. Eric Key says:

        That is great to know! His website is full of good information. His custom made saws look amazing; a work of functional art.

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    2. DR_Woodshop says:

      There was no standard to the number of screws/bolts in old hand saws. Some smaller panel saws had three typically (although I have a Clemson with 4) 4 was common in standard size saws (most of my Atkins and Disstons have 4 in my till) and some of the larger ones (like large rip saws) had 5.

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      1. Eric Key says:

        That is interesting. I’m kind of surprised that someone hasn’t figured out the strategic placement of saw nuts and the most beneficial number. It sounds like the number of nuts goes up with the size of the saw, but like you say there was no standard. You can easily get lost in the world of saws, so much to learn and explore, especially if you’re into tool collecting. Thanks for taking the time to add to the conversation!

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