Have you ever considered the benefits of learning to sharpen hand saws? If the answer is no because you can buy two new ones for a tenner then I have to tell you you are missing a vital skill needed for woodworking.
So what are the benefits and why would you consider learning this dying art? Well firstly lets address those flimsy plastic handles saws that barely stay sharp on softwood let alone hardwoods. They are as stable as jelly and the plastic resembles my grandson’s toy box, need I go on further? OK, if I must to us older guys when we see them being used we automatically think amateur! These are the only thing I dislike more than my ex wife! and probably where the term Jap Crap originated.
I know this may sound rough and demeaning but the production of these saws was initially meant for the domestic market for occasional DIYer’s but has somehow become the norm for many being taught woodworking skills through colleges and the like. How an earth they can be endorsed over developing skills which once served craftsmen so well for so long is next to criminal.
Once you learn how to sharpen, set and maintain saws you will have the same views that’s for sure. You will soon realise the advantages and soon develop a sense of achievement and understand that goes beyond working with wood itself.
How long does it take? well that depends on the saw you purchase if its straight and already pretty sharp its not a big operation at all, usually 15-20 minutes. If you have bought a poorly looked after saw it may take a couple of hours to get it back right but then again this is extreme sharpening.
Firstly you have to practice and i’d advise to use those throw away saws until you master the technique.
You will need to buy some good saw files i’d recommend getting a couple of different sizes to start with, the size depends on the size of the teeth you are sharpening which is usually twice the size of the tooth. You can make as saw vice from timber, there are lots of plans etc online or better still look for a used one made by Woden, Paramo, or Disston. You will also need saw set, eclipse No:77 or similar. Note: The saw sets come in two different sizes one for fine teeth and one for larger teeth.
When you have got set up start by learning to sharpen a rip saw first and progress onto a crosscut once this is mastered.
Now to the saws themselves, well firstly a new Lie Nielsen 14″ bench good saw today could cost you £125+, whereas a top end old Philadelphia Disston regarded as the best hand saws ever produced can cost anything from £40-85 depending on condition for the same size. Disston hand saws vary again in price due to condition and generally cost anything from £30-60, other makers of good used saws will cost less and would certainly compare with the best new saws available today.
If this sounds expensive to you just consider the amount of cheap saws you will buy over the next few years when a good old saw has not only outlasted its original owner and will probably last you a lifetime as well. The main reason for this is they are just made from better quality spring steel that require sharpening a lot less often.
Older saws in the main had nice wooden handles which feel better in the hand and are more solid allowing for a much better cut both in speed and accuracy. Once you have used a sharp vintage saw there is truly no going back and once you master the sharpening of saws you will soon realise the importance of setting up saws for specific types of wood and jobs and finally controlling the way a saw works to suit the work you are undertaking and with things like tear out etc.
Take up the challenge, develop this essential skill that professional woodworkers wouldn’t be without.
Here is a good tutorials online it’s well worth watching: