Let’s make a saw….Finale (Part 4)

After much anticipation, the time has finally come to sharpen this little lady up and get her out on the dance floor once more…I think she’ll be a real delight! ;o)

Sharpening a hand saw is without a doubt a topic about which you will find much literature, both in print and online (relatively speaking of course….It’s not quite as popular a google search as Lindsey Lohan…well, not yet anyway!) Everyone has their own way of doing it (sharpening that is, not Lindsey Lohan) and I am no different…but all of us do share certain steps in common.

However, in stead of launching into a long post, I will briefly cover how i sharpen. I certainly will be posting an in depth tutorial on my sharpening and filing methods in the future, so look for that soon.

To start, of course, I select the appropriate triangular tapered file for the teeth, and my trusty mill file  for jointing. You can use a chart to match the pitch of the saw to the file (see below, curteousy of Tools For Working Wood) or you can match a file on hand to the height of the saw tooth (the saw tooth should be half the height of the width of the file face) Some use a smaller file than this…Mike Wenzloff asserts that you should use the smallest file that will work in order to give the deepest gullet. I have done both and not noticed a big difference…plus, I’m cheap so I use the traditional method to get three usable sides to every file.

For this saw, since its 8 points, I use a 7 inch extra slim taper file, and of course, a handle…I like the Skroo-Zon brand the best…comfy and they grip tight.  You can get good files and supplies here or here.

Here are the files I will use…you will note the mill file mounted into a block of wood to keep it square to the tooth line…

The first step is of course jointing. I run the mill file across the tops of the teeth to level them…a few passes and each tooth should show a tiny flat area on the top. The jointing is essential and ensures that each tooth be the exact same height and do its duty as required of a fine saw. I’m sure you’ve seen many old saws with tooth lines that look like a roller coaster track…these saws do NOT perform at their peak and are the result of not jointing teeth before sharpening.

Here she is mounted in my old Disston #2 saw vice after jointing…you can just see the tiny flats on the tip of each tooth from jointing…

The teeth on this old saw plate (now our NEW saw plate actually) are in decent shape…very straight and level so only a few strokes of the mill file and their all level. This saw was originally a cross cut saw, so the teeth have a good amount of fleam on them. Fleam is created by changing the file angle relative to the tooth line to create a more acute angle on the edge of the tooth, thusly making a knife point (you can see this in the illustration above). This edge, as opposed to a chisel like edge for rip teeth, more efficiently and cleanly severs the cross grain fibers of wood. Without launching into an extensive treatise on saw tooth geometry, those links above for saw files will also lead you to the websites of Joel Moskowitz and Pete Tarran, respectively, both of which contain great info on saw teeth geometry and function, as well as on sharpening.

So now I’m ready to file the teeth, but interestingly enough, I’m not going to keep any fleam on this saw. Why? Because lately I have been putting a theory of some to the test….namely, that fleam in not necessary on hand saws. Yes….I said NOT NECESSARY. So, this saw is going to be one of my “fleam free” experiemental saws. I’ll put her through her paces in both ripping and cross cutting and report back how she does.

As a note, interestingly enough, the greatest advocate of fleam free saws was Tage Frid….also a Rhode Islander like myself. Perhaps I feel some inclination to test his theory out of a geographic loyalty? Or state pride? Perhaps. Or perhaps, maybe i just like causing scandal in my tiny little cyberspace woodworking community. ;o)

Anyway, no fleam it is on this 8 point saw. I will use a somewhat relaxed rake though…I don’t measure…I just use a consistant angle to keep the theeth even. Also, this relaxed rake will help with cross cutting somewhat.

So now onto filing…it only takes a few strokes per tooth to get most of the fleam out. Here’s a pic…you can still see a bit of the bevels on the teeth….the last remnants of fleam…

Another light jointing, more filing and the teeth are just about finished.

Next, I always set my teeth and then sharpen…some sharpen first, then set, but to me, setting first makes sense because when the teeth are set, it changes the geometry of the tooth. If you set first, then joint lightly again and THEN sharpen last, you ensure that all the teeth are of even height and shape.

To set, I use my trusty Somax saw set on the #10 setting…

Now for another light jointing just to top the teeth and keep them even…and then the actual sharpening.

I sharpen my saws filing all teeth from the same side…I don’t flip the saw around in the vise for the alternately set teeth and here’s why: Good sharpening is about creating muscle memory and keeping consistent filing angles. When you turn the file around in the vise to file the alternate teeth, you create a whole new angle to hold your file at…and a whole new set of potential errors. By filing from one side, you only have to worry about the one rake angle of the teeth and keep it. Like I said, its about developing muscle memory in your wrists…why work so hard at creating that muscle memory if you’re going to turn the saw around and erase it? Interestingly enough, I think I just read on Andrew Lunn’s blog that he does the same thing. Smart guy! FWIW, I’ve never noticed any adverse effects from only having burrs on one side, as I stone them off anyway…

So after the final sharpening, I remove the saw from the vise and stone the sides of the teeth…this evens the set and removes the burrs noted above. Two swipes per side and she’s done!!!!

Now we can put this baby to wood! I have some birch ply next to my bench, so I fix it up and rip away….she tracks good out of the gate….take a look…

Not too shabby! Since I filed this saw as kind of a hybrid (8 points, relaxed rake, no fleam) I’m going to give it a good work out cross cutting 4/4 through 10/4 stock, some plywood work, and light ripping in thinner stock and see where she shines. It will be interesting to find out. I’ve been using more fleam-free saws in my shop, though this is the corsest pitch thus far…I’ll report back soon on how they do.

Here’s some more shots of our new saw….

I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I did…thanks for stoppin’ by.

And as always, more to come soon…!

Published in: on November 3, 2010 at 1:06 pm  Comments (8)