A Bad Axe Review…

BE WARNED: Mark Harrell is a dangerous character.

Not only because he is a retired Special Forces Colonel and could probably kill you with a tooth pick, but also because he is now the purveyor of fine back saws at BadAxeToolworks…and quite frankly, to an obsessive saw nut like myself, that is the more foreboding distinction.

A few weeks ago I got an email from Mark asking if I’d like to try out one of his new saws…the 12 inch Hybrid Dovetail/Small Tenon saw.  So, like any eager and simple-minded galoot, I of course replied in the positive….duh. And I think Mark knew to expect my answer, because barely a few days had gone by and the new saw was at my door. Oh…and just so you know what kind of corrupting agent we’re dealing with here, Mark was “kind enough” to also send me a set of his new bench hooks. Nice guy, right? HAH!!! (As you are reading this to yourself, please ensure that you read that last exclamation with a heavy dose of sarcasm -Editor)

Now, If you’ve never been the recipient of one of Mark’s saws, then prepare yourself……and I literally mean to prepare yourself, because opening one of his shipping packages is an experience that I can only relate to high school. How’s that? Well, because just like my 10th grade girlfriend, you’re going to need a good 45 minutes of cajoling, levering, tearing, fighting and lubricating to get at the goodies contained in the box. No kidding….Mark packs his saws for shipment like there’s a chance they might fall off the truck and get used for target practice….with a rocket launcher. Let me tell you, it’s a good thing Mark only uses environmentally friendly packing materials, because if he didn’t, he’d single-handedly be responsible for deforesting a small South American nation. So rest assured, if you make the grave mistake of welcoming Mark into your otherwise quiet life by ordering one of his saws, then at least you know the saw will arrive as safe as a new-born babe upon your steps.

After that, however, your life will never be the same.

Before I share with you my impressions of the saw, I should make a full disclosure: At first, I wanted to hate this saw. I really wanted to find things wrong with it. I wanted to use it and dislike it from the first moment I let it cut wood. Why? Because maybe as a born skeptic, when I hear nothing but positive things about a product, or person, or theory, I think that people are just being duped. So, I wanted to be the guy that bunks the collective impression. Call me a subversive.

Well, damn if I wasn’t duped too. Upon the first moment I held this saw I was sold.

The tote, which Mark tells me he has made by CNC, is a replica of a 19th Century Wheeler, Madden and Clemson back saw and is finished by a professional piano re-finisher. Well dang if that boy can’t lacquer the hell out of a saw handle, too!!! This thing fit my hand like an old pair of jeans. I told Mark that it does look a little lifeless compared to a hand shaped tote, but in all honesty, the thing is a work of art…

Not only is the tote nice, but the whole aesthetic of the saw is amazing. This saw looks like no other saw that I’ve ever seen. Mark calls them his Darth Vader saws…and I would say that is an apt moniker. I could prattle on about the looks of the saw, but this isn’t a tool fashion blog, it’s a sawing blog. So how does the thing cut?

In a word: lovely.

Here’s a few more: Smooth. Sweet. True. Effortless. This saw is amazing….and I mean that in its literal sense…it amazes me the level of refinement and subtle perfection that Mark is able to build into this saw. In fact, to even call it a dovetail/small tenon saw is perhaps an insult…it is capable of so much more. I used this saw to make deep ripping cuts for tenon cheeks in cherry, walnut and maple….the saw flew through the wood like balsa. I made cross cuts in 1/4 inch thick strips of purpleheart, oak and locust….very splintery, hard woods: the saw handled them with noteworthy adeptness and even left an acceptable finish thanks to the 5 degrees of fleam on the teeth from Mark’s well-seasoned filing skills.

I was so struck with the smooth action of the saw that when I first used it, that it took me about 20 minutes to remember I was trying to hate it!!! Well, try though I did, I could find no flaws in the tool.

I even liked the slight canting of the sawplate…slight though it may be, it has really sold me on the effectiveness of this historical element. Canting refers to the tapering of the width of the plate as it progresses towards the toe. Canting the saw plate, as it were, is intended to smooth the action of the teeth in the cut. I really liked this, and to my knowledge, Mark is the only maker offering this on a new back saw today. You can see the slight canting in this pick…

Having used this saw for a few weeks in my shop, I have reached the conclusion that if I were only to have one back saw at my disposal, then this would be that saw. I don’t know any other more effective way of describing it. It is smooth, cuts true, and can handle any nature of work you may throw at it. And believe me, in my shop, I throw a lot of things. 😉

So, now after trying to convince myself I don’t need another saw (a most ridiculous exercise in futility!) I find myself fully enamored with this most Bad Axe Saw, indeed.

Damn it!!!! And in case you’re wondering, yes….I had to pay for the saw. Now I’m just hoping that Mark doesn’t find out I’m lusting after his 18 inch tenon saw……that would be the end of me. (And my marriage!!!)

So, now that I’ve told you the story of Mark Harrell, do you finally understand why he is such a dangerous character?!?!? He is one of the notorious “Tool Pushers” that Chris Schwartz so vehemently warns us of!!!! Your shop is not safe from his saws!!! Your bank account is not safe!!! Your wife will hate you (more)!!! You will never see your children again (you’ll be sawing all day and night)!!!! You’ll grow a long, scraggly beard and stop bathing (what few people congregated with you before will now most surely be scared off)!!!!

Lock your doors!!! Turn off your phone!!!! Cancel your internet connection!!!! Don’t pay your tool club membership dues!!!! Stay away from the lumber yard!!!! Don’t bring in your mail!!!! And whatever you do, do not, under any circumstances go to http://www.badaxetoolworks.com/ and look at Mark’s saws.

You have been warned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Matt 😉

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Matt, thanks for the review.

    Mark, my email address is andreaxblog@gmail.com. 😉

    Cheers from Italy,

  2. So, Matt…..should we just assume that you like the saw? *grin*


  3. Too late…

    I corresponded with the Colonel some time ago, and he offered (as he does with all his customers) to determine the best saw, for the work I intend to do.

    Another year or so of this tom foolery in A’stan and I’ll be on the receiving end of the Colonel’s steel and walnut wonders!

    Best regards!
    Albert A Rasch

  4. Good post very informative. Thanks for writing this, and thanks for the warnings! 😉


  5. I´ve just purchased the 14 inches dedicated ripper and the soon to coming openhandle dovetailsaw, and now I have to say I´m happier if it could be
    I want to share too that I´m filming a video about saw sharpening so I hope you will watch it and let me know your thoughts because I´m sure I will improve my tech
    Thanks for this amazing blog, see you

    Artisan Flamingo

    • Sounds like you’ve got it all, Julio!

      I’d be happy to see your video…great idea!


  6. […] With the Roubo Beastmaster you get a selection of wood for the handle, steel finish, File preference (Ripsaw, hybrid or crosscut), and fastener design; you can get a truly custom and frame-worthy sawing implement. The site also has TONS of information about saws, saw sharpening, and DIY articles. Enjoy! Bad Axe Tool Works Via TheSawBlog […]

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