An epiphany of steel and wood…

I just got this email from a customer and can’t help but share it. He recently sent me a saw to sharpen and let me know that he was new to hand saws and had no experience with them. Here is the email he sent after receiving the freshly sharpened saw…

Hi Matt,

Got the saw in the mail….    SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETT!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am honestly trying to get the f-word out of my vocabulary.  Two decades in construction makes for strong habits.  I’m actually doing pretty good with this effort, but the only way I can really convey anything in an email is to say:
That saw is f——— MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WOW.  I had no idea a handsaw could do that!  I crosscut some oak and maple rough stuff I have lying around, and it’s really unbelievable!  And tracking?!  With no marks and just by eye the cut was straight and virtually square in both planes–NOT perfect, but WOW.  Fairly effortless too.  OK, I’m hooked.
I really want to thank you, Matt.  You’ve opened up a whole new world for me.  Just awesome!

On the surface, this may seem like a shameless plug (well…it is) but it’s also much more…..its the whole reason why I love saws and woodworking and hand tools.

The experience that Bill is describing above is a life changing moment. Every craftsman remembers the first time he used a well tuned hand saw…I certainly remember mine. This epiphany does not have to be an isolated incident….it is happening all over the world as we speak and more and more each day.

Boys and girls, put down your Skilsaw and step away from the power outlet.

Now pick up a hand saw and join the revolution.

Thanks for the kind words Bill…this is the reason why I love sharpening saws.

🙂 -Matt

Published in: on June 23, 2011 at 6:25 pm  Comments (5)  

Sharpening for Miter Box Saws…

Its been a hectic few weeks in the shop since I hung my shingle out to offer saw sharpening and restoration services. I am very happy to say the response has been strong and steady, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my extra time in the shop.

Strangely enough, I have been receiving a lot of miter box saws for sharpening. This is both encouraging–as it is wonderful to see this long neglected work horse of the wood shop return to a place of respect–and dismaying–because filing 350+ teeth that have been neglected since the Eisenhower administration is a tedious process. That said, I am going to establish a new rate for miter box saws….in stead of the regular rate of $35 for a basic sharpening, I’m now charging $50 to tune up one of these big boys.

And just so those of you who already have miter box saws already with me aren’t crying bait-and-switch, don’t worry….this new price goes into effect on any saws received by me AFTER TODAY.

Anyway, that’s about it for now….keep your saws coming. My turn around time is hovering around the 2 to 3 week mark right now and things seemed to have leveled off, so it should be right around there for a while.

And a brief thanks to all of those who have wished me well in the new business endeavor…I greatly appreciate it! 🙂


Published in: on June 20, 2011 at 11:20 am  Comments (2)  

What have we lost?

With the yard sale and flea market season now in full swing, old rusty tools shake off their dusty winter coats and wander out into the warm sunlight once more in hopes of finding a new home. Each Saturday morning in New England dawns with the promise of finding one of these long-lost treasures.

Last week, on one such morning, I stumbled across this apparently common table saw blade from a nest of saws in the bottom of an old tool chest…

I was first struck by it as the etch was very bold and it looked little used. As I picked it up to get a closer look at the etch, I then noticed what I first thought was a terrible sharpening job, but soon revealed itself to be a strange hybrid tooth geometry.

As soon as I got a chance to look more closely, I realized that this was no hack-sharpening job…this was a very deliberate filing…

It seems that the teeth are filed in groups of 2 + 5, meaning that there are two stout teeth followed by 5 finer teeth. The only difference I can see from the 2 teeth to the 5 is the degree of rake…the 2 teeth are more aggressively raked than the 5 teeth. This pattern repeats itself for the whole length of the saw…2 stout, 5 fine, 2 stout, 5 fine, etc, etc. You can see this very clearly in the picture above.

So what the heck is this all about?

The filing does appear to be factory original…meaning that this was the way the saw was filed by the Disston factory. The teeth are perfectly jointed and the fleam is very consistent on all of the teeth. Further, the saw has seen very little use…I know this because the blade is arrow straight (table, keyhole, compass and all narrow bladed saws are invariably found bent and kinked) and the etch is as bold as the day it was made.

If in fact the filing is not original and was filed by the owner, it was executed with such fine precision that it must have been done by a master filer, so that further suggests it was most deliberate. Either way, factory or custom, this tells us that someone very learned in the art of saw filing intended this tooth pattern….so there must be an advantage to it.

As I further inspected the saw, I tried to understand how this filing would benefit a table saw…

Table saws are intended to cut gentle curves in table tops and similar patterns, hence the narrow blade to follow a curved line. This means that in the wood, the teeth encounter grain parallel to the line and across it and thus make ripping and cross cuts. So does this strange tooth pattern help make both types of cut? Perhaps the aggressively raked teeth are intended to rip more effectively? But then why not file them straight across like true rip teeth?

I’ve never seen teeth like this before on a hand saw, and I’ve never read about them either. Disston and other saw makers patented many hybrid tooth patterns to improve the function of their saws…perhaps this is one more?

As I wonder about these odd teeth, it makes me think of what other knowledge of saw filing we’ve lost to history, perhaps never to find again.

In a way, we are starting over in this hand tool renaisance…we are reading Moxon and Roubo and Nicholson….all long dead. What secrets of working wood by hand died with them? Will we ever discover these secrets again?

What else have we lost to time and technology?


Published in: on June 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm  Comments (16)