More on Saws

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10 thoughts on “More on Saws

  1. This excerpt brings up one of the silly little questions I always had about small backsaws. Why do the dovetail saws nearly always seem to have the open handle? I can think of one exception. Is it because of blade depth alone?

    I’m not a huge fan of open handles, but then again, this is not one of something I care enough about to do real research on or wage holy war over.

    • Brian,
      I don’t know the the answer to that but I assume it is because a closed handle saw would be in the way due to the narrow saw plate.

  2. I’ve gotten a lot of back saws lately, but only because they were at a good price. Fixed up an unpretentious 12″ Jackson, filed it rip, and you know that little guy is a really good little saw suitable for dovetailing.

    What I’m missing is a larger tennon saw like yours, but I think I may want to make some both rip and crosscut. Picked up a big block of beautiful sapele and have settled on the Harvey Peace P47 with a cool, let-in handle. Did a google sketchup, (my first) and it looks pretty racy! Do you wish you’d done a length different from sixteen inches with your longer backsaw? I’m curious about whether I should make mine sixteen or eighteen inches in length. Fourteen inches is a bit of a chore when doing tennons. Is sixteen really that much different? Eighteen seems right, but then you’re getting into panel saw range.

    • Jay,
      I like my 16″ saw for most jobs. I think it is a good length. However, there are times when I would like a saw with fewer TPI. My 16″ saw is pitched at 12 PPI. For wider tenons, I think fewer PPI would be beneficial, so that’s why I’m making another to complement the 16″ 12 PPI saw. The piece of saw plate stock I have left over after building my other two saws is 19″ long, so I’m going to make a 19″ saw with 10 PPI. I don’t know if the extra length will be a benefit or not as I haven’t used a tenon saw this long before, so I can’t say for sure. I’m expecting I will like it as I tend to prefer a slightly longer saw for most jobs, even though I’m a fairly short guy. I do tend to draw the end of my 16″ saw back into the tenon cut from time to time and dig the point into the cut, which causes it to jam, so the longer saw plate should help with this. The Seaton tenon saw was 19″ long so there is definitely a historical prescedent for long tenon saws.

      I think an 18″ saw would be much more effecient than your current 14″ saw, but it’s not just the length of the saw plate that makes a difference. If your current 14″ saw has a higher tooth count, simply making a longer saw with the same PPI may not give you the results you are expecting; you may want/need fewer PPI for a more aggressive & faster cutting saw. That’s the wonderous thing about saws. There are so many variables you can play with to get a saw that works with you just the way you want; length (if you’re making your own), PPI, rake, fleam, etc. In the end you may end up with only a handful of favorite users, but they will be dialed in to your mechanics and the way in which you work.

      • Another thing to consider is the plate thickness. I’ve been perusing that Bad Axe website, and he’s making some of his 18″ tenon saws with a .032″ plate. There again it’s getting into panel saw territory–to me it seems like we use thin-plated backsaws for a nice, thin kerf; a plate that thick seems right on the border of usefulness–might not need the steel back in that case.

        Tell you what Bob, you do all the hard work and make all the mistakes for us, and document it, so we know what saws to make! I don’t think there are any Lie-Nielsen tool events coming my way for at least six months, so you’ve got plenty of time.

        • Jay,
          Most backed saws I’ve seen have thinner plates, but I’ve never handled the older 16″ and 18″ Disstons that Mark’s saws are based on so there may be some prescedent for the thicker plates he uses. The thicker plate would make for a stiffer, heavier saw, which some people like (myself included). But you are right, a plate thickness of 0.032″ would work without a back as well (my 26″ Disston #7 has a 0.032″ thick plate). Adam Cherubini’s 18″ tenon saw and Mike Wenzloff’s 19″ Kenyon tenon saw are both 0.025″ thick plates I believe. I’ll be making my 19″ saw from 0.025″ stock, so I’ll let you know how I like it.

  3. Bob,

    Long time listener, first time caller.

    Your podcast was one of the reasons I started working with hand-tools only. I’ve slowly been collecting new ($$$) and used ($) hand-tools over the last year or so. I just got an old bow/frame saw with an 18″ blade. Unfortunately, the blade is much to be desired. I’ve been scouring the web to find a replacement blade, but have had no luck finding one that’s 18″. I was wondering if you could offer any advice?


    • Hi Ben,
      Glad to have you here! so what’s wrong with the current blade? Is it kinked or does it just need to be sharpened. Most old bowsaw blades can be sharpened as long as they have not already been sharpened to the point of being too narrow. If it is truly beyond repair, I’m not sure where you can find a stock 18″ replacement blade. I know Woodjoy makes bowsaws, but I’m not sure if they have an 18″ version. You might try contacting Mike Wenzloff. He might be able to make one for you. I could probably make one for you, but by the time I ordered the materials and file and made the blade, it probably wouldn’t be worth the cost for you. Since Mike already has the materials and machines, his cost will probably be more reasonable.

      • Thanks for the advice! Besides being a little rusted, the original blade is fine…it’s just narrow (<1 cm). I was just looking for a wider one. It looks like Woodjoy makes an 18" bowsaw, but sells the blades in mm. I'll look into Wenzloff as well.

        Thanks for the help Bob.


        • If the blade is about 1 cm wide (about 3/8″), that’s probably about right. The saw was likely meant as a turning saw for cutting curves, not for making straight cuts and joinery cuts. Bowsaws for long rips, crosscuts and joinery cuts would be 24″ long and longer. Bowsaws of 18″ and shorter are turning saws and will pretty much all have narrow blades.

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