Quick Tip #10: The Saw Nib

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10 thoughts on “Quick Tip #10: The Saw Nib

  1. I’m probably wrong about this, it seems I’m wrong about anything I think I know for sure.

    I have only seen a nib on straight back saws, never on a skew back.

    I suppose, as with the nib, there is no practical reason for that either.

    Thanks for the nib filing lesson. I’ve filed in new nibs that were broken off, but have never filed a nib on a saw that didn’t previously have one.

    I can only imagine what went through the minds of the old time saw workers who were required to file nibs on certain saws. “Why do I have to do this? This seems to be such a waste of time. What’s the damn thing for anyway? I hate this job, spending all this time that could be better spent on maybe filing in teeth or making handles.”

    • Marv,
      No, I think you are right. I still think you know what you are talking about :). You just keep doing what you’re doing.

      My observations are the same as yours. I’ve only seen nibs on straight backed saws, not on skew backs. I have a thing for straight backed saws though. I much prefer them to skew backs. If only I could find the 4 PPI #7 I’ve been looking long and hard for. Gonna have to make my own I think. I’m not really looking forward to filing such large teeth into a 0.042″ thick plate though.

      I’m not sure that the skew back accomplishes much. Disston said it made the saw plate stronger, but I think that was likely marketing hype. I can’t see how it would make the plate stronger. It would make it lighter though, and that could be a good thing for on site carpenters who need to transport their tools frequently.

      Your dialog gave me a good chuckle. I think you’re probably right. I wonder if they theorized about it’s purpose as much as we do today? I can see them blaming “the suits” for designing such a stupid feature. 🙂

  2. I have a nasty old saw that I got years ago at an “antique” store, and behold, as I cleaned the rust, (ok, started cleaning the rust) it had a little nib. It’s a rip saw, about 10 ppi,and 24 inches long. Couldn’t quite read the stamped in name, but after biting an almond in half and rubbing it over the stamp, it says, “A. D. Clink”. Since it was small, and the teeth were small, I wondered, “What if I turn it over and run it along the wood?” It seems to me, that by doing that you can line up the blade without the offset of the teeth, and with a quick shove up past the nib, it makes an ideal nick in the wood to start the cut. Flip the blade back over, and away you go. Right now though, I feel like an outsider who just didn’t get that all you guys were joking about not knowing what its for. I really wish I had all the expertise and proficiency all of you seem to have with hand tools. Right now, mine seem like a pile of old tools that I have used to demolish some cheaper wood in hopeless projects. Thanks, Bob, for your continued lessons…they really give me hope!

    • Steve,
      Starting the cut is one theory for the presence of the nib. However, I wouldn’t recommend it, as it is a good way to snap the nib off. We do joke about the nib a lot in these forums. In truth though, it was simply decorative. It had no function.

  3. Hi guys,

    I have a theory about the purpose of the nib. No way to know for sure, but two things happened at the same time to give me this notion. First, I happened to buy a 1920’s Atkins 18″ xcut finishing saw – it has a full nib. The second thing was watching Bob’s video on sawing technique. That subtle shift you made to sight down the back of your saw resonated with me, so I went out in the shop, grabbed the Atkins and a piece of scrap and made a few cuts. Now here’s the thing – I found that when I was sighting correctly, and making accurate cuts, the nib disappeared from view. In other words, it was perfectly in line with the back of the saw. When I wasn’t as straight, in my cut, I could see the nib profile every time.

    In thinking about this, it occurred to me that this idea would be most useful for precision cuts, so the nib should appear mostly on xcut and on finer rip saws and not on skew backs, since their primary purpose was a rough fast rip.

    So, don’t laugh fellas and tell me what you think.


  4. Hi Chuck,

    Not a bad theory. Never heard that one before. Sighting down a saw whether being a skew back or straight back, with a nib or without a nib, the technique of sighting down the blade with only the top edge in focus will aid in sawing straight. I still can’t see a viable need for the nib.

    As for skew backed saws having been designed only for rough fast rip cuts….. skew backed saws were made both as rip and crosscut and with all the different tooth profiles that were meant for all the same kinds of sawing that straight back saws were used for.

    When Disston was the biggest saw maker in the world, they included the nib on only their more high priced saws. Other saw makers though, included a nib in order to compete with Disston.

    As far as I’m aware, Disston was the first to make a skew back saw. They did it on their D8 model. The saw also had what they called a “let-in” closed top handle. All of the changes they made, made the saw more complicated and costly to manufacture. It makes no sense to have done what they did. However, for some reason, the D8 became one of their most popular models, hence there being so many of them around still today.

    Take care,

  5. I beleve that skew back is the way to loose some weight, and keep all necessary stifness. As I can remember, load on the saw blade is non-linear function, so it make sense that with of the blade is also non-linear.

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