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Thread: About sharpening handsaws

  1. #1
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    About sharpening handsaws

    There is some agitation in another area here to opening a sub forum specific to sharpening. I am far too new to have a valued opinion on the subject, though I am in favor.

    I can generally apply a rule of thirds when I take up a new thing. For joinery, sharpening saws turns out to be easy for me, I suspect I am about average sharpening chisels; I. and I know it when faced with rusty old Bailey planes. When I see a rusty old bailey in the antique shop and know I can get the same thing new from Veritas or LN for only ten times the price, I pretty much buy the new plane.

    When there someday is a sticky about sharpening hand saws, bare minimum, I should be in thread behind Pete Taran, Jim Koepke, Derek Cohen and three other users I don't know the name of yet. After "you " have read the sage advice of those six folks who know what they are doing, here is what I have to add...

    How to tell, in process, that when you are done the saw you are working on is going to be impressively sharp.

    1. Your cat leaves not just your house, but the property and goes next door.
    2. Your dog leaves not just the property but your neighborhood.
    3. Your neighbor's hounds are howling in pain.
    4. Your butthole tingles, a LOT
    5. You can picture every dentist who ever drilled any of your teeth, and you know they were all shysters.

    Frame of reference. Be careful here. I have become a fan of Leonard Lee's 1995 _The Complete Guide to Sharpening- (Taunton). Mr. Lee doesn't have a bunch of youtubes or a blog, but his stuff is sharp. I think what I am seeing is on youtube you can get a thing about 85% as sharp as Mr. Lee does, with 15% of the effort. If you are willing to go 100% effort to get a thing 100% sharp, check your local library. The English guy covers gouges two ways on youtube in something like 4 minutes, nothing wrong with that; but Mr. Lee covers gouges one way in ten pages with 28 illustrations. I do grill 85-15 burgers during the week, but when I get around to brisket on the weekends I invest 110-110.

    The point is they measure opposite. Mr. Lee sharpens a rip saw at 0 degrees and 0 degrees, that is perpendicular to the blade and parallel to the floor. The English guys sharpens a rip saw at 90 degrees relative to the blade with the file parallel to the floor, but their teeth will be shaped the same.

    For a crosscut saw, where the Englishman will do "65 degrees" relative to the blade with the file still parallel to the floor, Mr Lee would call that 25 degrees relative to the blade and want the file also tipped 25 degrees relative to the floor to keep the gullet open for optimal chip removal.

    Besides a now fantastic rip saw, I did an 11 PPI crosscut over the weekend at Canadian 30-30 (60- WTFBBQ in England) that has knocked my socks off. It is as good as or better than a carbide bladed circular saw in well seasoned ash at a compound angle relative to the growth rings.

    I don't yet own the American book with the big A on the front to incorporate that frame of reference.

    I went looking and found another 11 PPI crosscut (warranted superior) in the lower 48 on CL that is shipping my way over the weekend. I will shape it at 45-45 after it is jointed. Mr. Lee described that as about the top end for fast cutting/ frequent resharpening.

    If anyone is "good" at planes and wants to whip some of my Baileys into shape in exchange for having some sharp saws arrive at your shop in a box, please to drop a PM to me.
    Last edited by Lee Schierer; 01-29-2019 at 9:31 AM.

  2. #2
    Scott,

    The book looks interesting.

    ken

  3. #3
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    Hey Scott, what files do you use?

  4. #4
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    Of the people that I've taught to sharpen hand saws, the biggest problem seems to be reluctance. Those that start out confident can learn to do it fairly easily. Those that hold back, believing it to be something elusive, and hard to do, don't. The exact same with sharpening chainsaw chains.

  5. #5
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    Watch this video.
    https://www.finewoodworking.com/2006...ening-handsaws
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA5DixEaaUo

    Make or buy an old saw vise, take a junker saw, and sharpen it.
    That's what I did. My saws are sharp and cut straight.
    I must warn you, it can be a bit addicting.
    Last edited by lowell holmes; 01-29-2019 at 9:51 AM.

  6. #6
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    I am by no means experienced, but my early tries at saw sharpening seemed pretty easy and produced results I was happy with. Fleam angle takes some care but is not really that hard. I am sure getting a truly great outcome is more than this, just based on how my definition of a sharp knife or chisel has evolved with experience, but the basics are not that bad.

  7. #7
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    Best advice I got, for all sharpening actually, was "poorly sharpened is better than dull" so give it a go and improve your skill with each try. (I have Ron Herman's "Sharpen Your Handsaws" DVD and Mike Siemsen's "The Naked Woodworker" DVD, which touches on the subject too, and I don't remember which used this phrase.)

  8. #8
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    I am not expert enough to recommend files. The ones at the home center blister packed with MiC on the back, not so good. The ones from Lee Valley with the little tiny letters and numbers on the metal down by the handle, good file.

    Reluctance, exactly. Knowing that I can barely sharpen a chisel _and_ my hand planes need a great deal of work I too was RELUCTANT to try sharpening a saw, but it came out well.

    Easy, and good results, exactly.

    Poorly sharpened is better than dull, I like it.

    My point with this thread is NOT that I am a professional expert or have any designs on becoming an overnight sensation. My point IS that sharpening handsaws is really not that bad. Some kind of clamp or vise, good light, a triangular file and a book or video or mentor, give it a go.

    The first saw I sharpened myself, a large toothed rip, came out like a new store bought saw, sharp but nothing astounding. The second one, I am astounded. This is not a difficult thing. Give it a try.

  9. #9
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    Sharpening a saw and sharpening a chisel are similar, but very different.

    With a saw, for me the hardest part to get right starting out is to file each tooth an equal amount. Otherwise there are highs and lows on the tooth line and that isn't good for smooth sawing.

    Here is a simple shop made bevel gauge to help in keeping a consistent fleam angle:

    Saw Bevel kerf.jpg

    Here it is in use:

    Fleam Guide & File.jpg

    This was made before Lee Valley came out with a nifty file handle with adjustments to set the rake and fleam.

    Some folks just put a ruler down on the bench under where they are filing as an indicator to follow for the fleam angle.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  10. #10
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    I have some different strips of plywood, with different fleam angles on them with Magic Markers. I lay it behind the vise, and if the file angle is off any, it's very noticeable. I also file with one hand, starting with the little smooth end in the gullet-same as I do chainsaw chains. That gives me an extra split second to see that I'm in the right gullet. Two hands always felt awkward, and slow to me, and puts my eyes not at the spot I like.

    I also set a light that shines the newly filed tooth faces back at me, so it's easy to see which is next when the file goes back at the saw.

  11. #11
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    Chainsaws have come up a couple times. I do live in Alaska. I burn about 8 cords annually, fell my own trees and maintain my own saw chains.

    That might maybe be contributing to my rapid success sharpening crosscut. But I still insist it isn't that hard.

    Poorly sharpened is better than dull. Put down your reluctance, rip a slit in a 2x2, grab a crap triangular file from the home store and try it. It is not very hard at all to exceed what you can buy new.

  12. #12
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    I was confused by some of the angles noted in the OP. Since the files I have used and seen used were triangular, the angles of the teeth will naturally be at 60 degrees, not 90. I think its just a misunderstanding of the way it was stated. Thanks

  13. #13
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    Pat, He is referring to the rake angle I'm sure. A rip saw has zero rake (nominally) or 90 degrees depending on how you think about it. In all cases that is referring to the angle the file has as it contacts the cutting edge of the tooth from vertical. Disston used to sell their saws with zero degree rake, but over time they settled on an 8 degree rake as shown below. That makes the saw less aggressive in the cut, but also less "grabby" to the inexperienced sawyer. I personally like mine at around 4 degrees, although I have them in all configurations to suit different kinds of work. Hope this helps.

    ripprofile2.JPG

  14. #14
    It only took me 30 years or so of owning, using and sharpening woodworkig tools to undertake sharpening saws. And ya, the first few were pretty bad, but still better than a dull saw.

  15. #15
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    See this guide. I have one. Rob Lee came through again.

    http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/Search.aspx?action=n

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