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Thread: Hand saw's TPI

  1. #1
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    Question Hand saw's TPI

    I am basically a "power driven" woodworker so I can have very basic questions regarding to handtools.

    I have two saws I purchased almost 30 years ago - they were the best one I could found near home. I have used them in a fair number of occasions, mainly when constructing our home.

    One is a long classical crosscut saw (also my ripsaw) with 7 TPI. Another one is my back saw for "precise" cuts with 13 DPI.

    At the time I learned as "thumb rule" I would need 4-8 teeth into the wood for ripping, so my 7 TPI would fit 1 to 2 inch stock, and 6-10 teeth for crosscut, so my 7 TPI saw would fit the 1/2 to 1 inch range. Almost perfect - and that was the reason I purchased it as virtually all wood I used both for construction as well for cabinet making and furniture was at range from 1/2 in to 2 inches. Then I had no idea on different profiles for the cut teeth for ripping and crosscutting.

    I have a couple of questions and I thank you in advance if you can help in the answer:


    1. Is my "thumb rule" correct? - I cannot remember to read it anywhere
    2. If the rule is reasonable, is it equally valid for any wood? It looks me pine and ipe can demand completely different rules (if any)
    All the best.

    Osvaldo.

  2. #2
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    1. Yes, what I learned/read is that you don't need more than 4-6 teeth in the wood at any time, so you're right there.
    2. It's equally valid for any wood, but the tooth profile for softwood vs hard wood vs. wood the density of steel is significantly different.

  3. #3
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    Osvaldo,

    Back when I worked in the carpentry trade when I was in college (long time ago) one of the guys had actually been to trade school for a couple of years for carpentry. He told me that a good choice for a cross cut saw for framing was an 8 point and for finish crosscutting a 10 or 12 point was a good choice. I am sure he was taught that while in trade school. My experience back then, and since has been that I think he was correct back then. I like an 8 point for framing where you are dealing with 2X4s a lot and now prefer a 12 point for finish crosscutting, rather than a 10 point.

    Back then we had circular saws, and used them a lot, but we also had hand saws back then, and also used them a lot. I still use my hand saws a lot more than my circular saws. It depends on what I am doing. If doing framing where I have quite a bit of cutting to do with 2X4s, I use a circular saw. If doing things where only a limited portion of the work is using a saw I use a hand saw.

    Both of these saws, the 8 point and the 12 point are used in the same thicknesses of wood, so I am not sure how that fits the "number of teeth in the wood" theory.

    I can say this however, the 8 point does just fine for crosscutting framing lumber. You do not need a coarser saw. Thus, with the softwoods we use for framing in this country, the 6 to 10 teeth in the wood rule, is a bit on the coarse side in my opinion.

    However, if dealing with thin stock, the 12 point is a better choice.

    I do have 7 point rip saw that I use for finish work, and like it a lot. That said, if you are dealing with oak a true 1" or thicker, the 7 point is pretty slow and tiring. A lot of guys even recommend a 4 point rip saw for finish work and stock preparation even for furniture. Of course for this type of work, they will follow up the initial ripping with a hand plane for final stock preparation.

    Some of these days I plan to re-tooth one of my saws to a 4 or 4&1/2 point rip because my current old 4 point rip is not very good. I have plenty of much better saws than my old 4 point, so there is no point in not changing on over.

    Regards,

    Stew
    Last edited by Stew Denton; 09-15-2019 at 10:51 PM.

  4. #4
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    Like so many "Rules of Thumb" there are exceptions.

    The rule to remember is generally a saw with more teeth will likely make a smoother but slower cut.

    Then remember there are different properties of wood and how it is used. Sawing a construction 4X4 may be fine if there is a rough edge. For the edge on top of a cabinet one might want to go a little slower with a saw that will not cause as much of a ragged edge.

    For my breakdown sawing there are two ripsaws and two crosscut saws that do most of the work. One of each with a coarse cut and a fine cut.

    I have two saws I purchased almost 30 years ago - they were the best one I could found near home. I have used them in a fair number of occasions, mainly when constructing our home.

    One is a long classical crosscut saw (also my ripsaw) with 7 TPI. Another one is my back saw for "precise" cuts with 13 DPI.
    If it is filed for crosscut, my guess is it was disappointing as a ripsaw.

    Different woods do benefit from different saw strategies. It is more than teeth per inch, it also includes the properties of set. Some woods are more likely to splinter, some are more forgiving.

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

  5. #5
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    There is very good reference material on fellow Creeker Pete Taran’s site; Vintagesaws. Check out his library section. Another source of information is Blackburn Tools in the Articles and Reference section. Both provide an excellent overall understanding of saws. Worth the read.

  6. #6
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    For a fun project, buy a junker saw on line, de-rust it, make a new handle, buy new brass saw nuts, make saw vise for your bench, buy a saw set, make tpi paper patterns to tape to the side of the saw plate, and use it. I did that and now I have seven disston saws hanging in my shop. You can de-rust saw with a wooden block wrapped the sandpaper. Coat the saw with Johnson's floor wax. In Galveston County Texas, we have lot of rust and I bought a can of wax years ago and it keeps my tools rust free. You can de-tooth a saw plate with coarse flat file.

    Curly maple makes spectacular handles.

    It is fun to experiment with tpi count.
    Last edited by lowell holmes; 09-17-2019 at 9:14 AM.

  7. #7
    I have read the suggestion of six teeth in the cut (for both rip and crosscut) many times. However historical materials from before 1830, suggest much a coarser saw for a given job. For example, Nicholson (1812) suggests about three teeth per inch for a rip saw and 6 teeth per inch for "cutting very thin wood". The 19th century materials from the later 19th century like are on the Vintage saws website, are geared more to the handyman or amateur. Someone with a lot of experience can handle a coarser saw. Accuracy is usually important; surface quality is usually not.

    I have used a 5 1/2 point rip saw for stuff in the 1/4" to 3" range, so there are not always even four teeth in a cut. If I did a lot of work at either of these extremes, I would probably get a second rip saw. I do have a veneer saw for resawing and such.

    If I had a 7 point rip saw, I would be using it for stuff 5/8" or less. I do have a 13 point back saw, 12 inches long, a sash saw. I use it for smaller tenons, mouldings and such. It is a little clumsy for dovetails.

  8. #8
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    I wouldn't worry so much about exactly how many teeth are in the cut. It shouldn't take very long, maybe practicing in some scrap, to see what a saw will do. When I first started building houses, I hired the most experienced carpenters, which were also the oldest. They all used handsaws for cuts that needed to be precise, even though they all owned corded circular saws. I still do the same.

    An 8 point is fine for cutting framing lumber, or even 1x's but doesn't leave the smoothest cut. A 7 point will do the same thing faster, but leave a slightly rougher cut than the 8 point. All those old guys-then all younger than I am now- typically had an 8pt. and 12 pt. crosscut saws. Only a few had any kind of rip saw, and I don't remember the tooth count of the few rip saws, but they were probably mostly 4-1/2. They used the 12 pt. saws for things that didn't work out so good for a miter box, and the rip saws for things too thick for the circular saws.

    I follow almost the same as they did, although my preference for cutting siding is a 10 pt. When I use a rip saw, it's either the biggest teeth I have, or a 6 point.

    This is all talking about hand saws, as the title asked. For backsaws, it opens up another whole discussion.

  9. #9
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    I have seven handsaws with tooth count from 7 to 14. The lower numbers are rip.

  10. #10
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    I have 5-1/2, 6 and 7s....the 6 works the best for rips...I have 8 and 10 for crosscuts....unless you count the mitre saws at 11.....

  11. #11
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    You do know that we need seven to ten handsaws. Also, a "skil" saw, table saw, band saw . . . .

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by lowell holmes View Post
    You do know that we need seven to ten handsaws. Also, a "skil" saw, table saw, band saw . . . .
    There are six saws in the Seaton chest (1796):

    Hand saw 26" 5 tpi
    Panel saw 26" 7 tpi

    Tenon saw 19" 10 tpi
    Sash saw 14" 13 tpi
    Carcass saw 11" 14 tpi
    Dovetail saw 9" 19 tpi

    A kit like this is adequate for a professional cabinetmaker.;

  13. #13
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    What is a professional cabinet maker? Is he in a shop?

  14. #14
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    Aka....Joiner.....builds furniture in the winters, when it is to cold outside to build houses and barns....

    Rip vs Crosscut....more about HOW the teeth were filed, then how many teeth a saw had...and, HOW much set was used...crosscut more, rip had less.

  15. #15
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    When I built houses, I was did my own trim work, and accumulated my collection. I ended up making curly maple handles for for three rusty saws. One is a Disston D12. Google Disston D12.

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