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Thread: Length for Panel (Hand) Saw? (Backless)

  1. #1
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    Length for Panel (Hand) Saw? (Backless)

    OK,

    So, I'm ready to purchase a few new saws. I'd like to get a rip cut "panel" saw as well as as a backless crosscut "panel" saw.
    I put panel in quotes as I've spent the last few hours pouring over the relevant sections of The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Bad Axe Saw's website, various popular wood working articles, and Sawmillcreek.org and I see that the use of "Hand Saw" and "Panel Saw" used to have a historical distinction, but now... now so much. So I'm not limiting my question to the shorter saws historically classified as panel saws).

    My first venture into hand saws was over 15 years ago as a neophyte hobbyist (now I'm an intermediate hobbyist) and freshly influenced from Tag Fried's book I purchased a rip and crosscut frame saw. Never could saw a straight line with them. Shortly after I purchased a tablesaw and my rip sawing has ever since been on that beast.

    Now, here I am getting back in touch with the hobby some years later. I'm drawn every more to the handwork that got in into woodworking in the first place. So, I'd like to get some good "panel" saws.

    I was looking at Lie-Neilson, and Vintage, and Bad Axe... and though I love the idea of searching for a vintage quality like a Disston, I just don't have the time. So, I want to buy saws I'll use for the rest of my days and I don't mind spending bank on a premium saw. (I just ordered a Dovetail/Carcase/Tenon trio from Bad Axe).

    But what length? So many sources state that 22" or less are "panel" saws for furniture makes. And the longer models were meant for house carpenters. But C. Schwarz seems to favor longer stuff. But I don't have his benefit of using a bunch of saws for years.

    I'm 5' 8" tall.
    I have no particular need to transport the saws in a tool chest (Anarchist's or otherwise), so portability isn't an issue. Though storage is a bit of a consideration as my workshop is a 2 car garage, in which I only get to keep my woodworking stuff in one half when not mid project (our mid-life crisis-mobile gets to live in the other have when I'm not mid woodworking project).

    What do folks who have used different lengths recommend? 20", 22", 28"?
    Last edited by Erich Weidner; 09-23-2019 at 2:02 AM.

  2. #2
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    Also, the wenzloffandsons website seems to be gone. I found this on an internet archive site:
    Original Page: https://www.wenzloffandsons.com/faq/...selection.html
    Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20170108...selection.html

  3. #3
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    One of my problems with a longer rip saw is when using saw horses.

    A saw horse's height is usually set by the user so one foot can be comfortably on the ground while the other knee can be used to hold the work. If the saw is too long it can hit the deck. Sometimes ripping is done with the saw almost vertical.

    If this is a consideration you might be able to work this out with a tape measure or a yard stick.

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

  4. #4
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    I size saws to the length of my forearm, from elbow to fingertips. This is also the height of my sawbench (from knee to floor).

    Longer saws reach the floor and rattle on the backstroke.

    My favorite saw is a "half back" made by Ron Bontz.
    18" at the toothline.

  5. #5
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    After grappling with the cost of new panels saws (yikes!) I decided on the following path: Find a flea market Disston D8 in good shape save for a few resharpenings. You'll recognize these from the skinny tips. Point this out to the seller and get a better deal. Cut it off at 24" and sharpen to suit. You now have a vintage 24" panel saw for about 10% of the investment in new. If it's too long, cut off another couple inches. The kerf will be slightly wider than a normal panel saw due to the thicker plate but it will be stiffer too, a plus in my book.
    Sharp solves all manner of problems.

  6. #6
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    I prefer 26" saws, but I don't use them that often. I have Disstons including a D12.
    One came to me with only a piece of handle and I made a new one.

    [ATTACH=CONFIG]416683
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    Last edited by lowell holmes; 09-23-2019 at 3:23 PM.

  7. #7
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    I consider an absolutely full suite of handsaws, justifiable to the wife as not an extravagance, as six hand saws total. Coarse and fine rip and crosscut are the first four. Maybe 4-5-6 teeth for the coarse rip, 7-8 teeth for the fine rip. Then about 8 teeth for the coarse crosscut and about 12 teeth for the fine crosscut.

    Then one hybrid grind. You have a separate thread I'll get to next, short verison, I like the hybrid grind for resawing figured hardwood.

    And finally one other saw for whatever you like. I have an oldy with freaky teeth that excels at cutting limbs with the bark still on. I use it to cut chunks of lilac wood off a shrub in my yard. I am the pitmaster at my church, lamb cooked on lilac chunks is unbelievably good; I probably grill 15# of meat every week.

    You might check Pete Taran's website, maybe even drop him an email, maybe ask if you can save on shipping by buying in quantity.

    EDIT: Completely whiffed on the OPs length question. I like my handsaws to be as long as possible. I do have a few in the 20-22" range that are indeed handy for tight places, but it is usually not that much more trouble to short stroke with a longer saw.

    Most of mine are 24 or 26 inch. I do have more saws than I can reasonable justify to the wife as not extravagant. What happened was I somehow got a breeding pair of 8 point crosscut saws side by side in my saw till, they are sort of like coat hangers that way.
    Last edited by Scott Winners; 09-23-2019 at 2:54 PM.

  8. #8
    In the 18th century "panel saw" meant a hand saw with fine teeth, seven or more to the inch. It was so called because it was used to cut thin stuff like panels, which were often 1/2 inch or less. The term "panel saw" has also been used to designate any open hand saw (no frame, no back, any length). The third meaning is a short saw somewhere around 20 inches for the plate. Today you have to look at the context to know which meaning is relevant.

    For your two saws I would recommend 26 inches for both a rip and a cross cut saw. A standard length.

  9. #9
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    I agree with Eric's response to your previous post. Call Mark at Bad Axe and discuss with him - he has helped me with similar questions. His sharpening class is also worthwhile.

  10. #10
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    Erich,

    Some good advise above.

    I am your height, so what works for me should work for you.

    I work on saw horses with planks on them, but eventually want to build saw benches. Jim made good points on horses. My saw horses are about 26" high, so I have to reach up a bit with my knee to put weight on the lumber when I saw. I have gotten to the point that I often use a quick grip clamp or sometimes two to secure the lumber I am sawing to the plank on the horses, instead of putting a knee on it. The 26" horses are just a tad tall for me, but I have used that height for almost 40 years. Before that I don't know what height I used as those horse are only distant memories. The next set of horses I build will hopefully be just a tad shorter as I am not as flexible as I was back then.

    I have hit the floor with the saw tip a few times on 26" horses, but think that only when using a 28" saw. Even when I mess up and hit the floor, it catches my attention and I don't hit the floor again.

    I like 26" saws. I have done a LOT of handsaw work, and used lengths from 16" (I have 2 that length and use them if having to travel a long way and for the grandkids when the kids are big enough), to 28," and several lengths between the two extremes. I have a lot more saws than I need. That said, I don't think a 24" saw is much of a handicap, as compared to my favored 26" versions.

    The 16" saws are handy to travel, and if working outside on horses and planks, the short length is nice because they don't take up much room on the planks. However, if the sawing is tough, using the 16" saws get old pretty quickly.

    Like Rob, I like a stiff saw, and have several types and brands of saws. The saws I like to use best are of several different brands, but most are 26." The 26" saw was what carpenters primarily used, so there are tons of them on the used saw market. I think there was a reason that so many 26" saws were sold to carpenters, my experience is that 26" is a good length. You can do long strokes with that length for faster sawing, but it is not too long if used on 26" horses. My shorter saws tend to be more flexible than I sometimes like, at least the ones I have, because the saw plate is thinner. However, I probably don't have enough panel saws to come to any real overall conclusions on the thickness of the plate.

    I like a saw with a fairly wide blade, the saws that have been sharpened down to a narrow width are a little whippy, I think, and not stiff enough for my tastes. For that reason, I want the saw to be at least 2" wide at the tip, and wider is better.

    Teeth count has come up in another very recent post. I found myself in complete agreement with some others on the comments I did on that recent post. Also I agree with Scott above. Four saws works for me, cross cuts of 8 and 12 point, and rip saws of 4 or 5 and also of 7 or 8. Thus you have a coarse tooth count and a finish saw in both rip and cross cut. The coarse TPI for rough/fast cutting and the finer tooth count for finish work. Thus the coarser version are used with dimension lumber when framing. These teeth count work for me, and they are what I use.

    Ripping is hard work, especially if you do a lot of it. For that reason, a 28" rip saw is nice to have. Gives you a long stroke which helps the ripping go faster.

    Concerning what to buy. You can buy old Disston saws on the auction site that have been restored, and for reasonable money, if you don't want to restore one yourself. I like Disstons made in the time frame of 1896 to 1917. The handles on these are especially comfortable to use. (Go to the "Disstoninstitute" to see how to recognize these.) Nothing against other good brands of saws, but I know more about the Disston product lines, so choose them.

    If you buy used on the auction site, make sure the saw is straight, if you can't tell, ask the seller. D-8s are common, are stiff, and are good saws, as are lots of others. Make sure you can see BOTH sides of the saw plate. If the view is not good, I pass on things.

    I can give you no advise on new saws because I don't have any. New premium saws are wonderful, I'm sure. This, because you don't have to fiddle with them, or restore them.

    You will pay more for a saw that has been restored than for the un-restored on the auction site. However, even so, it will be LOTS less than the new premium sellers get for their saws.

    Regards,

    Stew
    Last edited by Stew Denton; 09-24-2019 at 1:56 AM.

  11. #11
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    Mike Allen offers beautifully refinished saws from America's Golden Age of industrial products. They will be ready to work.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Matthews View Post
    Mike Allen offers beautifully refinished saws from America's Golden Age of industrial products. They will be ready to work.
    Jim,

    I couldn't agree more. I used one of his saws on a couple of projects the other day. At the time I thought about dropping Mike a note about how sweet they cut.

    BTW did you notice Mike's saw tills in his last post? He should have a few ready to go.

    ken

  13. #13
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    Re: MA temprations - I try not to look into Pandora's box.

  14. #14
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    My saw horses are about 26" high, so I have to reach up a bit with my knee to put weight on the lumber when I saw. I have gotten to the point that I often use a quick grip clamp or sometimes two to secure the lumber I am sawing to the plank on the horses, instead of putting a knee on it. The 26" horses are just a tad tall for me, but I have used that height for almost 40 years. Before that I don't know what height I used as those horse are only distant memories. The next set of horses I build will hopefully be just a tad shorter as I am not as flexible as I was back then.
    My post on building a saw bench/table/horse shows how the ends of the legs were marked for cutting:

    https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?146777

    It is in the 8th post down if viewing in sequential order.

    My tendency is to build these a little taller than needed. With something to be sawn on top of the horse, pieces of scrap are lain on the floor next to the horses for me to stand on until my comfort zone for sawing is found. The height of the scrap is used to mark the legs for sawing. The result should be a horse at a height that is right for the user.

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

  15. #15
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    I have a few D-8s in the shop....D-8, 8ppi,26" long.....D-8 ( 8 is inside the D) 10ppi, 20" long. Plus a D-115 and a D-100 ( the wood handle style)..I think both are 8 ppi. Keystone rip saw, 26" length, 5-1/2ppi. Disston No.7...6ppi, 26" long...with a nib...( 2 of these saws, BTW), and a 14" long, 9ppi No. 4 backsaw...
    Poplar Box Project, hand sawing.JPG
    Filed rip. Backsaws for crosscutting are in the mitre boxes...26"-30" long. 11 ppi. using the Stanley #358 right now...

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