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Thread: Saw help

  1. #1

    Saw help

    Iím new to Woodworking and just need someone to give me specific advice on a subject which clearly has a boatload of nuance. Saws. I know nothing about them. Iím sure Iíll end up with a bunch, but I need a place to start. Iím happy to learn to sharpen myself. Iíd like to acquire 1 saw right now to cut plywood and to crosscut wood. The smaller the better. What do you recommend? Any particular Disston model on eBay? Something else? Iíve searched the forum and have just become overwhelmed by all of the info. Many thanks.

  2. #2
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    If you want to cut plywood with a handsaw, I would recommend you buy one of the cheap handsaws at a home center.

  3. #3
    Got it. And for cross cutting lumber?

  4. #4
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    Do not buy a cheap saw. I would take a walk and cruise some pawn shops. Pick up a 26'' Disston D8. This is a crosscut saw with eight points per inch,it will cut plywood fine. You should be able to find a decent one for about 10 bucks. This will give you a saw to begin to learn with and crosscut 2x4s etc. Next I would post on the Neanderthal forum here and get a pot of coffee brewed. Good luck.
    Last edited by Mike Kees; 01-24-2020 at 6:13 PM.

  5. #5
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    I have several nice saws by Disston and Atkins. I do not use them to cut plywood. Or MDF. Or that brown fiberboard. Or anything that might have nails, screws, rocks or staples in it. I have a $14 dewalt contractors saw with impulse hardened teeth from home depot that gets called into service for that sort of thing.

  6. #6
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    Hi Peter,

    Welcome to the Creek! +1 on the 8 point crosscut. I would use it on plywood, but like Nicholas, would not use it on MDF, particle board, flake board, or Masonite....because all of them have grit in them....plywood much less so in my experience. Grit will quickly dull a saw.

    Plywood is best cut with a crosscut saw, not a rip saw. I think the impulse hardened teeth saws, at least the ones I have seen, cause too much splintering. If something is critical I always try to score the material on the underside of the plywood on the good side of the cut to minimize the splintering on the "keeper" piece.

    For crosscutting solid wood, again a crosscut saw is the way to go. If you are cutting framing type lumber, 1" or 2X soft wood stock, the 8 point is ideal. On the other hand, if you are cutting finish grade hardwood 1" stock, I would use a finish crosscut saw, this being a lightly set 10 point or better yet 12 point for hardwood. For soft wood, a bit more set is better.

    I like old Disstons, and have other brands as well, but go with Disstons if buying a saw because there are so many of them around, and I know which are the better models, but I don't know about the other brands well enough to identify the better models. On the Disstons, I like the ones made in 1918 and earlier because the handle is more user friendly. Disston D8s and #7s are readily available, should be very reasonably priced, and are excellent user grade saws. There are many other models of Disston saws that are also excellent. Don't buy a modern Disston, however, for the money the old ones are much much better in my view. You may get really lucky and chance into one of the premium grade Disston saws at a garage sale or flea market for a song, but it is not likely.....I never have but don't get to rust hunt very often at all. Study the "Disston Institute," you can find it on an internet search, to learn about the various models, including how to identify the various models and how to identify the old ones.

    I do have other brands of saws that are also excellent. If you want to go with a different brand than Disston, I think there are likely sites on the net where you can learn about models of other popular saws such as Atkins, etc., but I don't know about such, having decided to stick to Disston since I know the Disston models to a fair extent.

    Condition is extremely important. I would buy any of the other very common brands if the handle was user friendly and the saw condition was excellent before I would buy a high quality disston if the Disston was in lousy shape. For brands I don't know I would look for signs of the quality of the saw, and would not buy a cheap saw even if in new condition.

    Don't get in a hurry to buy a saw, be picky. Only buy one that is NOT pitted, kinked, has a badly broken handle, or is crooked. There are too many good ones out there to buy one that needs a ton of rehab. Light surface rust or patina is ok, and can be cleaned off without too much effort...heavy rust or pitting says "never buy it" to me....too much effort to rehab when there too many good ones out there if you look a while. A few chips in the horns of the handle are also OK if you can smooth them off with sand paper or a rasp and sandpaper. I don't want one with the horns nearly broken off, however, I like the feedback you get from the horns when sawing. A bit broken back on the horns is OK, if most of the horn remains, and again can be smoothed off.

    I also like a saw that has a lot of the blade left. If you buy one that has been sharpened so many times that the toe end of the saw is nealy pointed, then almost all, if not all, of the good life of the saw has been sharpened away. Ideally I like 2 inches or so of width left at the toe end.

    You will find many more 26" 8 points than anything else, because that is what the carpenters were going to buy if they only had one saw, and lots of other folks also bought that variety if they were only going to have one saw.

    If you look a while and are not in a hurry to buy, you will likely run onto a panel saw, which is one 24" or shorter. I mention this because you mentioned that you are looking for a smaller saw. One other option in that regard, is to look on that auction site, you should do a search for a panel saw or list the length you want. (One warning, some sellers do not know the difference between a panel saw and a barn door, as I have seen 28" thumb hole rip saws listed as panel saws.) I have a pair of 16" panel saws I bought that way, these for my grand kids to use while at our house when they get a little bigger, working in the shop with grandpa. However, you will likely pay more for one from the auction site, but if that is not an issue you should be able to buy a good one for $40 or so, not including shipping, if you have a little patience I think.

    Regards,

    Stew
    Last edited by Stew Denton; 01-25-2020 at 12:36 AM.

  7. #7
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    Howdy Peter and welcome to the Creek.

    Your location isn't listed in your profile. If you were in my area there are a few places you might be able to visit to find a saw or two.

    Heck, there might even be a spare one out in the shop.

    Other members in other areas might be willing to also let you know of a few places where it might be good to look.

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

  8. #8
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    As to plywood, there are some really inexpensive Japanese saws that are designed just for that task. They cut on the pull stroke as opposed to western handsaws. I donít really use plywood. Those of you who use Disston crooks cuts on them, do you notice having to sharpen the teeth more often after having done so? Thatís what I would be worried about but donít know if that is a reasonable concern.

  9. #9
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    As for those cheap, Home Center saws....go to Paul Sellers' site. He shows how to get the best results from such saws.

    As for me.....well..
    Router Plane Project, hand sawn.JPG
    This is a Disston D-8 cross cut saw 11ppi, 26" long. I also have an Atkins No. 65 crosscut saw, 8ppi, 26" long, filed as a crosscut. I have a couple "Rip" saws 5-1/2ppi, 26" long.

    Most times, I cut plywood down to a manageable size on a tablesaw....can be done with a circular saw with a straightedge guide. The main reason the above don't use a handsaw on plywood involved the glue used to made the plywood, being a bit rough on a saw's teeth...about like a handful of sand in your peanut butter sandwich.

    Thin plywood can be cut with a sharp utility knife, and a straight edge to guide it....score as deep as you can from both sides..then snap it. Block plane to clean the edge.

  10. #10
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    What are you planing to build?
    If working with plywood I would get this saw https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MU9XB1W...v_ov_lig_dp_it Japanese pull saw.
    you can do a lot with just that 1 saw.
    If you want a western saw and would like to learn to sharpen. Go to some antique stores/ garage sales find a saw that feels good in your hand and is straight. File lt rip cut sine it is simpler to do than crosscut and you can still cross cut wood with it. Here is a nice video on what to look for https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vm1bWPzB5R4
    you do not have to speed a lot on a used saw.

  11. #11
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    Here is my 2 cents worth of advise. You've gotten a good bit of advise already and probably more to come.

    If you want only 1 saw to start with, a shorter saw, and are going to be cutting plywood and cross cutting real wood, then I suggest one of the box stores saws with the hardened teeth. They are typically (my observation) between 8 and 10 point, so don't expect a good finished cut. To learn how to sharpen a saw, pick a up almost any used saw at a garage sale, don't worry about how good it is, should have a straight blade and decent handle condition. If you are going to be cutting on a regular workbench, saw horses, or workmate, then a shorter saw (20 in. to maybe as short as 16 in.) will be easier to handle as you get started.

    For cutting plywood, I'd do the cut from the good side, marking and knifing the cut line. You can even use blue tape to help keep the edge nice.

    To learn how to saw straight check out the several tutorials on the internet, You tube. Look at a couple of different ones, there'll be different ideas and instructions but you're more likely to get ones that work for you. My personal favorite is the Renaissance Woodworker lesson on how to saw, but do check others and practice.

    Have fun.
    Dick

  12. #12
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    I like the old DISSTONS for crosscutting...A D8 would serve you well.
    Jerry

  13. #13
    Hi Peter - I'm responding so that you get the POV of someone who makes no claim to expertise in woodworking. I think Justin's advice is good. Think about what you want to build and then buy tools to build it. You'll save time and money. Unless you want to collect tools (which is a great hobby), focus on the projects and the wood, not the tools. It's easier to learn about and buy tools like a pro than it is to acquire the skill to use them so that you swerve away from why you started woodworking in the first place. I think many hobbyists like me have been lured down this path.

  14. #14
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    Peter, Have you visited the Neanderthal wisdom/FAQs page > https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?103805 < ?

    There are a few posts in the Rehabbing Old Tools section.

    There is also > http://www.vintagesaws.com < In the library link there is a lot of useful information on saws including how to sharpen a saw. This helped me a lot in my early woodworking days.

    The suggestions others have made are pretty good. If you are set on hand sawing plywood then one of the inexpensive models with hardened teeth would be a good choice for such tasks. For solid wood an old Disston is hard to beat. They can usually be had for a few bucks at a yard sale. If you can get along with having a couple of them, sharpen one crosscut with the other filed for rip cuts.

    Most of my 'big' sawing is done with 4 or 5 hand saws. My smaller sawing, like dovetails and other joinery, uses about a half dozen speciality saws.

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

  15. #15
    Join Date
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    Peter,

    Lots of good advice here as others have mentioned. If I were to distill it to key takeaways IMHO:

    1) Manufactured lumber like plywood, MDF and Masonite will rapidly dull any handsaw (because they have abrasive impurities embedded) and you should pick a saw for this use and stick with it. Ideally one of the mass-produced, pull saws available at the big box hardware stores with impulse hardened teeth work well for this task. Using a vintage Western saw for this purpose only make sense if you're able and willing to sharpen it often.

    2) For regular lumber, and 8 PPI crosscut is a great place to start – ideal for breaking down rough stock. My personal preference for this task is one of the vintage saws from 1850 – 1950 for many of the leading manufacturers of the era: Disston, Atkins, Simmons, Simonds, etc. for simple reason - saws of this era employed technology like double taper grinding of the plates (plate is thinner at the top line than at the tooth line which means you need to add less set the teeth resulting in a narrower kerf , less wood removed, less work, faster cut), hand tensioning for stiff, straight saw plates etc.. In general, these techniques/technology are not available from most full-size saws manufactured today. Like most tools, get the best you can afford, crosscutting lumber is a fundamental task and having a tool designed/tuned for the job will pay you many dividends over the years.

    Like others have mentioned, the challenge with buying vintage saws is there is a great variation in their fundamental elements that drive the performance of the saw. A stiff, straight saw plate with no kinks or dents, and most importantly, one that has been well sharpened/tuned is critical for performance. Most old saws "in the wild" have been poorly sharpened with irregularly shaped teeth, uneven tooth line, poor rake/fleam angle geometry etc. These saws may nominally "work", but there's a world of difference between most vintage saws and one that has been well sharpened/tuned.

    Like all woodworking cutting tools, saws work much better and are a lot more fun to use when their well tuned/sharpened. The challenge is, effectively sharpening/tuning a handsaw is a bit more challenging than sharpening chisel/plane blades etc. Not impossible but it takes some practice and technique. I recommend you get at least your first vintage saw from a recognized professional, and then learn to sharpen subsequent saws on your own. Having a well tuned/sharpened saw from a professional like fellow Creeker Pete Taran @vintagesaws.com will give you an excellent reference point for how a well tuned saw is supposed to work, and from there you can utilize his tutorial "handsaw primer" to learn to sharpen your own saws.

    Best, Mike

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