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Thread: Shortening a hand saw

  1. #1

    Shortening a hand saw

    This is my first post so Iím not sure if itís in the right place. Iím just expanding into hand tool woodworking from my usual power tool woodworking. I still do most of my dimensioning of stock with power tools but am getting into hand tool joinery. I have two newer (last 20 years) hand saws I picked up at a yard sale that are both 26 inches one is rip and the other crosscut. I am looking to cut them down to 18 inch bench saws for lighter work and to fit into my toolbox. Iím looking to make something similar to a Disston D7 panel saw. My question is do I cut the excess off the toe or the heel of the saw? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    James
    Last edited by James Saunders1; 04-13-2020 at 1:09 PM.

  2. #2
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    Shorten at the toe.
    Dremel cutting wheel to score a line where you want to cut, place the unwanted section into a vise...wear leather gloves,,and then just snap the snap off...clean up with a grinder..

  3. #3
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    Howdy James and Welcome to the Creek.

    It will be easier to take the length from the toe. Otherwise you would have to fit the handle to what would likely be a smaller heel on the saw.

    What do you have to cut the saw plate? A Dremel with a cut off wheel works pretty well for me. Save the cut off. It can be handy for making other tools like scrapers or even a marking knife:

    Saw Blade Marking Knife.jpg

    This is great for marking out dovetails and other joinery.

    For information on saws & sharpening > http://www.vintagesaws.com < is a good start. The upper left of the site has a link to the library.

    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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    Note: I've never done this so YMMV, but Matt Cianci of the Sawwright.com recently shared a clip on Instagram (thesawwright) of him clipping 2-inches off the toe of a saw, with a bad kink at the toe, with a pair of Wiss yellow handled snips. It took all of 10 seconds and the cut was straight as could be. You can check out the video on Instagram it was posted March 31st. He didn't say how thick the plate was.

    If I were to do this I would start 1/2-inch up the toe first as a trial run, before committing myself to the finished cut. But with a pair of sharp snips it seemed to work fine.

    DC

  5. #5
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    It does work fine. I use a cheap bench shear, but tin snips are just a smaller version of that. While the steel is hard, its very thin so you can cut it pretty easily.

  6. #6
    Thanks for all of the helpful advice. I have a dremel so will will try that first. I like the idea of trying a few inches from the final cut first. Regarding toe vs heel I am planning on replacing the existing larger clunky machined handle with a smaller D7 template handle that I shape by hand. I will have to re-drill the holes. My thinking was if I cut the heel the new smaller handle will fit better on the shorter heel and I won’t have to deal with the old holes. Perhaps cut a bit from each end? I also wasn’t sure if I cut from the toe the new toe end will be quite tall maybe 3 inches. Not sure if that would affect performance or looks? Is there any difference in plate thickness at the toe vs heel to consider? Would the shorter saw be better with a thicker or thinner plate? Again thanks to everyone for the advice and help! Here's a picture - if I cut from the toe it leaves a 3 inch tall toe and 3 inches of saw plate below the handle at the heel. If I cut from the heel it leaves a 2 inch toe and 1.5 inches of saw below the handle at the heel?
    IMG_3950.jpg
    Last edited by James Saunders1; 04-13-2020 at 3:53 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Saunders1 View Post
    Cutting the handle off like that looks good to me. It is a common saw so do not worry about it to much. If it does not turn out how you would like there are more saws out there for cheap.

    Hand saws are addicting.

  8. #8
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    James, I would be much simpler if you just reshape the existing handle using rasps and some paring to resemble your chosen design.

  9. #9
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    The narrow toe of any saw if the weak point. The narrower is gets, the more likely it is to kink. I'd take the bulk off the toe end it if were me. Since this is a pretty radical shortening, you might also consider some from the handle.

    Since you are replacing a cover top handle with an older one that has a regular slot, you might also consider draw filing the back smooth and even putting in a nib as that would be the style for that type of handle. As a result, the toe will get about 1/4" shorter should you decide to install a nib.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Taran View Post
    The narrow toe of any saw if the weak point. The narrower is gets, the more likely it is to kink. I'd take the bulk off the toe end it if were me. Since this is a pretty radical shortening, you might also consider some from the handle.

    Since you are replacing a cover top handle with an older one that has a regular slot, you might also consider draw filing the back smooth and even putting in a nib as that would be the style for that type of handle. As a result, the toe will get about 1/4" shorter should you decide to install a nib.
    Thanks, I think this is what Iíll do. A good balance. I know itís a drastic change but the saw isnít worth anything so I want to make it my own and try, nothing lost if it doesnít work out. Thanks everyone for all of the help and suggestions. This has been a great welcoming to the community.

  11. #11
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    When you finish the saw post up some pics of it.

  12. #12
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    I would practice on a junk saw before cutting a keeper.

  13. #13
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    Whatever method you go with, especially the score and snap technique, be sure to wear proper safety glasses. Take it from someone who has had rusted metal shards ground (yes, ground...) out of his eye, metal in your eye is no fun.
    Your endgrain is like your bellybutton. Yes, I know you have it. No, I don't want to see it.

  14. #14
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    Is there any difference in plate thickness at the toe vs heel to consider?
    Some saws are taper ground. Some not only from top to bottom but also heel to toe.

    Also to consider if you move the handle to the toe end, the teeth will be facing the wrong way requiring a refiling of the teeth.

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

  15. #15
    It would break my heart to cut down a 26" panel saw like that. I'd be looking for a smaller donor personally. Up here in the North good 26" saws don't grow on trees and they are pricey. On the positive side the off cuts would likely be useful as well! Good luck.

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