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Thread: Setting and sharpening really fine (16-20 TPI) dovetail saw teeth.

  1. #1
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    Setting and sharpening really fine (16-20 TPI) dovetail saw teeth.

    Hi guys.

    So, in the past, I have had great success sharpening and setting tenon saws around 10-12 TPI, and even made my own bow saw blades before.

    I've used the screwdriver method, and I think I've also used a hammer and nail before (I don't remember too well if that worked out) to set teeth. I had great success with the screwdriver method though.

    However, I picked up this little dovetail saw recently... I think it is around 18tpi perhaps. I sharpened it with an "Extra Slim" saw file, and it's sharp now, but for the life of me I cannot set it.

    The teeth are really shallow with kind of wide gullies between them (maybe my saw file is not narrow enough?) making this even more difficult. I tried the screwdriver method, and it requires far too much downwards pressure and inevitably just pops out and results in my hand flying into the saw blade...

    Then I tried the hammer + nail approach, and it is just totally ineffective. The teeth don't get set / bent.

    I even tried going after them with pliers, and could not get a strong enough grip on them.

    I then tried carving a little groove in a thin piece of metal to grip the plate, and allow me to twist ala the screw driver method. That worked, except it too had the tendency to pop out, and upon popping out it chipped off the tip of one of the teeth. Yikes!

    How the heck do you guys sharpen and more importantly set really fine saws? I feel like the hammer technique should work, but I need something that doesn't "slip" so badly off the teeth. That, and it's easy to lose what tooth you're on.

    I'm tempted to just file all of the teeth off and re-cut them at 12-14ish TPI... Though, I really would like to be able to sharpen and set teeth finer than that.

  2. #2
    Tried a nail set with a divot on the tip? Should stay on the tooth much better than a nail.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyler Bancroft View Post
    Tried a nail set with a divot on the tip? Should stay on the tooth much better than a nail.

    When you say divot, you mean like a hollow in the tip?

    That sounds like exactly what I need if so... I'll have to look and see if I can find something like that.

    Is there a specific term for these that I can search for online?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luke Dupont View Post
    When you say divot, you mean like a hollow in the tip?

    That sounds like exactly what I need if so... I'll have to look and see if I can find something like that.

    Is there a specific term for these that I can search for online?
    Hi Luke.

    'Round head nail punch' will get you there

  5. #5
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    Stanley nail set, pack of three:

    Nail Set - 3.jpg

    Check the ends for being hollow. Vintage examples do have a dimple in the end.

    They are good for setting the heads of finishing nails below the surface. Also needed when blind nailing or 'invisible nails':

    Invisible Nails.jpg

    The arrows are pointing at invisible nails.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 10-22-2021 at 2:37 AM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  6. #6
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    Luke, for tenon and dovetail saws, I have 4 saw sets: 2 x modified Eclipse 77 and 2 x Stanley 42X. Each is set up with different amounts of set - I have experimented for years, and found what works best for different rake angles and teeth sizes. This makes sense to me as I have several backsaws. However, if I had just one, I would still use a pistol grip type, either the Eclipse or the Stanley (they have pros and cons), as I find this more predictable in use.

    I might add that I consider setting teeth as very important. This can make-or-break a fine sharpening session. Too little set and the teeth will not cut smoothly. Too much and the blade can wander and leave a rough finish.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  7. #7
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    Thanks guys. I ordered a 1mm because the 3mm one I found in the home center was far too large still.
    Couldn't tell (can't tell) online if it was indented or flat, but I guess I'll find out.

    For good measure, I also ordered a tenon saw with 11TPI, because I know I can sharpen and set that, and I'll need it anyway...

  8. #8
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    Luke, for tenon and dovetail saws, I have 4 saw sets: 2 x modified Eclipse 77 and 2 x Stanley 42X.
    As Derek mentioned a saw set can be made to work well with small teeth. One of my Stanley #42X saw sets has had the plunger filed to hit a small tooth. My finest saw is 15ppi.

    There was an article many years ago with a few paragraphs on setting teeth. The author suggested gluing a small splinter of wood to the face of the setting plunger for setting small teeth.

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

  9. #9
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    FWIW, I strongly agree with Derek and Jim Ė A purpose made saw set is absolutely the way to go as it will provide much more consistent results than the punch method for most folks.

    For Fine pitched joinery saws (with lots of small teeth +12 PPI also importantly very little set is needed as compared to full-size panel saws ), it is helpful to file both the hammer and the anvil of whatever saw set youíre using to fit the size of the smaller teeth and the limited slope of the anvil needed for adding .004Ē of set.

    Iím sure there are those who can very successfully set joinery saws with a punch, but Iím not one of them. once you set up your saw set appropriately I think youíll be surprised how much more frequently youíre willing to sharpen/tune your joinery saws to get peak performance.

    Cheers, Mike

  10. #10
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    Thanks everyone.

    The nail setter method wasn't working for me -- I was still either shearing off the teeth, or not moving them at all, with only the very occasional perfect amount of force and position on the tooth enabling me to actually bend it. I abandoned that method as I was just doing too much damage.

    I did find a saw set which seems to work well enough on the smallest setting (12) -- the saw being apparently 15 TPI as I count it.
    Any excess set I can easily remove between two hammers or in a vise, and the hammer on the saw set seems just small enough to handle it. I guess the set is made for Japanese saws with their narrow teeth. Lucky!

    Now I just need to joint, repair, and resharpen the saw and give it another go.

    I also ordered some new old stock extra slim taper nicholson files, to see if they work any better than the crappy modern file I was using which is already starting to lose its bite, and I suspect probably cuts larger, rounder gullies inbetween the teeth than it should.
    Last edited by Luke Dupont; 10-28-2021 at 9:43 AM.

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