How to Keep Your Hand Saw Sharp
Hand saws have been around as long carpenters have been around, and from that time we’ve all struggled with the never-ending challenge: how to keep a hand saw sharp and manually sharpen a hand saw. Since the invention of the most basic hand saw (who knows how many years ago) this tool has evolved into many different types: two man felling saws, rip saws, crosscut saws, dovetail saws, tenon saws, carcass saws and the list goes on and on. There are many differences and similarities between all of the different types of hand saw, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they have to be sharp to work properly.
Tools to Manually Sharpen Your Hand Saw
To sharpen your hand saw you will first need a few tools:
- saw vise
- saw jointer with a mill file
- saw set
- triangular file of the proper size
- BONUS: little bit of patience
The Saw Vise – Prevent Vibration
When sharpening a hand saw you create a good deal of vibration – this vibration doesn’t allow the file to properly bite into the metal of the saw blade. A saw vice reduces the vibration in the saw blade by holding the blade securely. Back in the days when a handsaw was a staple of every carpenter’s toolbox, saw vises were a common item; however they are not so abundant today. An easy solution to this is to make your own; two pieces of wood long enough for your saw blade and a bench top vise are all you need.
The Saw Jointer – Correct Tooth Height
Whether from everyday use, damage, or improper sharpening, the teeth of a saw start to have different heights. This difference in tooth height means that the taller teeth are the ones cutting while the shorter teeth get skipped over – this can make using the saw difficult. The saw jointer is used to make sure all the teeth are the same height. The mill file mounts to the inside of the jointer, and the jointer body helps to keep the mill file square to the saw blade. To use the saw jointer, simply place the jointer against the saw and run it along the blade once; when done all of the teeth should have a very small flat spot on the top. If not, run the saw jointer along the blade as many times as necessary to get the tops of every tooth flat. Just make sure to inspect after each pass to prevent over flattening the teeth.
The Saw Set – Prevent Binding
The teeth of a saw blade have what is called a set – this is the distance that the saw tooth is bent away from the saw blade. This set creates a saw kerf wide enough to prevent the body of the saw blade from binding. To set the teeth of your hand saw, start at the heel (by the handle) and bend every other tooth to the right, then come back and bend the teeth you skipped over to the left.
The File – Sharpen the Hand Saw
Different saws require different files for sharpening; the type of file you need is determined by the points per inch (or PPI) of your your saw. Sharpening files come in four basic tapers: Regular, Slim, Extra Slim, and Double Extra Slim. The length of the file is also important – a 4 inch Double Extra Slim Taper can be used to sharpen smaller teeth than a 6 inch Double Extra Slim Taper. The package your sharpening file comes in should say what PPI that file is for. A quality file is important; bargain files are not durable or hard enough to sharpen a quality hand saw. Once you choose your file it’s time to start sharpening the teeth. Again starting at the heel, push the file across the cutting edge of the teeth. For rip saws the file will travel perpendicular to the saw blade; the teeth of a crosscut saw will be filed at a 75 to 80 degree angle to the saw blade.
What other methods have you used when sharpening your hard saw? Share them in the comments below.