Now we get to start making waste in wood. The first tools in the shop to make big boards into smaller ones are the panel saws.
When choosing saws don’t go to the home store…this goes for any of the tools in this kit, so in an effort to not repeat myself in every entry I will make this as clear as possible. Do not buy your hand tools from the big box stores, they sell crap tools in the hopes that you will hate them and buy more crap tools to replace them. Either buy vintage, and learn to repair and care for tools that were made in a time when they were made for use, or buy tools made by people you still care. Really with saws you can flip a coin on the vintage/new decision.
If you go the new route you can put off sharpening for a while and just focus on learning to saw. A year or so from now, when you need to sharpen you will have a good frame of reference for how a good sharp saw should cut. Few good makers of modern saws, Wenzloff & Sons, and of course Lie Nielsen. Mark Harrell also makes and restores some real gems.
The one obvious drawback of buying a new or professionally refurbished saw is the high cost. Very high indeed as these saws don’t even get to leave their mark on a finished peice (if all goes well). For this reason I went the vintage route. Henry Disston Made the best saws ever, and then something terrible happened, they started making the worst saws too. So how do you tell the good from the bad? Look at the end of the saw, good saws are taper ground, meaning they are thicker at the teeth then they are on back, they also get slightly thicker from toe to heel. This is the first thing I look at when I pick up a saw, if its a wedge I will take a gander through the rest, if it is a line, I set it down and let some other fool take it home.
You have established that the saw was made right, but how has it fared over time? Here is what to look for in order.
The saw plate, is it covered in rust? How much? A highly corroded saw might be a paperweight or a gem depending on how much of the steel has been eaten away. If the price is low enough it might be worth the risk…but saws are common enough that you can afford to be choosey.
Take a look down the saw plate, is the blade straight, or curved…both are ok (straighter is better), if it’s wavy set it down, it more work than you want.
Bend they saw and see if it springs back into place and recheck the straightness of the saw plate, if it doesn’t go back to the way it was before set it down. For very obvious reasons you may want to ask the seller before your do this.
How the the handle feel in your hand? Get something comfortable, or your will have blisters (old Disstons REALLY excel in this category), Also check that it’s tightly attached and that all the nuts still can move.
Are all the teeth there?
That’s about it, the rest you can find out at home.
I chose an 8 tpi crosscut and a 4 1/2 tpi rip (a bit finer rip might be easier to start for a beginner but don’t go much past 7tpi). Total investment on saws here, about $35, but that does not include time and materials spent fixing these guys up.
The choice is yours…money or time, which do you have more of?
Build a decent saw bench as soon as you can. You can live without a good bench for a while, but the saw bench is vital. It should be about the height of your knee, the rest is personal preference.
-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan