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Occasional Table Class (Hand Tool Build) #3: The tool kit Part 2, Saws.

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Blog entry by RGtools posted 08-14-2011 05:54 AM 5749 reads 3 times favorited 32 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: The Recommended Tool Set, the Whys and Where's (part 1) Part 3 of Occasional Table Class (Hand Tool Build) series Part 4: The tool kit part 3 Planes »

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



32 comments so far

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12302 posts in 2843 days


#1 posted 08-14-2011 06:13 AM

Great info. Do you have reccomendations for saw bench plans?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Don W's profile

Don W

15521 posts in 1313 days


#2 posted 08-14-2011 06:33 AM

But be careful. Sometimes thay come min bundles. Here is my “need attention” saw box.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3314 posts in 1400 days


#3 posted 08-14-2011 03:59 PM

Wayne, yes I do. I really like the design for the 5.87 saw bench made by Cristopher Schwarz. Here is another one for a bit more beef (this guys blog is a great resource on sharpening and restoration as well). But truth be told a simple Ryczka at the right height would suffice (and get you working that much faster).

Don. I share your pain. I have quite a few restoration projects lurking in dark corners of my shop.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1285 posts in 1744 days


#4 posted 08-14-2011 04:53 PM

Just don’t forget there are other types of saws. I personally prefer frame saws and lots of people like the Japanese style saws. Both have one distinct advantage. The frame saws and Japanese saws both have replaceable blades. Someone just starting out with hand tools won’t have the ability to tune up a panel saw and sharpen properly.

About the only decent saw that you will find in a big box store will be the carpenter grade replaceable blade Japanese style saw. They cut very well but be prepared to replace blades fairly often. The teeth will get bent, especially as you learn to use one. The high end Japanese saws can be resharpened but that is another world of skill.

Frame saws are pretty versatile. Just a bit different to use. You can sharpen frame saw blades but for the replacement price, I don’t bother. I just cut them into pieces to make things like scrapers. Frame saws can be found online at places like traditionalwoodworker.com and highlandhardware.com.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune: http://lowbudgetwoodworker.blogspot.com/

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3314 posts in 1400 days


#5 posted 08-14-2011 06:55 PM

I’ll be going into the basics of tuning up a panel saw later in the class as I cover sharpening. It’s not hard, but I can see it being a mental stumbling block for the beginner. I’ll be going into frame saws as well, I decided to walk through the tool set by going through the process of working wood. The joinery saws come later and will definitely include the bow (I have always called frame saws bow saws and can’t help it if that’s correct or not) as I love this tool for joinery.

Adria also sells frame saws made by ECE. I don’t recommend these saws for long rip cuts or cross cuts, because they function better at the workbench (something a beginner might not have) and there set up is just persnickety enough to add another caveat to learning to saw.

Japanese saws are wonderful tools if used correctly, but I hate the idea of disposable blades that I can’t sharpen (good Japanese saws, not sold at home stores can be resharpened) and I am in no position to recommend Japanese saws because I don’t use them. They are however a valid choice for someone who wants to pursue them, and they should be mentioned for the sheer reason that the work so well bench less. Thanks for throwing in your two cents, that’s why I love it here!

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Don W's profile

Don W

15521 posts in 1313 days


#6 posted 08-14-2011 07:06 PM

I just built a frame saw. It was an interesting project. I need to find a finer blade and I now understand the frame saw is meant to cut on the push stroke. I didn’t know that, so the blades backward in the pictures.

I’ve sharpened a few saws, but can’t wait for that blog to see if I can improve. I haven’t used a japanese saw yet, but for all i’ve read, I need to try them.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3314 posts in 1400 days


#7 posted 08-14-2011 07:13 PM

I’ve used them, but I keep going back to my Disstons, I just like the feel of hardwood as opposed to rattan.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1285 posts in 1744 days


#8 posted 08-15-2011 12:17 AM

I personally have a love hate relationship with the Japanese style saws. They are amazing when new. Then teeth start getting bent and they snag on everything. For me, this builds until I am really frustrated and get a new blade. The fine tooth joinery versions are different.

One that I would recommend for everyone is the small version that has no set in the teeth. There is nothing finer for flush trimming.

The frame saws have another drawback as well. They take up much more space and are a logistical nightmare to have around without a dedicated place to hang them. This goes up exponentially when you have several.

People tend to go for the Disstons for regular western saws but another brand to look for is Adkins. They made some quality saws as well. Whichever you would choose, this is one case where I would say that older is better almost universally as far as handles. The newer ones with the sharp edges on the handles will give you blisters faster than just about anything. The old ones, once you know what to look for will also cost much less than new ones of comparable quality.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune: http://lowbudgetwoodworker.blogspot.com/

View mafe's profile

mafe

9670 posts in 1835 days


#9 posted 08-15-2011 01:10 AM

Fine words.
I think it is a choice that need more thoughts, you need to really think of your need and desire.
If you are a weekend woodworker and just play to make things I would not recomend people to go into the vintage saws and do the sharpening them selfs, then I would say buy some fair quality hard point saws.
If you are into woodworking where the tools are a part of the hobby jump right in.
For the pro it is really a matter of choice at the end and a constrution worker better buy a bunch of crap saws, where a cabinet maker should take a different road.
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3314 posts in 1400 days


#10 posted 08-15-2011 01:25 AM

I agree on the flush cut David. That is one place where the Japanese tooth design really can excel. I completely understand about the logistics of storing bow saws. There just is not a good way to keep them. I am designing my last tool chest right now and that darn 700mm rip saw is making it…interesting.

Mads, I have just about every end of the spectrum in my shop since I am as likely to build a nice cabinet as I am a house…or a hog feeder. It does certainly take all types. But of course you have stuck a very important point, get tools based upon the work you intend to do. My “complete” tool set is going to differ wildly from the next guys.

The point for the class is, you need to be able to rip and crosscut for this project, find something that fills that need. We will talk about joinery saws later.

Next up I will be talking about planes, an area where you can go just a bit crazy.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View mafe's profile

mafe

9670 posts in 1835 days


#11 posted 08-15-2011 06:31 PM

I’m reading The Anarchists tool chest and this guy starts to make me really tired, I do not remember when I read a so long book about so little (Unless one have a Chris fetish as he apears to have himself, then this book is pure porn… lol.). I think my advice will be ‘look at LJ instead of buying this book’, and your blog might be the place, but I will make a review when I finish the book, perhaps the good part comes after page 137 where I am now trying not to drown while I tread water with Mr. Schwarz. (I still love the book, because it was a gift from an LJ elf).
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Mauricio's profile

Mauricio

6901 posts in 1897 days


#12 posted 08-15-2011 08:10 PM

Mads, RG just read the book so I think he will tell us all we need to know in this blog. Which is nice because I can buy a lot of old tools for $40…

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View mafe's profile

mafe

9670 posts in 1835 days


#13 posted 08-15-2011 11:44 PM

Smiles here. Yes I think so also. Sorry for my outburst on the book, it was just getting on my nerves. I will hold back my words until my review.
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12302 posts in 2843 days


#14 posted 08-15-2011 11:46 PM

I’m smiling. It is good to have a another view point on the book…

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3314 posts in 1400 days


#15 posted 08-16-2011 02:31 AM

I agree about the middle portion of the book (I remember thinking good lord this section is long). Good advice but it could have been rendered differently and his points on saws bothered me because they left out a few key details (like the taper of the saw…a point that is corrected in the dvd thank god). However the construction of the tool chest and the points on anarchy are really interesting and I still love the book because it got me thinking differently on the way I purchase tools.

I differ from Schwarz on my chest, but I definitely have learned a thing or two from him as well.

Mochoa, $40 buck spends in a hurry. I would grab a jack plane (based on the wish list you shared with me.)

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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