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Sharpening Hand Saws #1: My first attempt and sharpening my own hand saws.

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Blog entry by docholladay posted 08-08-2010 05:40 AM 2034 reads 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I have amassed quite a collection of handsaws. I have a particular weekness for old Disston saws. If I find one at a flea market and it isn’t just completely eaten up with rust, I just can’t seem to let them pass, especially if I can get them cheap. Anyway, I’ve been on a bit of a tool kick lately in making my own tool handles, including saw handles. Anyway, I was investigating sending some of my saws off to be sharpened. Have you looked into what that costs? For a saw that I paid $10 or less for, it’s pretty hard for me to bring myself to spend $50-$100 to have it sharpened. Anyway, I was doing some research and decided I would try my hand at sharpening my saws myself. I scrounged up a saw filing vise and purchased some triangular tapered files and a saw set (actually several till I found one that I could figure out how to use). I found some very clear instuctions on the Vintage Saws website (http://www.vintagesaws.com/). Anyway, here is my first attempt at sharpening a saw.

Disston 16

I filed this saw in a rip tooth pattern because I plan to use it as a tenon saw. This particular saw was a bit of a challenge because it involved straightening a slight bendin the spine of the saw as well as jointing the teeth prior to filing. Once completed, the saw cuts very well and I now have a good tenon saw. I am very pleased with the way this turned out. My next is to attempt to sharpen a crosscut saw. If I get pretty good at this, maybe this could be the beginning of a new source for income.

Thanks,

Doc

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc



16 comments so far

View RonPeters's profile

RonPeters

708 posts in 1532 days


#1 posted 08-08-2010 05:43 AM

Nice work!

How long does it take to sharpen a saw?

I realize there are different saw lengths, so maybe a ‘per inch’ time would be best?

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View docholladay's profile

docholladay

1286 posts in 1710 days


#2 posted 08-08-2010 05:58 AM

Well, this being my first attempt, went kind of slowly, but as I went through and got more comfortable with the process, it went further. This saw is 16” blade length with 12 teeth per inch. It took about 1 hour from start to end with the sharpening process. Also, while this saw did not cut well at all, it wasn’t really very bad. The main thing with this saw was to first get the teeth jointed so that they would all be the same height and then using the same number of strokes with the file to keep them that way. If the saw had had broken teeth or anthing like that, I am sure it could have taken much longer to get it in good shape. I also spent about 30 minutes reshaping the handle to make it a little more comfortable too. Total tool rehab of about 1 1/2 hours. Since this saw was filed rip, I could file everything from one side of the saw. On crosscut, I will have to file every other tooth in the vise, then turn the saw around to file the other side. I expect that crosscut filing will go a bit slower – at least until I get comfortable with it.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View swirt's profile

swirt

1945 posts in 1623 days


#3 posted 08-08-2010 06:01 AM

Looks like a great start Doc. Get a good pair of glasses and good lighting. I converted a very similar looking back saw to rip a little while ago. Took a few attempts to get it right. I’m converting a 10tpi to 5 tpi now and that is a lot slower. It is a good feeling to be learning the skill though.

Ron I would say your first backsaw may take a couple hours (not including the time reading about it), but after you get the hang of it, especially if you are just sharpening and not re-shaping, could be done in 45 minutes. Perhaps a minute per tooth??? Finer teeth require fewer file strokes per tooth, but there are more teeth, so maybe it balances a bit.

For anyone starting out, I suggest starting with a rip saw, then move to a crosscut. (rip really only has one angle to deal with, crosscut is 2-4 angles)

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View docholladay's profile

docholladay

1286 posts in 1710 days


#4 posted 08-08-2010 06:09 AM

Swirt, in reshaping to a different tooth configuration, do you start by filing the existing teeth off and then laying out the tooth spacing? Did you make some sort of template to help keep the toot spacing consistent. I definitely know what you mean by the glasses and good lighting. I have lighting right over my bench, but I think I will have to get a task light to bring in some more direct light. I think that would help.

I would add one more thing. I have a couple of different types of saw sets. After trying several, I really recommend the Stanley 42x saw set tool. It is easy to adjust and it prett darn fool proof. They tend to be more expensive than a lot of the others, but well worth it it you really want to sharpen your own saws.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1767 days


#5 posted 08-08-2010 08:00 PM

you have started out pretty good Doc.
after all its a diciplin that has to be learned like sharpen cheisels and planes

if you are interrested Lie-Neilsen has a DVD on the subject
its called:

Hand Saw Sharpening
Hosted by
Tom Law

and its very good to see he comes all the way around the isue of sharpen a saw

good luck with the journey in to sawsharpening

Dennis

View mafe's profile

mafe

9509 posts in 1741 days


#6 posted 08-08-2010 09:01 PM

Ohhhhhhh nooooooo!!!!!!!!!!
My God – it’s wonderful.
I’m impressed, how do you feel they saw compared to a new saw?
I have a beautiful old saw hanging on my wall in the workshop, and I might just have to give it a try.
Hmmm, I just tend to get impatient… How many teeth are theer in a saw….
I smile.
Wonderful, and you know my weakness for old tools, so now my fingers starts to tickel.
Best of thoughts my friend,
Mads

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

View Div's profile

Div

1653 posts in 1592 days


#7 posted 08-08-2010 09:24 PM

Like your style doc! The crosscuts are a strain on the eyes and it has been a good while since I last did this. Give my saws to my friend Toolchap who is real good at this! He is the only one I will trust and yes, I pay him, money well spent and he needs it.
You might have noticed, I am also a sucker for old tools…have a few Disstons myself… Yes, somehow they made it all the way to South Africa, survived through how many hands and then ended up all lonely in some junk shop…Untill I find them!!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14742 posts in 2327 days


#8 posted 08-09-2010 04:53 AM

Great, hope it works out for you. I intend to do teh same, but all i have done so far is touch ups.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View swirt's profile

swirt

1945 posts in 1623 days


#9 posted 08-09-2010 05:35 AM

Doc, retoothing from 10tpi to 5tpi was pretty easy in terms of figuring out the spacing. I simply jointed the teeth then place teh saw slim-taper file on the flat of the middle tooth and then started cutting, When the middle tooth is gone and you hit the adjacent tooth on each side, you are ready to move on. This method chews up the files pretty fast because so much is being removed. Once they are all re-shaped I will joint lightly then sharpen, then set.

Thanks for the recommendation on the saw set. I have an old, yet unmarked one, I picked up at an antique store. It works, but I have no idea how much set there actually is for any given setting. On the back saw that I filed rip I put no set on because it is a dovetail saw that just doesn’t need to cut that deep so it doesn’t really bind.

This 5tpi rip saw will need quite a bit of set, so I need to get that figured out pretty soon. The hard part against buying an unmarked tool is that it is very hard to search for directions on using it :(

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14742 posts in 2327 days


#10 posted 08-09-2010 06:20 AM

BTQW,. where do you get your files? I have just used small triangle files I had.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View docholladay's profile

docholladay

1286 posts in 1710 days


#11 posted 08-09-2010 12:23 PM

I had some triangle files that came as part of an inexpensive set of files that I purchased somewhere. However, after doing some research, I decided it best to buy a good quality file for saw sharpening. I used a Nicholson XX Slim Taper Triangle ($5 at Ace) file on this particular saw. From what I read, you wan the flat part of the file to be a little larger than twice the height of the tooth you are cutting in the saw. This is so you get full use of each surface when you turn over to use a different corner.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View swirt's profile

swirt

1945 posts in 1623 days


#12 posted 08-09-2010 03:29 PM

Topamax, I have a bunch of old Nicholson files that were in some old tool assortments I picked up long ago at auction. I sort of distrusted them thinking they were old and had not been treated well. So I bought a set of Kobalt files from Lowes
http://www.lowes.com/pd_294694-86580-SF881275_4294857561_4294937087?productId=3031025&pl=1&currentURL=/pl_Files%2B_4294857561_4294937087_?rpp=15$No=30
That fit in a octagon drive handle.

What I can say is that the Kobalt files went dull within a very short period of time. The old Nicholson files are still working pretty good. I am not sure if modern nicholson files are as good as the old. I’ll have to see if I can get some modern nicholson files at an ace hardware as Doc suggests. I will not be buying the kobalt’s again.

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14742 posts in 2327 days


#13 posted 08-09-2010 06:52 PM

Thanks for hte tip on Kobalt!! I have known Nicholson have always been the best you can get, but I have no idea if they have cheapened them like most everything else today.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Div's profile

Div

1653 posts in 1592 days


#14 posted 08-09-2010 10:09 PM

I have yet to try it, but I once heard you can sharpen a blunt file by letting it rust! A dip in hydrochloric acid will do the trick. Well, a blunt file is a frustrating thing, so not much to loose by trying this!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View docholladay's profile

docholladay

1286 posts in 1710 days


#15 posted 08-10-2010 05:48 AM

Div, I participate in an email list called Old Tools (you can check it out at http://swingleydev.com/archive/faq.html. Anyway, a few weeks ago, there was a lot of discussion about how to sharpen or refresh old files so that they will cut again. The basic process is to dip the files in some sort of acid. The stronger the acid, the shorter the time to leave them in the acid. I took some smaller files I had and soaked them in simple white vinegar for about a week. They came out looking like new. I can’t say yet as to how long they will last before needing another refresh, but I definitely have gotten some more life out of them. One very important thing is to rinse off all of the acid and then give them a quick treatment with WD-40 or similar light oil after removing them from the acid as they will rust very quickly if you do not.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

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