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Saw Sharpening 101 with Matt Cianci @ Shady Lea School of Woodworking

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Blog entry by need2boat posted 855 days ago 2159 reads 5 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

One of the skills I’ve been working on as time permits is saw sharpening. Like so many of use I buy used tools and enjoy bringing them back to life and using them. For the most part that’s not a big issue until I started getting interested in sharpening saws. I found I was getting the “idea” correct but still had some gaps in the process. Enter Matt Cianci who professionally sharpens saws and writes a saw blog.

This winter he’s found time and is offering a few saw related class (I think in hopes of cutting down on the requests for help). The one day course: Saw Sharpening 101 is held at Shady Lea School of Woodworking. The focus is on sharpening saws with teeth that in good condition and due to the time constraints of a single day the process of filing to shape teeth is glossed over. It’s something everyone in the class wanted to learn more about but agreed it’s better time spent going over the process of sharpening rip and cross and leave shaping for another time.

The class was noon-5 but most of us stayed to around 6ish. The class was limited to 6 people and Matt plus one follow up student. Students were asked to bring one Rip, Cross Cut saw. Vises, files, jointers, and sets were optional. If you had them great if not Matt brought some.

We started off with a quick talk about the tools. Matt provided a number of styles of vintage vises including 2 new ones from tools for working wood and his home made vise. After we went over pros and Cons we talked about files and selecting the right size as well as brands any styles Swiss or US. Something I was unaware of. Files we talk about the different brands of sets, pros cons. The Stanley 42x was giving top marks but for those of us well read this not a shocker. It was however interesting to know why it’s the best and look at some of the other offerings on the market. We did not look at any of the currently offered sets but vintage. With the basics covered we went over the steps involved to sharping, Matt provided a few handouts of useful information about sharping and terminology.

With the tools and terms behind us, Matt tightened a rips saw in his homemade vise and, went over the key point of over head light file angle, use of watching the flats, and keep your arm smooth. At this point he spoke to mill files, and jointers and how to make them. He then filed a few teeth, talking about what he looks for and in general what needs to happen to create a sharp tooth.


Matt’s homemade vise easily hold 26” blades.

I find I learn best by watching and for me just watching while he filed was really helpful. In particular to see his file arm and body placement in relationship to watching the flats on the teeth and how he adjusted each was really helpful. You can read it, and see it on a video but it’s really hard to see both the flat on the tooth and body position in a video. Once questions were answered each of us took a turn sharping a few teeth while he watched, offered advice, and words of encouragement.

Matt showing us the finer points of filing.

slow is steady, steady is fast

After finishing with Matt’s test saw we returned to our stations to give it a go on the saws we brought. I had a Nice D-8 that I bought some time ago it was filed rip 5tpi. While this was going on Matt walk the room helping out, answering question.

Although I’ve had experience sharping I found it really helpful to have someone like Matt to bounce questions off and provide feedback. As you know if you’ve filed saws in the past its hard to tell if your wrist is cocked or your not properly applying pressure. Having someone to watch and they in turn watch you really helps speed the learning process.

Once we all finished with out cross cuts we stoned the edge and took a few test cuts.


everyone working away on there rip saws. Matt is to the left explaining the burr removal process with a fine stone.

Next was the Cross Cut (CC) and as Matt put it “time to separate the men from the boys”. Again we started with a quick refresher of how a CC saw works and what the final goal is. As well as angles and jig use for the files. I think everyone went with the traditional 15 degrees of rake and 20 degrees of fleam.

One tip I picked up, and a real moment of clarity for me, was using the triangle flats left after jointing. Understanding it shows you the front and back of each tooth and acts as a guide to follow and remove the worries of skipping a tooth while filing. In general when filing in the past I wasn’t using the flats to judge my progress enough and not taking advantage of them as a marker of progress.

The rest of the class was spent working on our CC saws. Of course I made mistakes as the only south paw in the class Matt and I both realized I needed to make adjustments but regards I left understanding the process and that’s a great feeling.

Getting started on my cross cut saw. notice the south paw style with handle to the left!

Last night I finished up the cross cut saw I started on Saturday and after the forst cut in a piece of oak I was all smiles. The cut was 10X better then my last and most importantly I know where I made mistakes and how to correct them. I can’t say the same would be true for everyone but I would happily recommend the class to anyone looking to learn more regardless of how long they’ve been sharping. I also hope Matt considers a 2 day or adds a shaping class to the line up for those of us that have saws that need the reshape the teeth before getting to the sharpening.

a few pictures of my Diston D-8 8 PPI filed Cross Cut

Joe

-- Second Chance Saw Works http://www.secondchancesawworks.com Blog: Positive Rake http://www.positiverake.com



7 comments so far

View Brit's profile

Brit

4915 posts in 1343 days


#1 posted 855 days ago

Great blog Joe – I would love to take a class with Matt. I’ve read his blog few times and he read my restoration blog of my vintage S&J. Great guy with a great sense of humor.

Doesn’t Matt use his Somax saw set now then. I bought one because it was the one I saw him using :-) I don’t see the Stanley 42x much on ebay.co.uk, but there are a lot of Eclipse No.77s. Did he mention them at all?

One other question, does set before or after sharpening?

Those teeth look fantastic Joe. There’ll be no stopping you now.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View need2boat's profile

need2boat

544 posts in 1192 days


#2 posted 855 days ago

Andy,

He brought at lot of everything so people who had never seen different models could and he could go over pros cons. He did say he uses a few sets for different jobs but I only saw stanley 42, W, X they made a few models. The set he, and I’d say most people seem to call the best of the best is the 42x. his reasoning was it’s easy to disassembled if need be, easy to set, simple, and well built. I have one, but it’s the only one I have so it was nice to see the others. I did not see a Somax but that’s not to say he doesn’t use one. He also pointed out at home he uses “tools for working wood vise” not his homemade 90% of the time.

He sets before or after depending on how much is needed. He like most pointed out most saws have to much and for the class we set after sharpening but for our saws he had us test cut before doing so.

He’s teaching a 102 class in the future and I look forward to the fine tuning and shaping.

-- Second Chance Saw Works http://www.secondchancesawworks.com Blog: Positive Rake http://www.positiverake.com

View Brit's profile

Brit

4915 posts in 1343 days


#3 posted 855 days ago

Thanks Joe

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View TheSawWright's profile

TheSawWright

7 posts in 882 days


#4 posted 854 days ago

Great post Joe…and that crosscut looks great! Keep up the good work. :)

-- Matt, http://thesawblog.com

View TheSawWright's profile

TheSawWright

7 posts in 882 days


#5 posted 853 days ago

Hey Brit

I do own a somax and have used it a good deal, but i don’t recommend it to new saw filers. They are not well made (the anvil is too soft and wears groves in it quickly) and it tends to over set teeth as well. The original Eclipse 77 that the somax sets are based on however are excellent saw sets.

And i always set a saw before sharpening…never after. I think Joe was referring to before or after shaping the teeth. Here’s my process: joint, shape, set, joint, sharpen.

-- Matt, http://thesawblog.com

View need2boat's profile

need2boat

544 posts in 1192 days


#6 posted 853 days ago

Thanks for clearing that up Matt.

JFF

-- Second Chance Saw Works http://www.secondchancesawworks.com Blog: Positive Rake http://www.positiverake.com

View Brit's profile

Brit

4915 posts in 1343 days


#7 posted 853 days ago

Thanks Matt. I’ll look out a for an Eclipse 77.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

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