Saw Sharpening: Wear Steel Underwear on This Slippery Slope

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Blog entry by Eric posted 01-23-2008 05:12 PM 1599 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I took a Woodcraft class last year called Hand Tool Basics and Sharpening. Took me through sharpening cabinet scrapers, chisels, hand planes and saws. A little bit about how to use them, but nothing significant. Loved the class, and I have to say I’m very happy with the sharpness of the chisels and plane blades I have done on my own since that class.

Today I needed to cut up some MDF for a shooting board. Not knowing if MDF is good or bad for saws, I decided I didn’t want to risk my Crown dovetail saw. So I got out my cheap garden-variety Stanley, which I bought new a few years ago. And since I didn’t really think highly of this saw, and didn’t care what happened to it, I figured what the hey, may as well try to sharpen it! Worst case scenario, it doesn’t cut great and I have to spend another $10 for one. If I replaced it at all.

Well, the sharpened saw cut great through MDF, although what do I know, maybe MDF is like butter compared to real wood. Here you can see what my saw’s teeth generally looked like. On the right are the teeth I’ve already sharpened, I was moving from your right to left (the pic was taken from the back though) – click for a larger image:


Well, I checked online and what I found only confirmed that I know jack squat about sharpening a saw. And to be entirely honest, I have no idea whether this Stanley is a rip or cross-cut saw. I don’t know its TPI or what TPI is even good for what kind of sawing. I don’t know what my Crown is good for except dovetails, although my Woodcraft instructor said I’d probably want to use the Crown to cut anything, no matter the job. I don’t know how sharpening style differs based on the saw – I just did the Stanley exactly like I did my Crown.

So while I was kind of proud of the above picture when I took it, now I feel kind of dorky. One of these days I’ll go back to the Stanley and try to go by the book. But it’ll be a while; it’s not high on the list.

-- Eric at

8 comments so far

View Paul's profile


660 posts in 4054 days

#1 posted 01-23-2008 05:48 PM

Obviously the “after” teeth are better than the “before” – a good start!

Yours is a Cross-cut saw (“rip” saw has teeth that look like a triangle with a right angle and are sharpened with the file perpendicular to the saw. “crosscut” has teeth that look like a pyramid and are sharpened holding the file at a compound angle)

TPI = Teeth Per Inch – take a ruler and count

Definitely takes a lot of work and skill (almost an art) to sharpen a saw – I’m with you, I have all the necessary saw sharpening tools, but it never gets very high on my “to do” list

-- Paul, Texas

View Partridge's profile


296 posts in 3918 days

#2 posted 01-23-2008 06:40 PM

P.S. if it is a newer sanely you will just be dulling files.

-- I get out in the shop when I can

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 3867 days

#3 posted 01-23-2008 06:41 PM

Maybe this thread would be worth a read ? . I have an automatic setter and filer, but I still handset and hand file. Once you get the hang of it you can really make them sharp.

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3758 days

#4 posted 01-23-2008 09:03 PM

From what I understand, even a badly sharpened saw can cut better than many factory sharpened saws.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3746 days

#5 posted 01-24-2008 03:21 AM

Thanks for the info and link, guys!

-- Eric at

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 3959 days

#6 posted 01-24-2008 09:10 AM

Check out this Chris Gochnour article on sharpening a dovetail (rip) saw.

If you subscribe to FWW online, here's a video.

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3746 days

#7 posted 01-24-2008 12:31 PM

Thanks Dorje. It seems that subscription is not necessary for the video. Nice!

-- Eric at

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 3959 days

#8 posted 01-25-2008 02:45 AM

Great – and now I have to get going on learning to sharpen saws! Long been on the list, but not something that I’ve put the time in to do…

The chainsaw, I’ve got covered, but the handsaws haven’t had any attention.

I read a bunch of articles last night and am going to try to give it a go in the next few weeks. I have a few saws that I could practice on!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

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