Re tooth a vintage tenon saw

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Project by bluekingfisher posted 12-19-2015 09:47 PM 1088 views 5 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Some time ago I bought an old tenon saw on eBay for a couple of quid, the reason for it being so cheap was it was in a dreadful state. So last weekend I began to try to bring it into a workable condition. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos but I cleaned the tote and made a couple of small repairs then applied a couple of coats of shellac, followed by two coats of paste wax.

The plate was bowed like a fiddlers elbow and the teeth were filed so poorly but I thought I would give it a go. Anyway, I got them into a reasonable shape but when I set them they began to break off one by one I suspect I must have bent them opposite to the way they had been previously but because they were in such bad shape it was impossible to determine the original set.

So, over the course of the week I decided I would try re toothing the saw to a saw pattern I wanted rather than what was previously on the saw. The original pattern was around 12 PPI. The plate is 14” long so decided on a 10PPI filed for a rip cut.

Filing off the teeth was simple enough. how to establish the layout for the 10ppi was my concern. As always, Google was my friend. I found a pattern on the Norse woodsmith site and printed it off. I used double stick tape to affix it to the plate. The tape in addition to holding the pattern on ensures the file does not skate around when making the initial cut to establish the pattern. Thanks Norse Woodsmith.

I prefer a progressive rake on the teeth, this prevents the teeth from grabbing when a cut is started, not so much an issue on a heavy tenon saws but on small dovetail saws it can be a pain as precise cuts are necessary. The first 10 teeth are filed with the lead edge 15 degrees off vertical. The next 10 are cut 5 degree off and the remainder are filed plumb. Another way to assist in a smooth progressive cut is to have the cutting edge of the saw plate slightly concave in shape I.e. The middle of the plate is an 1/8” higher than the toe and the heel.

I don’t like a lot of set on my saws, just enough to clear the plate through the wood, another point worth mentioning is you must also dress the teeth with a fine abrasive to clear the swarf from the sides of the teeth after sharpening. Just draw an abrasive pate along the side of the teeth twice on each side.

It cuts great, not a difficult exercise, around 2 hours from filing the teeth off to being ready for work.

If you have an old saw give sharpening it a go, it really is very simple and I must admit to finding the whole process therapueutic

I had more photos to show my workings in more detail, anyway I
Hope you found it useful.

-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

10 comments so far

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 1714 days

#1 posted 12-19-2015 10:54 PM

Very impressive. I’ve tried filing teeth without success—I found it far more difficult than you modesly report. My hat is off to your talent in accomplishing what I consider to be a real challenge.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View summerfi's profile (online now)


3265 posts in 1109 days

#2 posted 12-19-2015 11:12 PM

Bravo for taking on the task of restoring, retoothing, and sharpening this grand old brass back. All craftsmen should really learn to sharpen their own saws. Who is your saw made by?

I read your bio on your home page, and it struck me that perhaps you could stimulate your son’s interest in woodworking by approaching it from a historical perspective given his current interest in history. The history of saws is really quite interesting, and there is an abundance of fascinating saw history (and tools in general) in your home country. One of your countrymen has written a world class book on saw history, and maybe you should consider it as a Christmas gift for your son, or even yourself. ;-) Here is the link.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works

View BusterB's profile


1910 posts in 1430 days

#3 posted 12-20-2015 01:10 AM

Oh my goodness….he still lives!!!! Good to see ya back in the shop buddy!!! Oh BTW, kick butt work on that saw as well!!!!

-- Buster, Ocoee TN (Critics are men who watch a battle from a high place then come down and shoot the survivors - Hemingway)

View liljimy7's profile


31 posts in 457 days

#4 posted 12-20-2015 02:47 AM

Nice restore & detail describing your process.
Will look up Norse Woodsmith for more inspiration this winter’s fun project. Like the idea of progressive saw teeth for more versatile use. May go with a tapered blade & try your concave idea.
Thanks for sharing….

-- JFS.brand (woodworker) Northville, MI

View NormG's profile


5424 posts in 2426 days

#5 posted 12-20-2015 03:16 AM

I have a couple of similar saw that need to be sharpened, this may be the way to go

-- Norman

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17577 posts in 3098 days

#6 posted 12-20-2015 05:24 AM

I’m impressed David!! You make that look so easy ;-) I now have some hope for a couple old saws.

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

View bluekingfisher's profile


1246 posts in 2402 days

#7 posted 12-20-2015 08:14 PM

Gents – thank you all very much for your comments and thoughts, very much appreciated.

Bottom line, if I can do if anyone can. A sharp file, good light, an even gentle stroke and above all good magnification is the key to success.

Edit. The blade should be slightly convex along its lenght, not concave. Apologies about that.


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View bluekingfisher's profile


1246 posts in 2402 days

#8 posted 12-21-2015 09:07 AM

To answer summerfi’s question – the saw was made by Clegg and son, stamped 325 Edgeware Road, London.

A check on the British Saw makers checklist identifies his company operating from 1849. I don’t know how to date the saw more accurately However i am confident it is mid to late 19th century in manufacture.

The above image shows how the template is afixed to the plate ready for the initial cut to establish the spacings of the teeth.

the image below shos the plate after the template has been removed

Of course after you shapen the teeth you need a shroud to guard the fragike edges. The traditional way was to cut a kefr in a lenght of stick then tie it on as below.

-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View oltexasboy1's profile


240 posts in 1126 days

#9 posted 12-22-2015 04:56 PM

Are you pleased with the rake and fleam gauge? I have been using a small piece of wood stuck on the end of the file and am wondering if it is worth the investment.

-- "The pursuit of perfection often yields excellence"

View Roger's profile


19714 posts in 2226 days

#10 posted 12-27-2015 01:38 PM

That would be too much work for me. You did good it looks David. Merry Christmas to you and yours….(it’s belated, but, I’m behind, as usual), and trying to catch up

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

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