Something some might not have seen, handsaw retoothing (video)

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Project by Daren Nelson posted 10-27-2007 01:57 AM 10931 views 9 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have posted a couple old hand planes I fixed/copied (and have some more). I decided to do the same with a handsaw. Now adays they get a bad rap. Some might find this interesting ? I take a very old saw and make it “new again”, actually better than new it was superior steel.

The saw as I got it, old rusty and dull.

old saw

After I cleaned the rust off, and cut new teeth (that is the cool part, I have a video)


This a little piece of a big chart that hangs in my shop.


I have an electric setter, but still use these. They are more work, but do a better job.


A picture of the new teeth, set and sharpened. The “fuzz” on some of the teeth is leather. I lightly ran my glove across the saw and it cut a hole in the thumb. It is sharp


Here is the cool part. Really most of saw sharpening is boring. I have an old Foley Belsaw retoother that stomps the old teeth off and cut new ones. I hope you have a faster connection than dial up, I think this is worth watching. A youtube video of me “making” teeth on a saw.

19 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4065 days

#1 posted 10-27-2007 02:11 AM

Pretty cool tool. Never seen one in action.

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

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4004 days

#2 posted 10-27-2007 02:29 AM


-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Buckskin's profile


486 posts in 3956 days

#3 posted 10-27-2007 04:30 AM

To cool, I have 3 saw sets but I have not figured out how to set them for the right angles just yet.

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 3958 days

#4 posted 10-27-2007 01:44 PM

I didn’t know anyone could do something like this, and so easily!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3930 days

#5 posted 10-27-2007 01:53 PM

I’ve never seen one of those. I didn’t even know of them. Thanks Daren.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 3873 days

#6 posted 10-27-2007 02:31 PM

Yea for the most part the retoother has gone the way of the buggy whip. Back in the day when handsaws were in every carpenters/woodworkers tool box something like this was “high tech”. This machine is older than me…and it is a newer model.
Some still appreciate a good sharp saw, most think once a saw is worn out it is time to pitch it and get a new one. Really an old saw is better, in most cases, than a new one when it is sharpened right. I can tell a distinct quality difference in the old steel as compared to most new saws. It depends on the maker, but as a general rule the older saws were just made to last-stay sharp.
They can be set and sharpened for years (or generations) and retoothed when needed. They can be retoothed many times. I mainly retooth to change the tpi, the saw in the video was 12 teeth per inch I made it 8 tpi. Or to make a good old steel into a crosscut from a rip saw or vice versa.
Fun old tool, but I only get to break it out on rare occasion. That is why I decided to take a short video. I have a Foley Belsaw “Auto Saw Filer” I may take a video of some day.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4282 days

#7 posted 10-27-2007 02:38 PM

Thanks Daren. I checked out your saw mill on youtube. That was pretty cool too!

View Paul's profile


660 posts in 4060 days

#8 posted 10-27-2007 03:29 PM

You can still find folks with the machines for sharpening circular/table saw blades.

I’ve known these re-toothers existed, but had no idea how to find one or to find someone who owned one.

What do you think? Probably have to do some detective work asking around among old-timers?

How fine can it re-tooth? Did you say 12 to 8 tpi? I’ve especially wanted to re-tooth a couple old small back saws I have for dovetail work. I did file one flat with a hand saw jointer fixture and file, but creating even teeth by hand is beyond my skill (and eyesight).

-- Paul, Texas

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4368 days

#9 posted 10-27-2007 04:27 PM

I hate to say it, but when we sold our home in NJ. The buyer made an offer and said that they needed possession in 10 days I accepted.

I had one of the Belsaw retoother and filer also. I never used them except to play with. Didn’t want to move, and no time to sale so in the trash they went.

I’m glad that you are getting some use of yours.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View SPalm's profile


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#10 posted 10-27-2007 04:36 PM

Cool, Thanks.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 3873 days

#11 posted 10-27-2007 04:40 PM

Paul. I do circular saw blades too, pretty often really (I have a little sharpening shop, that is what I do and like Dennis mentioned sawmill) Most of my tools are older than me, except the carbide grinders.

This is how I change the tpi. These ratchet bars go on the back of the carrier that holds the saw. You can see the different ones in the picture. The finest is marked 16 tpi, plenty small for a back saw. I will admit I have never used that ratchet bar, guess I have to now just for fun when I find time. I have all the bars Foley ever sold, so I think I have it covered
retoother bars

The carrier and ratchet bar in the machine (no saw) You can see the little post sticking out of the front. That moves up and down with the striker as well as catches a lever that is connected to a thinky that pushes on the ratchet bar to advance the saw.

retoother close

Here is that thingy that moves the carrier close up (I need a new spring, the spring keeps it in the groove of the ratchet bar, it is kinda jury rigged right now)

saw thingy

This is the part that cuts the teeth. Just a stamp and die, chops them right off and new ones on.


I guess you can all see pretty much how it works now with the video and pictures. The motor drives a heavy cast iron wheel, the wheel keeps the inertia to move the saw and punch the teeth . The motor has a small hard rubber wheel that contacts the big wheel on the cutter part.

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 3873 days

#12 posted 10-27-2007 04:52 PM

Karson, too bad you had to trash them (the retoother is a heavy little dude ain’t it?) My saw filer is not used much, it is in the shed handy, but sees little use. I bought a guy out who had a sharpening shop, every tool he had and he showed me how to use them. He had closed up shop several years prior and the tools were in storage at his place. I sold some of the tools I knew I would not use to help pay for the ones I figured I would, like the big planer knife grinder I kept and clipper hones, scissor machines…I only kept the handsaw stuff because I thought it was cool, it is not eating anything, but not making any money really either. They sell on ebay pretty cheap. I have a 2004 Foley catalog in front of me (the last year I see one listed) the close out price is $1,745 for the retoother. I see them on ebay for $100 some times, but usually have parts missing. If you don’t have the carrier/ratchet bars, you just bought a $100 boat anchor. I had to replace that little rubber wheel I mentioned, $30-just for that little part, but I had to have it.

View Paul's profile


660 posts in 4060 days

#13 posted 10-27-2007 07:37 PM

Do you think most sharpening shops still have retoothers?

Where in Central Illinois?

I’m from Sterling – Mom still there, but brothers in Moline, Rock Falls, El Paso and Tiskilwa

Give the 16 tpi rod a try. If no luck down here, I might drop a couple old back saws by on one of my trips to visit family and pick up on the way back home. What do you charge for retoothing? I can hand sharpen.

-- Paul, Texas

View YorkshireStewart's profile


1130 posts in 3869 days

#14 posted 10-28-2007 09:43 PM

That’s magic; thanks for the video.

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

View Drew1House's profile


425 posts in 4055 days

#15 posted 10-29-2007 12:02 AM

How cool… I saw one of these as a teenager at a sharpening shop in Colorado I visited with my dad to get some stuff done. He was still using it in the early 80’s… strange. I guess I have so little experience with sharpening shops I have always assumed that all of them had this type of machinery.


-- Drew, Pleasant Grove, Utah

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