Reply by Brit

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Posted on Saws, using collecting, cleaning and buying

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7369 posts in 2809 days

#1 posted 06-29-2011 04:15 AM

Dennis – The angle of the handle or tote on a hand saw or back saw is referred to as the ’hang’. Please bear in mind that I’m not claiming to know the answer to your question and I can’t find any definitive reference material that describes why the handle on a saw is at a certain angle. However I do know that the ‘hang’ of the handle on a saw is very important. One of the tests that a finished saw underwent was called ‘The Hang Test’.

The important words here are ”Feel how the weight comes where the most cutting takes place.”

Now look at the following two pictures. My S&J and a Disston D8 (not mine).

The red line indicates the angle of the handles, the blue line is the toothline and the yellow line (perpendicular to the red line) shows where the maximum power is transmitted at the toothline.

Although the S&J and the D8 are both hand saws, that is really where the similarities end. The S&J is made of cast steel and is therefore heavier than the D8. The Disston has a skewed back and that means less metal which also makes it lighter than the S&J. Could that be a reason why the S&J handle is more vertical (i.e. in order to counter the additional weight)?

Another difference is that the S&J has a straight toothline, whilst the D8 has a crowned toothline. That means if you hold the saw with the teeth uppermost and sight along the toothline, you will see that the middle of the toothline is slightly higher than the ends. The theory behind this is that if you think about the motion of your arm when sawing, the arm is delivering the most power as your upper arm and forearm form a right-angle. With your arm in that position, the center of the toothline is cutting the wood. Look again at the yellow line on the picture of the D8. Is it a coincidence that the power is directed at the middle of the toothline?

Also, the hang of the handle affects the angle at which you present the saw to the wood when cutting on a saw bench. Which hang angle provides a better angle of presentation is a matter of opinion. Personally I do not think that the hang of the D8 handle and the crown in the toothline make the saw cut any better than the hang of the S&J combined with the extra weight and straight toothline.

With all that said, the following is my opinion as to why the hang of the D8 is the angle it is. I think it is all down to the manufacturing process employed. If you look at the top of the handle on the S&J and any other saw up to the immergence of the D8, you will see a slot where the blade fits into the handle. However if you look at the top of a D8 handle, there isn’t a slot at the top of the handle. That is because the slot on the D8 was the first to be cut with a circular saw blade. When you consider the curvature of a circular saw blade, the hang of the handle would have to change to make room for the curved cut. In my opinion, that’s why Disston made it the angle it is. It was cheaper and quicker to manufacture. To compete with Disston, other manufacturers such as Simmonds followed suit. I think all the other reasons are just Disston marketing BS, dreamed up in order to sell saws to the masses. Just my opinion, I’m just thinking out loud and I won’t be offended in the slightest if you disagree. :-)

What ever the reason, the D8 was the most popular saw ever and you can’t argue with that I suppose. But does it necessarily follow that is was also the best? No, at least not in my book.

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

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