I have decided to begin to chronicle some of my woodworking, tool acquisitions and tool rehab activities. This largely for myself, as I don’t know that I will blog on a regular basis.
I have been in a saw sharpening mood lately and went through about five of my handsaws. Now, I am not a saw sharpening expert by any means; I gathered the info available on the internet and began to learn.
Several of the saws I sharpened were in decent shape and really only required a touch up filing. As I looked through the saw till I realized I didn’t have a decent 8 point crosscut fettled and ready to use. I had a couple of 10 and 11 PPI saws which were sharp, but nothing for quickly breaking down stock. So, I picked out an old lightly breasted Disston D-8 skew back that had a good apple handle on it and went to town.
When I started on the saw I thought the tooth line was in decent shape and attempted to just file the teeth to sharpen them. I didn’t attempt to joint the tooth line first and that was a big mistake. I set up to sharpen with 15* rake and 20* fleam (matching existing rake and increasing the fleam from the original 15*), filed the etch side of the saw first flipped it around and completed the job. When I took it out of the saw vise I almost cried. The tooth pattern was awful. I had “cows and calves” where every other tooth was significantly smaller than it’s neighbor. Well, crud!
There was no easy fix for this. I was going to have to reshape each tooth-a task I had never attempted before. I went back to my on-line resources and read about shaping the teeth to equalize tooth size and realized I was going to have to joint the entire tooth line, attempt to maintain the breasting and file each tooth straight across in a rip pattern to shape them. All of that time spent attempting to sharpen earlier was a complete waste.
I was really intimidated by the thought of re-toothing this entire 26″ saw. That’s 208 individual teeth which would have to be first filed to shape, and then do the same 208 teeth again to file in the fleam and sharpen it. What if I screwed it up, made it worse? I thought about sending it to a saw doctor…I mean I really considered it. Just pay a professional to do it right and fix my mistake. After much internal debate I decided to give it a try. This was a near full depth saw plate so if it didn’t go well there was still plenty of plate for someone else to fix.
I also decided that if I was going to go to this much trouble, I was going to completely rehab the saw. Remove all of the rust, polish the plate as best I could and re-finish the handle. What I intended to be my quick and dirty rough saw for breaking down stock was going to become a really nice saw…maybe.
I jointed the tooth line down about a third of the height of the teeth and almost panicked when I saw the huge flats on top of what used to be teeth. Now it just looked like a lot of alternating wide and narrow high desert mesa. Well nothing to do now except get to it. I began to file straight across applying pressure towards the larger flat and cutting down into the plate. As the wider flat became narrower, the opposite tooth began to get larger. (I know, I know that is the whole point, but I was kind of amazed to see it happening.) I did the first six or seven teeth and stopped to check my progress. I’ll be darned if filing to the flats wasn’t working! Those first teeth were now mostly even and with the correct rake.
The file I was using was now screeching with each pass, so I turned it to the next edge which also turned out to be dull. I went through my file drawer–doesn’t everyone have one of those? I dug out several 6″ extra slim files and they were all dull. The cutting teeth on the edges of them were chipped off essentially making them worthless for saw filing. I looked at them and realized they were all new Nicholson files, and they were all crap. Terribly brittle with the teeth fracturing off in just a pass or three. I found one new old-stock Nicholson file in the drawer and tried it. Man, what a difference! The old USA made Nicholson held its cutting edge and really sped up the shaping of the teeth.
I worked my way down the saw plate, occasionally going back three or four teeth and adjusting them until I was done re-shaping. I filed until the flats disappeared. It’s pretty amazing when the flats disappear, viewing from directly over the teeth, you can no longer see the points.
I pulled the saw out of the vise and held it against a white background to examine my work. I had a pretty consistent tooth pattern all at the same rake. Success! I identified a handful of teeth that needed some more adjusting, fixed them and then set up to sharpen. I quickly realized that filing in the fleam was a matter of watching the light reflecting off of the edge of the tooth I was working on. Since the teeth were shaped straight across, and I was now filing them at a different angle relative to the face of the plate, I could watch the new facet gradually move across the cutting edge of the tooth until the old facet disappeared. At that point that tooth was done, I could skip a tooth and start the next one. I completed the first side of the saw, turned it around in the vise and completed the job.
I then began to set the teeth. I should’ve set them after the shaping, but before sharpening them but I didn’t think of that. Lesson learned. The saw set I was using was a maroon colored Stanley 42 saw set. The hammer in it is very soft and was deformed at the striking face. I had to disassemble the saw set and file down the hammer to re-shape it. The hammer and anvil on theses saw sets are supposed to be hardened tool steel. This one wasn’t hardened at all, it filed easily. I have to get a new (older model) saw set. I will look for a Stanley 42X with the black japanned finish. The older ones should be made better than the maroon one I have now. After setting the teeth, I took one pass down each side of the plate with a sharpening stone to remove any burrs.
On to the handle. There was quite a bit of crazing in the original finish, so I stripped it back and put on a couple of coats of amber shellac and the wax. The handle was in very nice condition and cleaned up easily.
I reinstalled the handle and made a test cut in pine, and then white oak. It tracked to the line very well, and cut almost effortlessly. I am very pleased with how it turned out.
Here she is, my new best 8 point crosscut saw: