Saw Talk #13: Intrepid Sawster Triumphs over Adversity

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Blog entry by Brit posted 06-18-2012 11:35 PM 14170 reads 1 time favorited 34 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: You win some, you lose some Part 13 of Saw Talk series Part 14: Disston No.5 - Sharpened and tested »

In part 12 we left our intrepid sawster (Is that a word? It is now.) feeling very sorry for himself. If you haven’t read part 12, you should read that first as this is a continuation of that post.

Anyhow, you can’t keep a hand tool junkie down and suitably chastised by the saw gods, I picked myself up and worked the problem. I found out that I’d mistakenly thought the problem was what is known as ‘Cows and Calves’. However that is when the bottom of the gullets alternate between shallow and deep. I believe my problem is correctly called ‘crowding’ where the teeth are of unequal width. I believe I messed up for the following reasons:

  • Rushing it and not paying enough attention to what I was doing
  • Filing too aggressively.
  • Not applying pressure in the right direction

Here’s how I fixed it.

I had to go back to the shaping stage again before I could try to resharpen the teeth. At first I was going to file the teeth off completely, stick a new template on the side of the plate and file in the new teeth. In the end though, I decided to try and fix the existing teeth and even out the spacing again. In this way, I wouldn’t waste any more saw plate than was absolutely necessary.

I started by jointing the teeth until the file had knocked off the top of each tooth. You can see in the following two photos that the ‘shiners’ vary in width and in the first photo, there is one tooth that the file barely touched. What a mess!

Because I’m working outside on uneven grass, I started by making sure that my Workmate was level in both directions with a spirit level. Then I clamped the saw plate in the vise and made sure that it was level using my set square as a depth gauge. This may sound a bit obsessive, but when I’m filing the teeth, I’m holding the file horizontally and my jig ensures I maintain a rake angle of 9 degrees. If the teeth aren’t level in the vise, for example they sloped down from left to right, I won’t be filing a 9 degree rake angle at all. It could be as much as 10 or 11 degrees.

Now I concentrated on each individual shiner. The idea here is to file each shiner evenly from the front of the tooth and the back of the tooth alternately until you meet in the middle. With each stroke the shiner will get thinner and thinner. As soon as it disappear, you stop filing that tooth and repeat the process on the next tooth.

When filing the front of each tooth, I applied light sideways pressure into the front face of the tooth.

When filing the back of each tooth, I applied slight downward pressure.

I kept alternating my stokes 1 – 2 – 1 – 2 etc, until each shiner just disappeared. Using this method, each tooth ended up the same width and depth irrespective of how wide each shiner was to start with.

Once I’d corrected all of the teeth, I lightly jointed them again so that each tooth had the tinniest of shiners. I then repeated the whole process to fine tune the teeth and ensure my toothline was perfectly straight.

Then I set the teeth and coloured the sides and tops of the teeth with a permanent marker.

Another light jointing and then I was ready to try sharpening them again. When sharpening, you are actually filing the front of each tooth that is leaning away from you and the back of each tooth that is leaning towards you, whilst applying slight downward pressure. If you are filing fleam into the teeth, you need to ensure that the file is kept parallel with the lines on your fleam template when sighting down over the file. Then you repeat the process from the other side of the plate. It only takes a couple of strokes on each tooth. Don’t press too hard and let the file do the work.

In what seemed like no time at all, I was done. I checked the toothline with a straightedge and blow me if it wasn’t straight. That’s more like it I thought.

So here’s the finished saw, made in 1887 and now given a new lease of life.

Now I know you guys will demand to see it cutting, so here’s a little video of me putting it though it’s paces.

All my tools have to earn their keep, so I wasted no time in putting this saw to work making a tooth guard for the saw.

First I ripped the kerf for the teeth.

Then I made a rip cut to separate the guard.

Cleaned up the sawn face with a block plane.

Chamfered all the edges.

Job done.

P.S. – I used up 1/4” of saw plate by the time I’d finished with this saw, but the lessons learned are worth far more to me and I won’t make the same mistakes again in a hurry. Lesson well and truly learnt. :o)

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

34 comments so far

View lysdexic's profile


5353 posts in 4075 days

#1 posted 06-18-2012 11:46 PM

Andy said:”and blow me if it wasn’t straight.”

Great and informative post until you got all nasty and crass!

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - nobodhi_here

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 4050 days

#2 posted 06-18-2012 11:48 PM

I knew you could do. Glad you are back on the saws, and done with the jubilee. When is the big bench build commencing?

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17818 posts in 4070 days

#3 posted 06-18-2012 11:54 PM

But why set about making a comb as your first project?

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View Brit's profile


8503 posts in 4295 days

#4 posted 06-18-2012 11:58 PM

Scott – LOL

Shane – I’m glad I’m back on the saws too. The jubilee projects were a welcome break, but I’d much rather finish my saws.

Smitty – What’s a comb?

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

View lysdexic's profile


5353 posts in 4075 days

#5 posted 06-19-2012 12:01 AM

Doesn’t your back hurt working on that Workmate? Seriously, aren’t they like 28” high. Uggh, I want to stand up straight just thinking about it.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - nobodhi_here

View Brit's profile


8503 posts in 4295 days

#6 posted 06-19-2012 12:07 AM

I guess I’m just used to it now Scott. I’m not sure how high it is actually. The worst thing about it is that I have to keep a foot on the step when sawing just to keep the bench in place. Even then it still shakes about. Piece of crap really. LOL.

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

20380 posts in 4019 days

#7 posted 06-19-2012 12:52 AM

i’ve recorded this so I can play it over and over in my sleep. Subliminal teaching kind of thing.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View jjw5858's profile


1135 posts in 4054 days

#8 posted 06-19-2012 02:14 AM

Wonderful Andy, I had no worries you would solve it. Look at that amazing saw go to task! I know your enjoying it all and thanks for taking the time and sharing with us your knowledge of it…...this is really appreciated. How great would it be to have a LJ’S convention and we could all meet in person?....haaaaaa we would all have a blast for sure!

All the best and thanks for taking the time,


-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW

View AnthonyReed's profile


10196 posts in 3892 days

#9 posted 06-19-2012 02:25 AM

Haha – Scott.

Thank you Andy.

-- ~Tony

View Brit's profile


8503 posts in 4295 days

#10 posted 06-19-2012 07:02 AM

Don – What a revelation it was filing those shiners and seeing all the teeth brought back into line. They look like soldiers on parade. There may be a couple of teeth in the troop in need of a bit of discipline, but like I said in part 11, SHARP TEETH WILL CUT WOOD. :o)

Joe – It ain’t perfect, but damn it was good to see, hear and feel that saw cut wood. I couldn’t stop sawing. :o) Watching the video, I noticed that I need to practice extending my stroke length. I’m not using the first 2” of teeth immediately in front of the handle because I’m so used to using my 12” carcass saw. I agree an LJ summit would be fantastic. I’ve only ever met Mads and I value his friendship dearly. It would be great to meet you guys. I’ll have to fly to the US, hire a Winnebago and pay you guys a visit. LOL.

Tony – I can’t tell you what a relief it was get this one working.

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

View thedude50's profile


3613 posts in 3930 days

#11 posted 06-19-2012 08:39 AM

Andy nice job on my tenon saw how should it be sharpened is a tenon saw a rip saw or a combination like the saw you just did

-- Please check out my new stores and

View Sylvain's profile


1670 posts in 3951 days

#12 posted 06-19-2012 08:53 AM

Excellent tutorial.
I will just flip the pictures for myself (right handed).

It seems absolutely identical and perfectly spaced teeth would not be desirable.
The tiny variations prevent the blade entering into vibration.
You just have to decide what is “tiny” ;-)

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn (and that is nice)

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4786 days

#13 posted 06-19-2012 09:18 AM

Great blog Andy! I’ve learned some things I will probably never use unless a conversation about saws come up and then I can use all the new found theory to impress someone? If I were younger I would be inspired to get into this stuff. Combs are found on chicken heads.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20380 posts in 4019 days

#14 posted 06-19-2012 10:42 AM

I know I know, I need to get back at it.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View terryR's profile


7732 posts in 3760 days

#15 posted 06-19-2012 11:19 AM

Excellent post, Andy! Thanks for the lessons…you make me feel as though even I could sharpen a saw with practice…all I need is this sort of inspiration! AND to finish another 1500 feet of fencing. :-)

My friend, you deserve a real shop…hope it’s in your near future!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

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