Saw Talk #19: It’s not me, it’s the saw

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Blog entry by Brit posted 07-24-2012 11:08 PM 7616 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 18: Vintage Spear & Jackson 26" Handsaw - Sharpened and Tested Part 19 of Saw Talk series Part 20: W. Tyzack, Sons & Turner 14" Sash Saw - Sharpened and Tested »

Just in time for the Olympics, we’re now having a heat wave, so I decided to sharpen Big Joe.

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to sharpen it. When I went to Paul Sellers’ saw sharpening workshop last December, I took it with me and tried to sharpen it rip.

It looks like I know what I’m doing in that photo doesn’t it? Au contraire mon ami. I made a right pig’s ear of it. You’ve heard of progressive filing haven’t you? Well ladies and gents, I give you eratic filing. Just remember when Lie Nielsen takes it up, you saw it here first.

Now you’ve stopped laughing, I’d like to point out that I actually sharpened each tooth to perfection, they just didn’t belong on the same saw. After I finished, Paul invited me to try it out at his bench. Whilst with such an uneven toothline it was anything but smooth, believe it or not, it actually cut wood quite well. It was at that very moment I realized that whilst I might never be the worlds’ greatest saw sharpener, with a bit more practice I probably could become proficient enough to maintain my own saws. At the very least, I was encouraged to persevere.

So seeking to restore some honour to Big Joe, I completely removed the teeth with a view to starting again. This time I decided to sharpen it crosscut with 12 TPI, 12 degrees of rake and 20 degrees of fleam. I drew one of my templates in Google Sketchup, stuck it on the saw plate with double-sided tape and filed in the new teeth.

Then I set the teeth and was 2/3rds of the way through my last pass of sharpening when the wife decided to engage me in conversation. I tried desperately to ignore her, but wives have a way of breaking your concentration. Before I knew it, instead of skipping two teeth, I skipped one and sharpened it as I answered her. Then I skipped two teeth and sharpened that one. I sharpened eight teeth incorrectly before I realised what I’d done.

Now at this point I should have packed up, opened a cold one, sat in a sun lounger and soaked up some rays, but I really wanted to get this saw finished. I jointed it down, sharpened all down one side again and then started sharpening the other side. The only problem was I forgot to turn my rake guide around, so I made a right mess of the first tooth. At this point I decided the saw was jinxed, kicked the sodding Workmate and put everything away.

Not wanting to waste the day though, I decided to tidy the garden. After cutting back some shrubs and pulling some weeds, I turned my attention to a Davidia (hankerchief) tree that we had bought a few years back with a view to replacing one of the Scott’s pines in our garden. All of the trees in my area have protection orders on them which means you can’t even trim them without applying to the council. We had applied to have the Scott’s pine cut down and the application was refused. We appealed and the appeal was refused. With no place to put it, the Davidia sat in it’s pot until it became pot-bound and died. Shame really, because the Davidia is a beautiful tree.

So I cut off the branches and dug the trunck out of the pot.

I was just about to saw it up and dump it when I found myself wondering what Davidia wood was like. I could see a plane adjusting hammer handle in that wood, so I grabbed my side axe (thanks Brad) and chopped off the root ball.

After telling the Workmate it was a shave horse, I grabbed my drawknife and removed the bark.

After a bit more shaving, I cut out my hammer handle from the rest of the trunk.

I then continued shaping it with my No.4 1/2 and my block plane. I didn’t have a shape in mind when I started working it, but the wood kind of dictated how it wanted to look.

After sanding up through the grits from P80 to P600, I had my basic hammer handle. It isn’t finished at this stage. I still need to shape the butt end and saw the tenon to fit the brass head (once I’ve made it), then wedge it in.
By the way, Davidia is a lovely wood to work. Very close grained, planes well and sands to a high polish. Shame it is such a rare tree as I’d love to get hold of some decent sized planks.

As for Big Joe there’s always tomorrow, although I’m convinced it’s not me, it’s the saw.

Laters Peeps.

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

20 comments so far

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 4055 days

#1 posted 07-24-2012 11:24 PM

Well, at least all wasnt lost. How many times can one carry out these processes on a backsaw before its max depth of cut is a robust couple of milimeters?

View SamuelP's profile


793 posts in 4103 days

#2 posted 07-24-2012 11:55 PM

Wheres the hammer?

-- -Sam - FL- "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns somthing he can in no other way" -Mark Twain

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4297 days

#3 posted 07-25-2012 12:19 AM

Waste not want not. That is one sure good way to spend your afternoon.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View Brad's profile


1148 posts in 4197 days

#4 posted 07-25-2012 12:41 AM

Boy, I’ve had days like that Andy. I’ll start on one project to be way laid by a dull iron, so I go to sharpen it and the glass plate I glue sandpaper to breaks, so I have to create a makeshift mdf honing surface, which…well, pretty soon I’m throwing some tender loins on the barbie with tongs in one hand and swirling a glass of red wine in the other…only to ask myself, in the words of the imortal song “How did I get here?”

I like your harvesting the wood from your yard to fashion a handle. That’s like catching your own dinner. I look forward to seeing the brass head. I’ll be making one too, to adjust the coffin smoother I rehabbed recently.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View TDog's profile


235 posts in 3687 days

#5 posted 07-25-2012 12:42 AM

very nice saw

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

View AnthonyReed's profile


10196 posts in 3897 days

#6 posted 07-25-2012 03:35 AM

Nice turn around Andy. Big Joe will have his day yet.

-- ~Tony

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17825 posts in 4075 days

#7 posted 07-25-2012 03:58 AM

Big Joe, the Forbidden Fruit! That’s an inspirational story, Andy, and I love it. And the distraction begat a hammer handle from the tree that never was… Amazing!

It is still so foreign to me (sorry for the weak pun) that trimming trees is a regulated activity. You couldn’t plant one (the Davidia) without permit either? A tree in the pot wasn’t worthy of protection, but man! hope none of the neighbors saw you with the shears and end up calling the authorities. :-) You’ll have all kinds of incriminating evidence at the ole Workmate…

Thanks for the post, and Joe will Have His Day!

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

View Brit's profile


8508 posts in 4299 days

#8 posted 07-25-2012 05:12 AM

Shane – Luckily, lots of times.

Sam – I haven’t made the brass hammer head yet.

Dave – It felt good to work some wood. Always makes me feel better. It was nice to use a different type of wood too. I doubt I’ll ever see anymore Davidia wood, so it had to be done.

Brad – I found my adventures into saw sharpening to be a rollercoaster ride. One day it seems easy and I’ve done a saw in no time at all and the next day, I make stupid mistakes and it all goes pear-shaped.

TDog – Thanks.

Tony – Yes he will. I love this saw, which made my stupid errors all the more painful. It was a humbling experience.

Smitty – Yes you are allowed to plant new trees on your property, but once they are in the ground they automatically become protected and you would have to apply to the council to do anything further to them. Whilst they are still in the pot, they are not protected and you can do what you want to them.

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

View murch's profile


1380 posts in 4081 days

#9 posted 07-25-2012 06:34 AM

Good blog Andy. Always an interesting read. There’s going to be some celebrating in your house
when you finally get “Joe” sorted!

-- A family man has photos in his wallet where his money used to be.

View Brit's profile


8508 posts in 4299 days

#10 posted 07-25-2012 08:18 AM

That there is Murch, that there is!

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

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 4313 days

#11 posted 07-25-2012 08:30 AM

Thanks Andy a great start to my day

Perhaps not a cold one but the plant. :)

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View mafe's profile


13872 posts in 4546 days

#12 posted 07-25-2012 09:06 AM

Andy that is a wonderful ? you have made, I really love it…
It will be good for ?
Look good at ?
Be so usefull when ?

So that must be a perfect way to spend a beautiful day, I can hear the sound of the plane making shaves.

Go and kiss your wife and thank her for the ?
After all it took your mind away from …. what was is… I forgot perhaps also a ?

Best of my talks here on a wonderful sunny day in Copenhagen,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View llwynog's profile


288 posts in 4036 days

#13 posted 07-25-2012 11:36 AM

Hi Andy,

I have a suggestion for you that might help lessening your woes with this particular saw.
As you probably know, French does not have neutral pronouns (no “it”) so all objects have to be either male or female. It so happens that saws are female in French.
So, instead of calling this saw “Big Joe”, you might want to call her “Jenny with a wonderful character”.
You may very well notice a behavioral improvement. (Or you may not)


-- Fabrice - "On est bien bête mais on sent bien quand on se fait mal" - my grandfather

View terryR's profile


7732 posts in 3765 days

#14 posted 07-25-2012 02:12 PM

Another excellent post, my friend, sorry to see ya on the kitchen floor again! bummer.

The problem is certainly NOT you…perhaps Fabrice has the solution…call her Big Jane.

Or maybe Big Intrepid Thing which Causes Headache?

no, no, that will make maters worse…

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

View Brandon's profile


4382 posts in 4408 days

#15 posted 07-25-2012 02:39 PM

Andy, have you considered building a big pot around the pine tree? That way when you trim it, you can claim that it was a potted plant, not one in the ground.

Great handle, by the way. It should make for a mighty fine hammer.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

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