Saw Vise

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Project by DHS posted 03-25-2012 02:36 AM 5148 views 9 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This saw vise is a shameless copy of Andy’s (Brit) beautiful vise that I spotted earlier today (3/24/2012). To see how it is made, check his blog (here). After spotting that project, I ran straight to the shop and built mine. Thanks to the detailed description in the blog, this went together in just a couple of hours. The most time consuming part was driving to the hardware store for the carriage bolts, knobs, and piano hinge. Some minor comments on design – my saw vise is not quite as beautiful as Andy’s, I left the top of the vise square to help me to keep my file level when filing, and I planed a bevel into the maple strips that form the vise jaws. The bevel concentrates the clamping pressure up near the teeth of the saw. This vise clamps the saw quite securely. So, now that the vise is done … does anyone know how sharpen a handsaw?

Saw filing update (3/25/2012):
Thanks to everyone who gave me saw filing tips. After reading about saw sharpening in some of my handtool books and looking over the detailed description at Vintage saws (here) I sharpened my saw. I built an alignment jig, marked the fleam angle on top of the saw vise, and jointed the saw with a mill file. It then took just about 24 minutes to sharpen my 26” crosscut saw. (I did not reset the teeth.) I tested the saw before and after on some 4/4 cherry scraps. Yes, it’s true. A sharp saw cuts much faster than a dull one.

-- Dave S., Bellingham, WA

8 comments so far

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 3140 days

#1 posted 03-25-2012 02:57 AM

Very nice. Well done. I think Andy an Don can help you on the sharpening.

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

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 2839 days

#2 posted 03-25-2012 04:03 AM

Copying is the sincerest form of flattery, and you did a pretty good job. Seeing these vises makes me want to run and restore those handsaws at my work I scoffed at 2 years ago…then thought I would cut them up to make scrapers…now I want to restore them. I need to stop this madness!

-- I never finish anyth

View Jim K's profile

Jim K

94 posts in 3437 days

#3 posted 03-25-2012 05:33 AM

I remember my Dad has a device that he called a saw set. Looks like an old pair of pliers but it has a pincher on one side. It straddles the saw as you clamp down on the handle it pushes the anvil on the againest the saw tooth. that forces the tooth way from the saw. The idea is to alternate and push each tooth in the opposite direction. Like filing the teeth on a chain saw. Once you set the teeth next you use a diamond or a small flat file to sharpen the teeth again. I have done this on a number 20 pruning saw we used on our fruit trees.
It did work but takes time and for 20-25bucks you can buy another #20 pruning saw. or take half a day to sharpen one?

But in the old days people had little money so they sharpened them by hand.
I’ll try to find this tool if Dad has kept it don’t know?


View OldSneelock's profile


8 posts in 2617 days

#4 posted 03-25-2012 07:16 AM

I have done this on a number 20 pruning saw we used on our fruit trees.
It did work but takes time and for 20-25bucks you can buy another #20 pruning saw. or take half a day to sharpen one?

With a little practice, and the right setup, you can file a 26” crosscut in 1/2 hr or less.

Dave N.
aka Old Sneelock

-- Old Sneelock, Michigan,

View Brit's profile


7650 posts in 3143 days

#5 posted 03-25-2012 10:36 AM

Congrats Dave, nice job. I also bevelled the jaws to concentrate the clamping force at the top. It makes all the difference.

I’m new to saw sharpening myself, but I agree with OldSneelock. Once you’ve done a few saws, you can do them in no time at all. What I would say though is that if you are new to sharpening, don’t watch the clock on you first few saws. Instead concentrate on accuracy and repitition. Because you are essentially performing the same action on multiple teeth, you will quickly develop a feel for using saw files effectively. You’ll know where to apply pressure with the file and just how much pressure to apply. The process that you go through will vary depending on the condition of the saw your sharpening, whether you intend to change the number of teeth on the saw, or alter the saw from a rip to crosscut.

The best info in my opinion on saw sharpening can be found on and is called Saw Sharpening - A Beginner's Primer. Read it a few times to let it sink in, get the simple tools that you’ll need and have a go.

Remember, don’t be concerned about how long it takes initially, strive for perfection and develop the muscle memory. You’ll soon speed up.

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

View dhazelton's profile


2836 posts in 2597 days

#6 posted 03-25-2012 12:47 PM

There was an article in Fine Homebuilding a long time ago about one particular early twentieth century home builder. He started a project by driving his traction engine to the site and setting up a saw mill to cut the lumber from the home owner’s timber. It took a year or two to build a home, foundations dredged out with horses pulling scoops, all stone for the foundation came from the site, he would dig a well solely for methane gas production for lighting, the whole works.

Anyway, point is that there was one person on the crew who sharpened blades – that is ALL he did all day long, hand saws, coping saws, planes, whatever needed sharpening.

I think I need to make one of these. Better than seeing another old saw painted up and used as wall decoration. What kind of files does one use? I have a set of Diamond Life diamond micro files from Harbor Freight that might work, but I’d be afraid they aren’t shaped correctly to not wear away the gullet.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19106 posts in 2868 days

#7 posted 03-25-2012 01:04 PM

another great looking vise. You guys are making my distton look like a piece of crap.

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

View Jiri Parkman's profile

Jiri Parkman

953 posts in 4113 days

#8 posted 03-25-2012 08:19 PM

Great. Thanks for posting.

-- Jiri

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