Saw Sharpening Vise

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Project by bonobo posted 10-17-2012 10:38 PM 25667 views 40 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been learning to sharpening my handsaws by holding them between a couple of scraps in my bench face vise but found that it was uncomfortably low and didn’t hold the blades tightly enough . When I saw an old-style wooden saw vise on Paul Sellers’ blog, I decided to copy it. While mine isn’t a thing of beauty, it works so well that I wanted to post it here in case anybody else has been considering making one.

I put it together from an old, scavenged stair tread and other scraps. I hope the construction sketch is self-explanatory but I’ll just add a few tips:

-the mortises in the jaws are dovetail shaped and the tenons are held with glued wedges on the sides. I laminated a couple pieces around the tenons, rather than chiselling the mortises out.
-if it were to do it again, I’d make it closer to the sketch by not rounding the hinges (I’d just leave enough space to accommodate the corners)
-assemble the hinge and use a brad point bit to drill from each side towards the center. Use some kind of straight-edge to act as a visual reference.
-make sure to keep the grain oriented correctly on the jaw components, so that you can do your final shaping without tear-out
-make sure the ends of the jaws are touching with a sliver of light visible in the middle (enough for a business card). A couple of strips of leather glued to the jaws is essential.
-the carriage bolt head will fit nicely if you use a narrow file to square the back side of the hole.
-final shaping was done with a jack plane, coping saw, wood rasp and sandpaper.
-for leverage considerations, make sure the distance from the wingnut to the jaws’ edge is significantly less than the wingnut/hinge distance (while keeping it low enough to accommodate your deepest saw blade)
-the wingnut assembly will work smoother if you file down the sharp tops of the threads, smooth the bottom of the wingnut and add a dab of grease.
-a dark finish stain seems to help visibility

I was shocked by how much force the 5/8” wingnut was able to exert and can literally swing the whole ball of wax around by the saw handle. There’s very little vibration and the saw blade is now at a very comfortable height. The combination of cap nuts and lock washers mean that the finger-joint hinge has absolutely no play, which makes it really easy to make fine adjustment to the position of the saw.

Paul in Toronto

-- “Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” —Bertolt Brecht

10 comments so far

View mafe's profile


13872 posts in 4588 days

#1 posted 10-17-2012 11:29 PM

This one is so cool, I love it.
Beautiful and well thought out.
Think this will be the one I make when I have time again.
Thank you for posting, the drawing is also a gem.
Best thoughts,

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

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 4557 days

#2 posted 10-18-2012 04:12 AM

I’ve seen these before. I like the idea for several reasons. 1) the wood should do a good job of absorbing and eliminating vibration. That should help to quiet the sharpening process down some. The aspect of saw sharpening that I don’t like is the noise. 2) You can build them to whatever length needed if you want for longer saws. That eliminates having to move the saw over and over during the sharpening process. 3) as you have noted, you can build it tall enough to get the saw up where you can see the work clearly without bending over too much. Great ideas. Well done. I may just have to borrow an idea or two from this one.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View Brit's profile


8520 posts in 4341 days

#3 posted 10-18-2012 11:44 AM

Nice job Paul. I think that is the best design for sharpening backsaws. Longer hand saws or rip saws might be better served by a vise with two vertical supports; in other words making a frame. Great to hear of another LJ learning to sharpen saws.

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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4614 days

#4 posted 10-18-2012 02:11 PM

great job on the vise :-)

welcome to L J enjoy and have fun while you hang out on this corner :-)


View lysdexic's profile


5353 posts in 4121 days

#5 posted 10-18-2012 04:46 PM

Great idea and well executed.

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

View bonobo's profile


342 posts in 3555 days

#6 posted 10-18-2012 05:46 PM

Thanks everyone.

Wonderful saw sharpening reference page Andy! It’ll be a big help going forward.

-- “Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” —Bertolt Brecht

View WoodworkGuy's profile


79 posts in 4292 days

#7 posted 10-29-2012 02:21 PM

Great design and use of scrap woods. Nice job with the project description and “pearls of wisdom.”

-- Making sawdust and memories through woodworking.

View sado's profile


17 posts in 3532 days

#8 posted 11-23-2012 09:04 PM

very good work

-- Sado.Iran

View Don W's profile

Don W

20446 posts in 4066 days

#9 posted 11-23-2012 10:30 PM

Very nice.

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

View MFogleman's profile


1 post in 3722 days

#10 posted 11-16-2015 07:03 PM

I like this very much! A small version of it will work nicely as a small blade holder for a Tormek.

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