I wanted handsaw sharpening experience, and I got more (sharpening experience) than I expected

  • Advertise with us
Review by paxorion posted 02-25-2014 08:40 PM 4573 views 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
I wanted handsaw sharpening experience, and I got more (sharpening experience) than I expected No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

This past summer, I had to repair some molding along the exterior of a bay window. Given that it was a very small number of molding cuts to repair, I opted to get a plastic miter box and backsaw to do the work rather than pull out a power miter saw. I saw it not so much as an additional expense, but rather a chance to get some handsaw sharpening experience. My criteria was to find a cheap handsaw that I wouldn’t feel bad ruining by experimenting with sharpening. After playing with a few ~$10 options, I found the Kobalt handle to be my favorite and picked this one up.

Overall performance (when the saw has freshly sharpened teeth) has been great. I’ve cut a huge variety of different materials from domestic hardwoods (white oak, cherry, hard/soft maple, walnut, poplar), softwoods (pine), and composite (PVC trim) material and haven’t really had to work hard to get the cut nice and clean. If you let the saw do the work, it just glides right through the material.

Where things take a turn to the negative, has to do with edge retention. While I am beginning to suspect that poor technique is part of the problem early on (I was pushing down and forcing the teeth into the material), I find that the teeth dull very quickly, likely because of softer steel being used for the blade. After adjusting my technique, I found that the cuts went a lot more smoothly, but still began dulling after 30×1.5”-3” x 0.5”-1” cuts through hardwood. In addition, composite materials, such as the PVC trim and the plastic miter box really messes up the cutting edge of the teeth. So far, I’ve only used the saw for “one-off” cuts and no serious projects. It’s not like it takes a long time to sharpen the saw, but having to stop to sharpen mid-project isn’t really a good for long-term use.

So the bottom line? A bit hard to really say. I gave it a 3 star rating because for the price, what do you expect? It sharpens to a nice cutting edge, and it slices through some pretty tough stuff (white oak and hard maple). And given that my goal was to have a saw to use on “one-off” cuts while also serving as a sacrificial tool for sharpening experience, I definitely have a saw that is serviceable. For anyone who has the same criteria as me, this big box saw would certainly fit the bill. But if you’re looking to get into hand tools, keep looking.

-- paxorion

View paxorion's profile


1107 posts in 2856 days

2 comments so far

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

490 posts in 2491 days

#1 posted 02-25-2014 09:50 PM

Are those teeth impulse hardened? You can tell because there will be slight discoloration along the tooth line. If so they will never really take a sharpening well and the saw is intended to just be thrown away once it dulls.

A good vintage handsaw with sharpened teeth should hold it’s sharpness for sometime before needing to be sharpened. I have a 5 TPI panel rip saw that I used to cut up some parts in a 8 quarter rough sawn piece of soft maple for probably over 20 lineal feet of cutting and the saw was still very sharp once I was done.

The person who taught me to sharpen saws suggested starting with some saws out of barrels from flea markets. Often you can find these saws very cheap and sometimes you can find a real gem among them. I have some old Diston’s that I paid less than $10 for each because they looked rough and needed a good deal of cleaning but turned into great hand saws.

View Gilgaron's profile


19 posts in 2396 days

#2 posted 02-26-2014 02:05 AM

Most of the cheapie hardware store backsaws I’ve seen are not hardened, but the backless hand saws usually are. The former often have what appear to be stamped teeth while the latter are triple ground and so on.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics