Blood, Sweat, and Sawdust

Going against the grain

Tag: Hand Saws

Traditional Sawbench

When began my journey with hand-tools, I thought it would be prudent to invest in some panel saws. I purchased a couple on eBay, and set out to get them as sharp as I could. Unfortunately, my two beautiful pre-war Disston’s have hung on the wall ever since. I thought I had my saws reasonably sharp, but always struggled cutting anything harder than pine. It wasn’t until I decided to build a traditional saw-bench, that I found the answer to my problems.

Building the saw bench was rather straight forward. I broke down my stock to rough dimensions using my bandsaw. Then I milled the rough boards to final dimensions with my trusty Stanley no. 5. The joinery was accomplished with a few simple half laps and bridle joints. The bench was then assembled with Tight Bond III and some cut nails. It wasn’t until I used the bench for the first time that I discovered just how magical good ergonomics could be.

The saw bench is a marvel. It puts the work at knee height, so that you can use your body weight to hold the piece in place. It puts your body in proper alignment so you get good leverage and can track a straight line. Additionally, it’s much easier to track to a straight, square line with the saw plate hanging downwards. It’s amazing how much easier the saw seems to cut.

Never underestimate the power of ergonomics when it comes to using your hand tools. As a result of my recent enlightenment, I have decided to rethink just about everything in my shop. I chopped an additional 3 inches from the height of my work bench and am considering going even lower.

Handsaw Sharpening 101

It should be noted that my love of the old ways runs deep. With that in mind, I felt it was important to learn how to dimension boards completely by hand. To do that requires a fundamental knowledge of how to sharpen various forms of iron and steel. From plane to saw, your tools need to be sharp. To send them out requires too much time and money. It also results in feeling less connected with the tools I work with.

I picked up plane iron and chisel sharpening fairly quickly. Saws have been another matter entirely. For the uninitiated, saw sharpening requires using a tapered, triangular file to bring each tooth to an equal sized point. The point is the easy part. The “equal” thing is the challenge. My first few attempts resulted in tooth sizes that were all over the place. After putting in a lot of sweat equity, I am starting to get the hang of things. The payoff is being able to rip a board down using a 100+ year old Disston handsaw.

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