Following on from my talk at Frame 2011 in Cardiff, I have had an article pubished in the "Mortice & Tenon", the quarterly magazine of the Carpenters Fellowship.
For those of you who don't subscribe, I've reproduced the article bellow.
Making a new handsaw.
I’ve always had and used old hand saws. There is nothing wrong with a modern, plastic handled saw, with its induction hardened universal teeth. In fact for cutting plywood, with its multi directional grain, they’re great, but they’re always short, and the teeth are too small for large green wood, and I’m not that keen on disposable stuff.
I’ve stopped and picked up countless old rusty saws in antique shops, checked the teeth and looked down the line to see how straight they were. Invariably they are past trying to bring back to life as a worker, but I have some excellent saws, some good saws, and some I was being too optimistic about.
A good old saw will outperform any modern handsaw, even when you allow for sharpening time, I’ve tested rip saws against new modern saws, and the cutting time is less than half that of the modern saw.
Sometimes things come together unexpectedly and take you off in a new direction. I found a saw doctor’s book on ebay that looked interesting, I hoped it might have some new (1920s) saw sharpening techniques for hand saws, it didn’t! But it did have a small section on the advantages of using a fly-press for cutting saw teeth in bandsaw blades. Around this time I came across a fly-press with tooling from a saw doctors, set up for re-toothing handsaws. Needless to say it joined my collection of tools in my workshop.
Originally I was going to re-cut some of my old saws, but that wouldn’t be as much fun as trying to make a new saw from scratch, and I’d get a saw that would be customised to what I wanted.
After a lot of research on the internet, and asking questions of those in the know I found the steel type and grade required for my handsaw. Spring steel CS95, hardened and tempered to 530-570 VPN, this has a carbon content of around 0.95%. The quality of the steel is vital, it needs to be hard enough to hold its edge, and soft enough so you can file it and the teeth don’t snap off when setting.
I thought that I’d document the making of the saw, for those interested.
It made the saw lighter and moved the weight to the tooth line, which improved control of the saw when cutting.
It made the saw less likely to jam in the saw cut.
It reduced the amount of set required, smaller set = thinner cut = less effort.
Just as in cutting the plate, it is important that as little heat as possible enters the blade; I repeatedly cooled the blade every time it reached touch hot. (Somewhere after warm but still comfortably holdable in your fingers)
Making your own saw isn’t quick but it is rewarding, and I’ve learnt a lot along the way. I now have a smile on my face every time I pick up the saw, which you don’t get with a modern disposable. I still need to make a cross cut sister to the rip, when is my next free weekend?
Hope you found that interesting, any and all comments welcome.