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Thread: how do I choose a saw?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    how do I choose a saw?

    just beginning to acquire good hand tools..am seeking advice on which saws (and why) to buy. I sorta think I need 2-3 for starters??

    that would be in my mind a dovetail saw, a tenon saw and perhaps a larger saw.. a small hand saw?

    I know that the dovetail saw should be filed for rip cuts.. at least from what I have read..

    any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Jeff

  2. #2
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    Jeff,

    My thoughts would be to have a 8" DT (rip) saw and 12" Tenon (crosscut). A 14" Tenon saw is also a consideration instead of the 12".
    I also prefer a "whale tail" handle on the DT saw.....not a closed handle.

    Penn. saw company, Disston, Clark & son, etc,,,,,are older brands generally found on the web or garage/antique shops. You will probably need them filed, sharpened, and set on top of the price you pay.

    New, good quality saws from Lie-Nielson and Adria are excellent - but expensive. They come "good to go" right out of the box and are beautiful tools also. Actually, they may be a fair price if you factor in shipping, sharpening, etc...for an older saw to get it in working order.

    Go test some out at your local WWing store just to get a feel for the neander way.....

    There are also some great saws made by fellow SMC'ers that may be available.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    west coast
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    Jeff-
    I just started doing dovetail joints by hand and the saw I picked up is a mini dozuki from woodcraft.
    http://www.woodcraft.com/family.aspx?familyid=4237

    For the price not a bad place to start. IMHO and limited experience this saw works quite well. The blade is hard to sharpen but is easy to replace.

    As far as a nice rip saw I agree with Roy that a nice old Atkin or Disston can be found inexpensive. Something nice about having an old tool that works great. I found my Disston at a tool sharpening shop hanging on the wall ready to make dust for $15.

    Cheers!
    Ryan

  4. #4
    Jeff, 2-3 won't cut it at all. Nope, not even a good start!

    Dovetail saw - 8-10", 15 tpi filed rip

    Tenon saw - 10-14", 12-15 tpi filed rip

    Small crosscut saw 8-12, filed crosscut

    Panel saw - 18-20" 10-12 tpi filed crosscut

    Panel saw - 18-20" 7-8 filed rip

    Hand saw - 24-26", 10 tpi filed crosscut

    Rip saw - 26-28", 5-6 tpi filed rip

    Then you need another barrel full of different lengths and tooth configurations for practice sharpening.

    And, don't forget the box of open handle dovetail/backsaw because they just look cool.

    Oh, Oh, and don't forget the pre 1900 full size saws with ornate chip carved handles.

    Then you need a flush cut saw, a veneer saw yada yada yada

    Well....you get the idea. Good luck, they are addicting.
    Dennis

  5. #5
    I don't file either my dovetail or my tenon saws for rip cuts. I don't believe it makes much difference, as the cuts are small and you're gonna do both crosscutting and ripping with them, and crosscutting a tenon shoulder is a good route toward scratching your workpiece badly using a rip saw.

    As it's so simple, I'm a strong believer in you learning to file saws early on. That way you can buy the finest handsaws ever made from the prewar era for a fraction of newer saws, most of which are inferior in that many are too hard to refile and the larger crosscut, rip and panel saws aren't taper ground...



    ....The British PAX saws being the exception with fileable, taper-ground steel, however I don't know if their thinness or taper matches Disston's best:



    The more taper in the blade, the less set is required...some requiring no set at all for efficient flushcutting, something that can't be done at all with power tools:



    I think you should begin with a dovetail saw, and a 12" tenon saw. These don't have tapered blades and almost all prewar saws are good....I have a no-name as good as a Disston 68 without paying the collector's premium for one.

    Then you can acquire long, (26-28") crosscut and rip saws. Here you want taper ground, so we're talking Disston No's 12, 9, 77, 112, 115...the 12's being most common. These will go 30 bucks and up for restorable users. For hardwoods, 9-12 tpi in a crosscut and 6-7 or so in a rip are good compromises. Many, if not most users own just one rip saw but own a long 8-9 tpi crosscut and a short, 11-12 tpi crosscut panel saw. Softwoods use coarser teeth, so boatbuilders often don't own one finer than 9tpi.

    http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthre...ner%27s+primer

    If you're gonna learn to sharpen, begin with coarse saws, not dovetail saws....and one of those flushcutting Shark saws from Amazon for 20 bucks is also good to have around as a beater for coarse work.


    Good luck.
    Last edited by Bob Smalser; 01-06-2006 at 6:22 PM.
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  6. #6
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    grins.. thanks fellas...

    Dennis.. I am gonna need a sawtill apparantly!!! I am already beginning the "quest"

    Bob- thanks.. I like learning the why's and hows of tool designs..speaking of filing saws..I suppose i would only need a vise, a file( or a few sizes of files) and a sawset..(and the knowledge to use it).

    can you elaborate on the rip tooth vs crosscut for dovetailing?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Borges

    ...speaking of filing saws..I suppose i would only need a vise, a file( or a few sizes of files) and a sawset..(and the knowledge to use it).

    can you elaborate on the rip tooth vs crosscut for dovetailing?
    Study the two articles at my link....Taran discusses file sizes, you make your own vise that's superior to the storebought ones, and Taran talks to sawsets, too.


    If you buy a new dovetail saw...whether a 15-dollar economy saw or a spendy collector's item, simply use it with the teeth it came with.

    Refiling crosscut teeth into rip teeth for cuts that are only 3" long simply isn't necessary.



    Crosscut teeth start easy and cut cleaner, cutting like knives....but clog up with stringy wood fibers when used for long rip cuts.



    Rip teeth cut exactly like chisels. They clear stringy wood fibers well by chopping them into shorter dust, but they like to bounce around when starting the cut, especially when trying to crosscut with them. Fixing a deep scratch in an exposed tenon shoulder or drawer side will more than eat up any "efficiency" gained refiling a tenon saw to rip teeth. Why do you spose 99.9% of manufacturers over the last 100 years put crosscut teeth on tenon and dovetail saws?

    Today's hobby woodworking is full of trendy tidbits you shouldn't buy into without serious thought and discussion.
    Last edited by Bob Smalser; 01-06-2006 at 6:21 PM.
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Borges
    grins.. thanks fellas...

    Dennis.. I am gonna need a sawtill apparantly!!! I am already beginning the "quest"

    Bob- thanks.. I like learning the why's and hows of tool designs..speaking of filing saws..I suppose i would only need a vise, a file( or a few sizes of files) and a sawset..(and the knowledge to use it).

    can you elaborate on the rip tooth vs crosscut for dovetailing?
    Jeff, Bob's cheaper than I am I prefer a 15 pt rip tooth for dovetailing because cutting dovetails is a rip operation. I suppose it doesn't make a lot of difference if you already have a fine tooth crosscut saw. It'll cut dovetails just as well, just a little slower. Slow in this case is a relative term since you are only cutting a line 3/4" or so.

    I hand cut tenons with both a rip and crosscut saw. I cut the cheeks with the rip saw and and shoulders with the crosscut. saw. Some people cut the cheeks with a rip saw and use a chisel to pare the shoulder smooth. I think that just adds an extra step. That was what Bob was aluding to in his post about scratching tenons.
    Dennis

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    San Dimas, CA
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    the "trendy tidbits" idea is why I asked for help from the SMC'ers....

    its like fishing lures... most are designed and packaged to catch fishermen... not fish....

    I guess I will have to buy a few and just try it.. (darn)

    I am a certified tool geek... but not an uneducated purchaser...

    is there anything I should stay away from on a used saw??how much rust is too much rust? broken or chipped handles??
    I already collect old planes.. so I do understand the work that goes with them...not a problem to me.. i like knowing that the tool has another generation or two left in it.. and will be cared for

  10. #10
    Handles are easily fixed, or even made from scratch.

    Rust isn't a problem, but the pits left from deep rust is. You don't want any deep rust pits down anywhere there will be future teeth because they can cause a tooth to break off in use.
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  11. #11
    Bob covered the high spots although I'd be wary of a bent or kinked blade too. They can be fixed, but I've not had good luck doing it. If you are looking at full sized hand or rip saws look at e-bay. There are usually lots of 8-10 saws of various brands in rough shape that go for the cost of one good D-8. You could get a lot of saws to practice on cheap.
    Dennis

  12. #12
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    ok.. now my head is swimming..lol

    lots of saws on the 'Bay....I guess since they aren't too expensive I will try a few out.. can resell them if not too good for me.. but a lot of inexpensive buys....which is very cool

    Wait, maybe I should keep that quiet??

    fortunately I have a tool fund..lol..

    also need to find a file supplier!!

    this is fun.. (makes me recall when I started buying old stanley planes and such)

  13. Hi Jeff,

    Pete Taran sells Bahco brand files. LN sells Grobet. Both nice files as to lasting.

    My local Ace Hardware sells many sizes of Nicholsons, which means they can probably be purchased from the Ace web site. These break down quicker, but should last well enough for casual sharpening.

    Sears use to carry Simonds, which are good files. Don't know what they carry anymore.

    Take care, Mike

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    San Dimas, CA
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    ahhhh the addiction to tools .....

    thanks Mike.. and Bob....(the boatbuilding is enticing)

    thanks to all of you..

    now all I have to find is what the &^*%$ is shlamaca and what continent is it grown on.....then get some.. and start testing saws..as it were...

  15. #15
    Jeff,

    You got excellent response to your question, and you'll need to decide what saws you will want to buy, but a rip and a crosscut will do.

    Most smaller tenon saws and dovetails saws are filed rip these days, for the saws I see.

    Bob's advice to learn to file is sound, heed it. With an inexpensive western style vintage saw and a few minutes with a file, you can have a great tool, and keep it great. It will cut joinery for a long time to come.

    When buying used saws, make sure to ask if the blade is straight, if there are any teeth missing, or if the blade is pitted. Don't trust pictures completely. Even if the seller tells you is the case, doesn't mean it is.

    A dull saw, which the majority of saws being sold are, can be easily sharpened, but it's harder to straighten a kinked blade. However, it's almost impossible to destroy a saw, since you should be able to completely joint it, shape it, and sharpen it in the worst case.

    The biggest concern, IMO, is the handle though. Many saws have nuts that are either damaged or stripped, either way they can't be secured properly.DAMHIKT Most can be remidied, but you will be frustrated buying a saw that has a loose handle with nuts having stripped heads on them, if that happens...and it takes time to fix them.

    There is something to buying a new LN or Adria saw. They're ready to go. They aren't cheap, but worth it, IMO. For a small dovetail saw for fine joinery, it's hard to beat the LN. The Adria dovetail saw is a higher profile, and more like using a small tenon saw, but they look beautiful also (I've never cut with one). It's very hard to find older low profile dovetail saws, there are very few for sale and the ones available go for a premium. If this is what you're looking for, just buy a new LN Dovetail saw.

    I would also reccomend contacting Mike Wenzloff, since he's starting to make saws, and is certainly a person I would trust to make a decent tool. Mike can provide personalized service, and that type of value add is worthy. Mike would probably be willing to work with you and help you to get saws that you want specific, if you have a need.

    Personally, if I was going to only buy one saw, I would get a fine tooth rip saw and use it to cut crosscut tenon shoulders when needed. As the rip teeth get courser, they tend to rip up the wood across the grain in my experience though. Bob makes a good point of using a crosscut file as well, I don't think it really matters when the teeth are small, but as they get coarser it does.

    Then, if I could get two saws, I'd get a rip and a crosscut.

    Remember that a lot has to do with the type and size of wood. Small dovetail saws are typically good for 4/4 - 6/4 work, where a larger saw is needed for 8/4 and larger. A slightly coarser tooth will cut hardwoods a little easier in most cases. Smaller saws work fine for cutting mortise and tenons on 4/4 stock but I prefer to have a larger saw if cutting 8/4 or larger as well, you may or may not. I was cutting a draw bored mortise and tenon a couple days ago in 8/4 stock and I felt more comfortable using a 10" saw. But for 4/4 stock I prefer an 8" rip, prefer 17points, but can be happy with 15 points. I don't like it any coarser than a 14-15 points, but some do (in regards to small backsaws for fine joinery).

    It's always hard to tell someone what type of saw to buy without details on what they want it for. 2 backsaws (1 rip, 1 crosscut) and 1 decent panel saw would work well to start with, but like other hand tools, you really need a quiver to cover a variety of needs.

    Good luck, there's a lot of great old saws out there, and a lot of great new ones also. If you do decide on a western style saw (Japanese pull saw is also an option), make sure to invest some time to learn how to sharpen it, you will be amazed at how well a freshly sharpened saw will cut, I know I am. It's pretty easy also, although it seemed ackward to me at first, it's not rocket science. Far too many people afriad to sharpen their own saws, a pity actually...

    Lastly (sorry for the length;-), my kids got me a nice book for the holidays, my daughter found it and thought it would be good as it has a picture of one of those "little saws". Pretty good book that describes most hand cut joinery, pretty useful. I don't know if it's allows to post an Amazon link here, so will just give you the info.

    "Success with Joints" by Ralph Laughton ISBN 1-86108-415-3

    Regards,
    Alan

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