Home » Saw Sharpening Class 2014

ACWA will be hosting a hand saw sharpening class on Saturday September 20th 2014 in Anchorage. The class will be taught by Club Member Jonathan S. who has been sharpening his own saws for a number of years and presently has more than 50 in his shop. This will be a beginner level class so no saw sharpening experience is necessary. The cost of the class will be $20, and that includes lunch.   You can’t beat that with a stick! Club membership will be required of all participants.

You will of course need a saw to sharpen. For your first saw sharpening experience I recommend a panel or full size hand saw, rather than a back saw. You must have a western saw that can be re-sharpened. Many of the new saws (Stanley Sharp Tooth) available today at the home centers have induction hardened Japanese style teeth, which cannot be re-sharpened. If you are in doubt if your saw can be sharpened, please contact Jonathan (there is a contact form at the bottom of this page). An 8 PPI (points per inch) saw is a good place to start, but anything from 4.5 to 10 tpi will be fine, although the smaller teeth will be more difficult. The PPI is usually stamped on the heel of the saw plate.   If you don’t know how to measure PPI look here: (http://thesawblog.com/?p=301). If all you have is a backsaw (tenon, carcass or sash, NOT Dovetail) which normally are toothed at 10-12 PPI that will be fine, although the 10 ppi will be easier. We will not be sharpening very fine tooth (>12PPI) dovetail saws.   Saws must be in good condition, if you have a vintage saw, it must have a fairly straight saw plate that is free of rust, dirt and grime. We will not be doing a full saw rehabilitation. If you need to clean up your vintage saw, good instructions can be found on Daryl Weir’s website (http://home.grics.net/~weir/saw_restoration.html).   If you need to acquire a saw, there are many reputable online vintage tool dealers, and Jonathan can recommend a few. As a last resort, AIH has a Great Neck crosscut saw (about 8PPI) with an ugly wooden handle and an extreme amount of set that could probably be tuned and sharpened to cut fairly decently.

You will also need a saw vise. If you don’t have one, you have a few options. If you want to buy a new vise, Gramercy Tools is the only company currently making saw vises (http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/store/item/GT-SAWV). This is an excellent vise, but might be more than you wish to invest at the beginning of your saw sharpening journey.

There are many vintage saw vises out there that can be had for a reasonable price. Again I recommend that you buy from a reputable tool dealer. A broken vise or one whose jaws do not close up tightly will not work well. If you are using a vintage vise, be sure you have some sturdy means to mount it to a bench with a 3” thick top

The best option may be a shop made saw vise. There are many plans out there on the internet. Here is one that I recommend, in fact I built this very vise a number of years ago (http://norsewoodsmith.com/content/jaspers-wooden-saw-vise).   Here is a slightly upgraded version (http://www.tgiag.com/Knowledgebase/Shop%20built%20saw%20vise.html). If you choose to build a vise I suggest you size it to a comfortable working height, for wherever you will work at home.   To avoid bending over too far you might want the tooth line of the saw just about or slightly below level with your forearm when bent at 90 degrees at the elbow.   The club benches that we will work on are 32” high, and the tops are 3” thick. If you are building the vise referenced above, longer vise legs can always be cut shorter.   If you are a big tall gorilla guy, and are making a tall vise, make the legs extra stout, to reduce vibration.   Make the front legs of the vise about 3” longer than the back legs. This way the back legs rest on the bench top, the front legs overhang and you can secure the vise with 2 long clamps from the front to the rear of the bench.   If your bench top is thicker than 3”, you might want to make the front legs longer. Please plan to bring your own clamps. If you have Bessy or Jet parallel clamps, two 24” clamps will be sufficient. Pipe clamps will work fine, but you might need four. F style clamps are probably inadequate. If you don’t have clamps, let Jonathan know.

Of course tapered saw files of the appropriate size for your saw will be needed. We will have some file in smaller sizes available for sale at the class. Let Jonathan know ASAP what the PPI of your saw is and we will let you know if we have files. In the event we don’t, you will have to acquire some (AIH has some Nicholson files in stock). Jonathan will provide size specifications. You will also need an appropriate sized file handle (AIH has some in stock).

Since we will be jointing the saws you will need an 8” mill bastard file (single cut), which you can get at any local hardware or home store. A dedicated vintage saw jointer is nice, and they are cheap, but you can easily make one out of scrap wood. See this picture (http://www.calast.com/personal/ken/images/sawjointer.jpg) just be sure your rabbet is square.

Do you have old eyes or small saw teeth? A task light, will be most helpful, bring one with an extension cord. If I’m working with 8PPI or smaller saws, I use an Optivisor to provide magnification (http://www.doneganoptical.com/products/optivisor). You can wear them right over prescription glasses. I highly recommend one, and would suggest a #3 or #4. Amazon usually has pretty good prices. I have been told, but have not confirmed that the bead store at Tudor and LK Otis (NW corner) has some visors of some sort. If your saw is 12PPI, some sort of magnification is pretty much necessary. I first bought a magnification lamp, but dumped it for an Optivisor.

If you have a saw set, please bring it. If you don’t have one, I will bring a couple of extras. Having said that, it will significantly slow things down if no one brings one and we are all sharing 3 or 4 saw sets. If you want to buy one, the vintage Stanley 42 X is the gold standard US made set, but can be expensive. The vintage British made Eclipse is also a great set, and cheaper. Jonathan can provide dealer contacts to purchase one.   Please do not buy the Somax saw set currently on the market. The anvils are not hardened, and they will not last near as long as a vintage set. A vintage Eclipse which is what the Somax is based on can be had for about the same price as the Somax.

I am a big fan of saw sharpening jigs to help maintain the correct angles while filling. We will be making our own jigs in class, but if you are of a mind to acquire a new tool, there are two commercially made jigs on the market that are right handy. Lee Valley makes on which you can find here (http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/Page.aspx?p=70465&cat=1,43072,43086). I use this jig, it works well. If you like to support independent tool makers, check out Isaac Smiths Rake Maker II (http://www.blackburntools.com/new-tools/new-saws-and-related/rakemaker-ii/index.html). Isaac makes these to order, so be sure to contact him immediately to see if you can get it in time (tell him Jonathan sent you, I know Isaac, he’s a good guy). Spring for the extra few bucks and get the one with the built-in level.   A level vial will really improve your shop made or Lee Valley jig, so be sure to bring one. I like the small 1” vials that come encased in plastic with adhesive designed to stick on an RV to read level. I bought some at Walmart a few years ago. Here is a picture (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31lFNStTzlL._SL500_AA300_.jpg). You only need one. A less desirable alternative is a small line level.

Do you still want to learn to sharpen your saws? If so you can register for the class here.   If you have any questions, please contact Jonathan.

Remember, even a poorly sharpened saw cuts better than a dull one!


All right, let’s recap the tool list.

Western style Saw (no saws finer than 12PPI)

saw vise (shop made is fine) & clamps

Tapered Saw files (2) & handle

8” bastard mill file

Saw Jointer (shop made is fine)

Saw Set (if you have one)

Task lamp & extension cord

Optivisor (not necessary but very helpful)

Saw filling jig (only if you are of a mind to buy a new tool)

Dychem Machinist layout fluid (I prefer red) in a bottle (not spray can) – Only if you have some, don’t go buy it if you don’t, we will have a bottle on hand.


Please fill out the form below to contact Jonathan with questions about this class.







Comments & Responses

One Response so far.

  1. Tom says:

    Willing to learn

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