A must-have device for sharpening saws.
By Robert W. Lang
From the June 2010 issue #183
Buy this issue now
One of the cardinal rules of woodworking is that the purchase of one tool begets the need for several others. Sawing by hand is both easier and more accurate than many people think, provided the saw is sharpened properly. Old saws can be an incredible bargain, and if you’re a frugal sort you likely won’t want to spend a lot on sharpening equipment.
There are three things you need: a triangular file to make the teeth sharp, a saw set to bend the teeth away from the body of the blade and a vise to hold the blade while you work. A file costs about $5 and a new saw set less than $20. But a new saw vise will set you back more than $120 – unless you make your own.
This was the problem we faced a couple years ago when we held a hands-on saw sharpening class at the 2008 Woodworking in America conference. We needed 50 saw vises and we didn’t have a lot of time or money. So we looked at some vintage vises, consulted a saw guru and came up with this design.
Any hardwood will do; we used odds and ends we had in our shop of ash, poplar, cherry and oak. Most of the joinery is simple butt joints reinforced with yellow glue and #8 screws. The jaws sit in shallow rabbets in the two uprights, and should be held in place with screws only. You will likely want to modify the jaws at some point to accommodate a different saw, or tweak the way the jaws hold the saw blade.
A saw vise does two things: It puts the blade at a convenient height and the jaws keep the blade from vibrating as you file. Before you follow our plan, however, give some thought to the type and size of saws you plan on working with, and don’t be afraid to change the size or shape of the jaws.
Lacking 50 bench vises at our conference location, we made the base so we could secure the saw vise to a workbench with a couple Fstyle clamps. The addition of a square block secured below the base will allow you to hold the saw vise easily in your bench vise.
Video: Watch Thomas Lie-Nielsen’s video on “Techniques and Sharpening.”
Web site: Read detailed sharpening instructionsin Pete Taran’s “Saw Filing – A Beginner’s Primer” on VintageSaws.com.
Buy: Shop for saw sharpening supplies, including files, sets and a modern saw vise from Tools for Working Wood.
In our store: Purchase “The Perfect Edge,” Ron Hock’s new book on sharpening.