Chris Schwarz's Blog

Another Solid $10 (and Change) Saw

It sounds like a difficult question, but it’s really not.

“I really want a Wenzloff & Sons handsaw, but I am a (graduate student, hobo, philosophy major) and cannot afford it. Can you recommend a saw that works almost as well but costs only $10?”

Yes, I can.

For many years I have been recommending the Stanley SharpTooth 20” panel saw – less than $11 – to students and readers who don’t have the funds to buy a new premium saw or don’t have the inclination to fix up a vintage saw.

The SharpTooth saw is made in the United States from “global materials” and is a winning combination of low price, excellent tooth selection and lousy tote.

The sawplate of the SharpTooth is .034”-thick steel and not taper-ground. The teeth are set at .010” on either side of the sawplate – that’s quite a rank set. The toothline is filed at 9 points per inch with a Japanese-style triple-bevel tooth. And the toothline is induction-hardened.

The combination of these tooth characteristics make for a quick saw – even in thick materials. It cuts a wide kerf, but because of the saw’s deep gullets and razor-sharp teeth it is faster than I expected it to be.

The saw leaves a rough surface behind and can be tough to steer because it is over-set, but the surface is certainly acceptable for a saw designed for rough work.

Despite all these good points, the saw is no fun to use for long periods of time. The plastic handle isn’t designed for a proper three-finger grip, so the tote is too roomy. The hard plastic handle gets a little slippery from sweat after four or five cuts.

And it is so ugly.

I purchased one of these SharpTooth saws from the home center to use during a video about getting started in hand tools. After the shoot is over, I think I’m going to make a new tote for the saw and see if it is worth keeping around.

Though it cuts just fine, it won’t be a lifetime saw. Induction-hardened teeth stay sharp for a long time — but when they do go dull they are too hard to sharpen with a file. So you end up trashing the saw (something I will never do to a tool) or cutting up the sawplate and make it into scrapers.

Still, on balance, I think it’s an excellent first saw for would-be hand-tool users. It is sharp and ready to go right from the store. And it cuts like crazy.

— Christopher Schwarz

If you want to learn all about the saws needed for making furniture, you might want to check out my new book “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” In it, I review the 50 or so hand tools you need to build furniture and show you how to select them based on features — not price or brand. The book is carried by ShopWoodworking.com and can be purchased here.

21 thoughts on “Another Solid $10 (and Change) Saw

  1. Bill Lattanzio

    I have two Stanley hand saws from the home center. One I got for electrical work, mainly sawing plywood panels and making frames to mount loadcenters, disconnects, ect. The other I got for general carpentry around the house. Both have wooden handles though the saw I use for electrical work has a rubber grip on the tote. Both are at least 7 years old and still work great. While I obviously wouldn’t use them for finish work they certainly do the job I inteded them to do. In fact, I just used one to cut out window sills for a never ending bedroom remodel and it did a fine job. If I remember right both saws were just about $20.00.

  2. Publius Secundus

    Maybe ten years ago I bought one of the Stanley Tool Box Saws for my young son. I ended up using it most of the time. Between the tall inducton hardened teeth and the set, the saw is very aggressive. In my opinion sharpening isn’t needed because the teeth are so hard they don’t get dull. I suppose one could reduce the set by grinding the teeth edges with a Dremel tool but the set appears to facilitate the rapid wood removal. You have a fairly wide kerf, but it isn’t a dovetail saw.

  3. Jim McCoy

    Hi Chris,
    Speaking of getting started in hand tools and cheap saws I just wanted to mention that I’ve found a use for a few Stanley hand saws that I purchased at a garage sale a few months back. I bought two back saws and a panel saw, all with plastic handles and dull as can be, for a dollar each. I took them home and have been using them to practice on while learning to sharpen my own saws. I was a little intimidated to file my good tenon and dovetail saws but I had no qualms about working on these guys. I don’t use them for woodworking much but they have proven to be great “tools” for building my confidence and it surprised me how well they cut once I got them sharp, although they don’t stay sharp very long in hardwoods. One of the best parts about having some “practice” saws has been in experimenting and practicing setting the teeth, particularly the finer toothed saws. As I get better I probably won’t need these guys much anymore but I think I’m getting my money’s worth out of them.

    Jim

  4. griz

    I have it’s ugly step sister from HF of all places. IT is called the 22″ Hand Saw with TPR Handle. I do not know what a TPR handle is unless that means extremely uncomfortable :). $7.99 minus the 20% coupon. I bought this on a whim as I was purchasing 16′ 2×12’s from the home center for my soon to be started bench. The bench will be 5′ do to limitations of my basement so I crosscut the 2×12’s at 5’4″ to get them in the truck right in the home center parking lot. An F150 tailgate and the orange wood carts line up perfect to support the 16 footers. I really expected to throw the saw away after the cuts but it did fine and is still under the back seat of the truck waiting for the home center to get another good board or two :).

  5. Fair Woodworking

    You’ve been reading my thoughts again…

    As you already know(apparently), I was thinking today that it would be nice to have a useful hand saw that I could carry around in my work truck without having to sacrifice one out of my shop.

    Thanks for the tip!

    For once, NOT wearing my tinfoil hat has worked in my favor.

  6. TWDesign

    Stanley makes a type with new, fancy “Sharpenable Teeth!” that isn’t induction hardened. It has the same hideous handle as this one, I put a new wooden handle on it and resharpened the teeth. It functions quite well for the $10 saw it started as.

  7. Steve

    Chris,

    What other saws do you suggest in this price range? I’m guessing maybe the Japanese Shark Saw?

    Good to see a decent and inexpensive modern ‘Western style’ saw as it might encourage novices to use hand tools. Does it cut on the pull, the push, or both?

  8. 12strings

    I have a Stanley SharpTooth Fine-finish saw that does have a decent wood handle, and it is my go-to saw for nearly every cut other than dovetails or tenons. I have had it for 4 years, and used it from everything from breaking down plywood and OSB to ripping some purpleheart to make a Krenov-style handplane. It probobly isn’t as sharp as it once was, but it still cuts really fast, and so gets a prominent place in the saw till of my newly-built Schwartzian tool chest!

  9. Justin Tyson

    I also use a 26″ SharpTooth for many tasks around the shop. I think the ultimate review of the saw came last Saturday, when I was helping a friend build a swing stand for his wife. We were using my SharpTooth to make some tricky, notched cuts in 4x4s. I got the cuts started along the lines and let my friend (a complete novice) finish them off. His reaction after a dozen strokes? “Wow, I thought handsaws were supposed to be slow!”

  10. Bill

    Chris,

    I’ve been using the wood handled version of this saw for a couple of years (mine is called a “tool box saw”). You are absolutely correct about how fast it cuts. My saw has a prominent place in my portable toolbox. I use it for cutting rough openings for new doorways and remodeling or installing cabinets, etc.. Areas where there may be hidden obstructions or are way too rough for my Wenzloff saws. Now that you have blogged about them, my shame of using such a saw has all but vanished. Thanks,

    Bill

  11. Jalatham

    This saw was the only saw I had for a long time. There is a lot you can do with them if pressed, I found out. I even cut (tight fitting) tenons for a dining table. It just depends on how easy you want to make it for yourself.

  12. J. Pierce

    Just poking around, and I’ve seen on Amazon and Ace hardware’s website, that Stanley still sells a non-induction-tooth saw – Google search for “resharpenable Stanley saw” and it turns up. Yes, they actually use “resharpenable” as a selling point, as if this was novel.

    I’ve never seen one in a store though, so I don’t know if these are actually still being made – they don’t show up on Stanley’s site, which lends credence to “no”, but they do turn up on Ace’s site, which leans toward “yes”. I wouldn’t know, I don’t spend a lot of time looking at these things in hardware stores.

    I wish nice vintage hand saws were a little easier to find here. I think Iron Horse Antiques must have cleaned out Vermont back in the 70s or something . . .

  13. Darren Brewster

    We have Stanley Sharptooth saws around here that have clunky looking wooden handles. If they cut the same way as the saw you are demonstrating, it might be worth picking one up and doing some minor shaping to the handle to get a decent user.

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