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.