Chris Schwarz's Blog

Kenyon Backsaws and Handsaws for Sale Again

A sharp, balanced and well-set handsaw is the difference between avoiding handsawing and looking for excuses to pick up the tool. While it is noble to resuscitate vintage saws and put them back into working order (instead of painting pastoral scenes on them), not everyone is inclined to haunt flea markets and remove rust. Some of us just want to cut wood.

Now, for the first time since saw and filemaker John Kenyon closed his doors in Sheffield, England, you can buy a complete set of Kenyon-style backsaws and handsaws. These saws, based on examples found in the toolchest of Benjamin Seaton, revive saw patterns that have disappeared from the modern landscape and are still useful to woodworkers.

The Best Things
of Herndon, Va., now sells a complete line of Kenyon saws made by Wenzloff & Sons sawmakers of Forest Grove, Ore., from the diminutive 9″-long dovetail saw (filed to make a rip cut) to the massive, impressive and wood-eating 26″-long crosscut handsaw.

I own three saws from the six-saw set and can recommend them without reservation. These saws are beautifully detailed, hand-sharpened and cut as well as any saw I’ve used, vintage or new. And the prices are what I would call an excellent value for the workmanship: from $130 up to $265.

I own the large crosscut saw, which I use with a sawbench all the time to cut down rough lumber for processing. The saw is surprisingly heavy when you first pick it up, but I have found the weight to be an asset. When you raise the saw backward and then let it fall into the cut, it does all the work and almost floats through white oak. It’s a much different experience that the one I had cutting 2x12s on our farm with a half-dull Craftsman handsaw.

The sash saw (I have the rip-filed version) is a great saw for cutting tenons on small rails and cutting deep notches. It has 13 points per inch (ppi) and is fine enough to actually do a fair amount of crosscutting.

And the tenon saw, the most unusual saw in the kit, is one of my favorites. It is the biggest backsaw I’ve ever used (that wasn’t in a miter box). It’s 19″ long with a thin sawplate. It seems like a recipe for disaster, but the old-timers knew what they were doing, and bringing back this saw is a true public service to hand-tool woodworking. This saw is quite easy to steer. And its long length and impressive heft actually make it easy to saw larger tenons fast and true.

The handles are beech and have that 18th-century look to them that I like (and they feel good in the hand). The split brass sawnuts are sweet. The brass back is folded over the blade, like the old saws.

Mike Wenzloff paid attention to the details when building this line of saws. And Lee Richmond at The Best Things knew a good thing when he saw it. And so do I. When my next paycheck arrives (March 23, not that I’m counting), I’m going to pick up the dovetail saw.

- Christopher Schwarz

7 thoughts on “Kenyon Backsaws and Handsaws for Sale Again

  1. P. M.

    Ok,

    You (all) convince me of getting my hands on one of these saws.
    There is one more thing that I would like to ask. Is the setting of a saw somehow affected by the fact that you might be laft handed?
    Normally when I grab a saw, I grab it with my right hand Then, I rememmber that I should have it on my left hand. When I shift hands (well, actually, pass the saw to my left hand), I feel funny with the saw. I don’t know if it is because the saw is designed to be for a right handed, or if is because I’m learning from (looking at) a right handed woodworker/instructor. Or probably is the workbench and piece location that should be mirrored.
    What do you think?
    If the setting of the saw is affected by this, I think is now the time to ask Mr.Wenzloff to tweek his saws for a lefty

    Regards,

    PM

  2. Christopher Fitch

    Well Chris, you convinced me…so I ordered the tenon saw.

    I’ve had my eye on a "tenon saw" for some time now and after all the discussion from Adam C. and you about tenon saws, I bailed on the Adria/LN "tenon" saws and decided on this one.

    I’ll be creating a spot for it in the saw till when I give one of my Disston’s to my brother. This should complete my range of saws from a Disston Rip saw down to dovetail saws and Japanese saws (I think).

  3. dave brown

    PM,

    Adding to what Jerry said, the only difference in the saws you mentioned comes down to how the tote feels in your hand and how the teeth are filed — aggressive, easy to start, etc . . .

    It’s great being able to work with Mike when building your saw.

    enjoy the ride!
    Dave

  4. P. M.

    Ok, now I need an article on handsaws test…
    Chris, I’ve been thinking in buying a god dovetailing saw from quite ago. From a wide selection I finally narrowed down to 2 and just when I’m wondering between Lie Nielsen’s and Pax. A new contender comes into play. (Since Prices are quite comparable lets take it out of the equation.)
    Can you tell me including this new saw, which one should I buy to never look back for a saw?

    Regards,

  5. dave brown

    Chris,

    I’ve got four of Mike’s saws w/ two more on order. I can’t say enough good things about them. Using his saws has added a whole new dimension to my woodworking.

    cheers,
    Dave

  6. Roy Griggs

    Chris,
    Shortly after Mike announced on the OldTools list that he was going into business making saws I ordered a small backsaw kit; 12" x 2 3/4"-14 ppi x-cut. After recieving and finishing it, I fell in love. It was quickly followed by a large backsaw a 14" x 4"-10 ppi rip, this one finished by Mike. After almost a year and a half of use, these two saws do almost all of my joinery. I have a goodly contingent of antique saws and some are very good saws but none are better than Mike’s.
    I would and have recommended Mike’s saws to anyone who appreciates finely made tools…that work as well as they are made.
    roy

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