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