A couple weeks ago a friend in Chicago sent me a new Western backsaw (nice gift!) that he picked up for a couple dollars. It was shiny and factory-fresh with a beech handle and a clean etch.
It also reminded me of why I switched to Japanese saws 16 years ago.
Though this saw had never been used, it is at least 20 years old. And as a result, it is poorly sharpened, ill-set, and a few minutes of holding the tote felt like hanging from the monkey bars for an hour with four country hams draped around my wrists. Really. Just like that.
It is no surprise that the Japanese completely took over the backsaw market with their inexpensive, super-sharp and well-tuned dozukis.
What is surprising is that Western saws are roaring back. This week Mark Harrell from Technoprimitives.com loaned me two of the Bad Axe saws he is now making for sale. Mark has been sharpening and refurbishing saws for some time now, so he’s got the sharpening down.
I took the Bad Axe crosscut backsaw and pitted it against the new-old saw. I took exactly 10 strokes with each saw in a piece of red oak (the other milkweed). The new-old saw made it almost 3/4″ into the material. The Bad Axe plunged 2-1/8″ in.
What is even more amazing about these Bad Axe saws is how Mark has taken the fit and finish to an insane level. The etch on the blade is finer and more detailed than anything I’ve ever seen. It looks like a fine old engraving that is sharp no matter how close you get.
There’s a custom medallion, a choice of folded backs (stainless or blacksmith-blued steel). And the cherry totes are …¦ well you get the idea.
I’m going to write a full review of these saws when I return from our Woodworking in America conference in St. Charles, Ill. In the meantime, take a look at the Technoprimitives site and the specifications Mark has posted there.
– Christopher Schwarz