If you ask me, the first backsaw you should buy should be a carcase saw. It’s handy for all manner of crosscuts when building furniture. But you never see reviews in woodworking magazines that compare the different brands. Why?
Well, there is of course the vast conspiracy that all the woodworking magazine editors have sworn a blood oath to uphold (right Asa?). But aside from that, there weren’t a lot of brands of carcase saws to compare until recently.
This summer I got to test the prototypes for the newest carcase saws from Gramercy Tools in Brooklyn, N.Y. These were functioning saws that had poplar handles, and I used them to build a sawbench (what else?) for a class I taught in Portland, Ore.
The Gramercy saws were impressive and different than the saws offered by other top-notch makers, including Lie-Nielsen, Adria and Wenzloff & Sons. Within the next two weeks, Joel Moskowitz of Gramercy Tools says they will start shipping out the production versions of the carcase saws. This news will make saw shopping a bit tougher this year because the Gramercy Tools carcase saws are extremely good.
The Gramercy carcase saws come with either a rip or crosscut tooth and are $179.95 each (kits and sets are also available at ToolsforWorkingWood.com). The rip version has 12 points per inch, zero rake and is intended for cutting tenon cheeks or larger dovetails. I prefer a larger tenon saw for these tasks, so I didn’t spend a lot of time testing this prototype.
The crosscut version of the carcase saw is a real sweetheart, and I’ve been testing a production version of that tool for the last few weeks in our shop. Here are some details of the tool and my initial impressions.
The Gramercy crosscut carcase saw has 14 points per inch. The teeth are filed with 14Ã?Â° rake and about 20Ã?Â° to 22Ã?Â° of fleam. What does this mean? The rake angle (which is how far forward or back each tooth leans) controls how easy the saw is to start and how aggressively the tool cuts. The Gramercy’s rake isn’t all that different than other carcase saws I’ve tried , 14Ã?Â° to 15Ã?Â° is a common rake.
The Gramercy seems to have a bit more fleam than other saws I’ve tried. The fleam is the bevel on the front of each tooth. The angle you choose for your fleam trades off a smooth cut vs. a durable edge. Another important detail: The Gramercy saws are both filed and set by hand with a hammer.
This additional hand work and the fleam make the Gramercy the smoothest-cutting carcase saw I’ve tried. And a smooth cut is important when cutting tenon shoulders, a common task for a carcase saw.
Other details of the Gramercy that I like include its delicate folded brass back, which makes the tool lightweight at 12.6 ounces. Plus I also like the fact that the blade is canted , there is 2″ of blade depth under the brass back at the toe and 2-1/4″ of blade depth at the handle. This was a feature on early saws and has some real advantages. Here’s my favorite: When sawing you reach your final depth on the front side of the board (which you can see) before you reach your final depth on the back side of the board (which you can’t).
The handle is walnut and has the details you would expect from a fine 18th- or 19th-century saw. While I found the handle of Gramercy’s dovetail saw to be a little small for my hand, the carcase saw’s handle suits me very well.
So which brand of carcase saw should you buy? I think this is a question that’s akin to which smoothing plane you should buy. Functionally, all the premium saws are excellent , embarrassingly better than the junk that was foisted on us before Pete Taran and Patrick Leach changed the world of backsaws.
Though all the manufacturers would likely disagree with me, I think the biggest differences among the saws are the aesthetics and how each handle fits your hand. And those are points on which I cannot help you.