When we talk about stock preparation by hand, we always talk about planes. But I find saws are far more important to the process. Blow a cross cut, and you’re going to be spending more time than you wanted to with your block plane. And I don’t know about you, but I do not like planing end grain.
I was chit chatting on line with a very good professional furniture maker. He said something I had trouble agreeing with. “Well I’m a good craftsman but I don’t sharpen my saws” (that’s not exactly what he said, I’m just trying to make a point). I’m not willing to say the gentleman isn’t good, but neither am I willing to praise someone who can’t sharpen ALL his tools. You don’t send your chisels out to be sharpened, do you?
Throughout the years I’ve read accounts of people who “discovered” hand planes and had it change their lives. “I was a cabinetmaker for 30 years” they write, “then I” read this article or took this class “and I sharpened my plane iron and now I know what I was missing for all those years”. As I write this I know many of you are nodding in agreement. I know that happened to you too. It happened to me too.
News flash. This just in:
Go sharpen your hand saws! You’re going to have the exact same experience. If you’re not sharpening your saws yourself, chances are you don’t know what a sharp saw can do.
Sharpening a saw is not hard. Type “saw sharpening” into your favorite web browser tonight, buy a couple files, and get to it. Here’s my trick: count your strokes. If the teeth are fairly uniform in their dullness (i.e. a tiny white snow cap, roughly the same size, appears on each, not every other tooth) just use one or two strokes per tooth. Do only the teeth set near you, then turn the saw around and do the other side.
Having a sharp saw is an important first step in preparing your stock. If you’ve not done so, go back and read my article on saw teeth PW OCT 06. It won’t tell you how to sharpen, but it will tell you which saw to sharpen.
Sawing is a gateway skill. Once you learn to saw, all of the opportunities will be available to you; working with friends, working with kids, working at midnight (one of my favorites!), working outside, tricky 18th c joinery, the list goes on and on. But you can’t walk through that gate with a dull saw.