First Look: Bad Axe ‘American Kid’ Backsaw

AmericaKidHandle

Among the things I like about Mark Harrell’s Bad Axe saws is that there is a wide range of customization options on what are essentially production tools. That is, not only can you choose your filing and from among several plate thicknesses, you can also select from among back materials and colors, saw nuts and handle species, without adding lead time to your saw’s delivery date.

But of most interest to me is that you can select from among handle sizes; I can get a handle that will fit my hands, which is key to a saw that’s comfortable to use – and that translates to a more accurate and repeatable cut, because I don’t have to compensate for my small hand slipping around an overly large handle.

Now, Mark has introduced a new saw that works for those with even smaller hands – children. But not only is the “American Kid” available with an extra, extra-small handle (to fit hands that are 2-1/2″-2-3/4″ across the palm), it’s made to withstand the rigors of children. This saw (which comes standard with a 14 points-per-inch hybrid filing for both cross and ripcuts) has a slightly thicker sawplate (.02 steel, instead of the .018 standard on Harrell’s dovetail saws) to resist buckling from a less-than-straight trajectory in the hands of a young (read: new) user. It’s available in three back sizes: 8″ with 1-3/4″ depth of cut, 10″ with 2″ depth of cut and 12″ with 2-1/4″ depth of cut.

The most innovative, er, innovation, however, is the handle – it’s  a 3/4″-thick apple ply laminate (formaldehyde-free) that Mark says is shock-resistant, and able to withstand a 6′ drop onto concrete (watch his video here). I can’t yet bring myself to confirm that…but I will, as soon as I’ve had a little more time with this saw. I don’t want to risk damaging its out-of-the-box performance until I’ve had time to properly put it through its paces.

The apple-ply handle will be available on all Bad Axe saws, too – not just the kids’ saw. For those who work on jobsites or in shops where things get banged around a lot, it might be a good choice.

Mark says he developed this saw with beefier specs so that parents wouldn’t feel the need to hover as their kids wield a delicate and expensive tool, because this one can stand up to their usage without constant correction from an anxious adult. (While it’s not delicate, it does seem to me a bit spendy for a tool intended for kids: $175. But it’s made to the same standards as all Bad Axe saws, and tools that work well are more likely to translate into tools kids – or anyone – will enjoy using.)

I would like to see some kind of special anti-rust treatment that didn’t affect performance…or some way to make it fun for a kid to oil the tool when done. While I don’t have kids, I babysit a lot, and from that experience I know that at least some children aren’t too good at maintaining their toys; when they’re done playing with a thing, it’s time to move on – getting them to clean up after themselves first is always a challenge.

I need to spend some more time with this saw, but for now, I can confirm that the “American Kid” cuts well and starts easily on both the rip and crosscut (with a wider kerf than my usual backsaws, natch) and that when I tried to torque the plate in the cut like a beginning sawyer might, I was unable to do any damage to it. Also, Mark sent a saw with an XXS handle – and for the first time in my eight years of serious saw handling, I’ve encountered a handle that is actually too small for me…by just a little bit. But the shaping and finish (oil and wax) is perfectly comfortable; there’s no discernible difference in how it feels in the hand from my Bad Axe walnut-handled dovetail saw.

Update: In response to a question on Facebook, Mark reports that as your child grows and needs a larger handle, he’ll replace it for $25.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

If you have a child who’s interested in woodworking and likes making things, check out Matt Cianci’s new video, “Build a Custom Backsaw” – that would be a fun parent-child build in the shop, I’d think.

7 thoughts on “First Look: Bad Axe ‘American Kid’ Backsaw

  1. Paladin

    $175.00 for a kids saw, which planet are you living on!
    It must be the summer doldrums, Chris is down to writing inane commentary on supposedly unusual words.
    I think I’ll go clean the shop……..

  2. Les Groeller

    Back in the day, maybe 25-30+ years ago Sears Canada had saws with similar “plywood” (regular sized) saw handles. Just saw one at a local used tool dealer here in Calgary the other day. It (the handle) looked in vey nice condition. Quite a practical idea, in my opinion.

  3. wood_chippie

    That is great. It would definitely be a tool to pass on from one generation to the next of our young woodworkers. This is something that has been missing from the market. High quality tools for the youngsters is finally making a comeback. Now I don’t have to watch youngsters struggle with “oversized” tools. And the learning curve will be drastically shorter due to properly sizrd tools for kids. By the way, when are the practical woodworking volumes due to ship out?

  4. alexmoseley

    My 10-year-old son is pretty good about keeping his tools wiped down. He has his own rag (just don’t call it a Woobie), and we share a spray bottle of jojoba oil. That and a bit of ceremony when he got his first tools to impress upon him the importance of taking care of them seemed to get him off to a good start.

  5. cam1297

    I was fortunate enough to recently attend the sharpening class at Bad Axe TW. Mark did multiple drop tests on his handles and the new Apple shock held up very well (minimal damage after what would be about the 6th time they were dropped). Mark had me try a dozen handles to get the right fit. I was also pleased when he showed me the American Kid. My 4 year old is starting to love her time in the shop with Daddy. Now she can have her own saw and it will see double use when her sister is old enough. Sorry for my shameless BATW plug, but when I saw the quality and dedication that Mark and company put into their heirloom saws, they deserve to be recognized. Chris

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