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Whenever I teach a sawing class, I typically reduce the set of students’ saws using a metal file. And when I do this, I’m also amazed at how many times I’m also filing an errant tooth that is sticking out beyond its brethren.

But I can say with all honesty that I have never had to do this with a saw from Wenzloff & Sons.

Why? Well I think we need to thank Mike Wenzloff’s grandfather, Wilbur White, who taught Mike how to sharpen. He showed Mike how to achieve a consistent set on a saw using a metal-jawed vise and paper. Yes, paper.

Mike agreed to show us the process while demonstrating at the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, Wash.

The first step is that after you sharpen the saw, set it. In fact, you should overset it. Wenzloff uses the Somax saw set, which he has modified, and doesn’t worry too much about being super consistent.

Then he takes some paper that is .002″ thick – he typically use pages from the Enco or McMaster-Carr catalogs – and folds the paper over the teeth and sawplate.

Then he squeezes the paper-wrapped sawplate in a vise with heavy metal jaws. After it has been squeezed all along the length of the sawplate, the tool is ready to use.

The trick works because the paper doesn’t compress. So when you squeeze the paper-wrapped sawplate, all the teeth are bent so they stand .002″ off the sawplate. It’s a fantastic trick that Mike shares freely with everyone.

Thanks Mike.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. It has been a few years since I got to inspect a new Wenzloff & Sons saw. They are remarkable. I still lust for a full set of his Kenyon saws. Must… resist. Also, if you like saws, check out our DVDs on how to sharpen a saw with Ron Herman and how to make a traditional sawbench – a must-have accessory for a handsaw.

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Showing 18 comments
  • Ray in Stoney Creek

    I am interested in this tip, but would like to apply it to a 26″ 5 ppi rip saw. I know this saw has way too much set, it rattles in the cut and leaves a kerf way wider than the sawplate.

    Would the same paper apply to something this coarse, or should I use something thicker than regular paper?

    I am not an experienced sharpener, but would like to reduce the set on this saw to make it more usable.


  • Pilgrimm

    Dear Christopher,

    This is a great tip! But I just have to put my 2 cents in…

    After you have gone to Lie-Nielsen for their triple-pulped, oil-impregnated, steel roller-finished “Saw Set Paper”, you might want to tell people that this method will not work with the run-of-the-mill steel vises most guys have in their shops! Those vises, even those made by Wilton (One of the Best) have jaws which have small teeth ground into the jaw faces to enable the vise to more-or-less “grip” that material between the jaws. The vise in the photo is a machinists milling vise, and it appears to be a 6″ model. The best of these vises is made by a company called Kurt, and the 6-inch models retail between $600 and $800 dollars!

    Sorry, but I don’t have such a vise, and that makes this a very difficult method to pursue.

  • renaissanceww

    FYI, Mike explained this technique at WIA in 2009 and I have been using it ever since with fantastic results. Yet another reason to attend WIA..

    This message approved by the WIA embedded social media reporter

    Social media reporter away!

  • indymac24

    Thanks for the reply Richard but you contradicted yourself in your answer. Either the paper compresses or it doesn’t. If not then what is it’s purpose? Wouldn’t using the bare sawplate in the vise give the same result if the paper does not compress. I’m not understanding how the paper affects the dynamics of the process!


  • watermantra

    This post leads me to a question I’ve wondered about since I started sharpening my own saws. Maybe someone has an answer. When filing the teeth of a saw, I’m sure everyone has experienced the burr that happens on the bench side of the saw teeth. In the video with Ron Herman, he demonstrates this when he makes a test cut after the first filing, and the teeth with the burrs have little bitty shavings left on them. He then goes on to sharpen with a finer file, and then set, then reduce the set with a file.

    So my question is this…does stoning somehow remove that burr and make the saw teeth a little sharper? This is how sharpening a chisel or plane blade works…the burr is removed by stoning the back and a cutting edge with two planes of the bevel meeting at a near zero radius is revealed.

    Maybe it’s too miniscule of a difference to be worth the effort or even be noticeable. But I do like to stone after I set because it seems to make a difference, or perhaps because it just kinda makes me feel better. Is it placebo?

  • indymac24

    Excuse the saw geometry novice level question but why doesn’t this result in zero set? I am assuming the teeth are the same thickness as the plate since they are a part of that plate. So if squeezed flat with the paper on each side the result should be zero set. Is it spring back that accounts for the residual set?


  • xMike

    OhHo! I LIKE the $12/sheet saw setting paper!
    (grin, short!)

  • damien

    Before the fun begins, this works with Wenzloff & Sons saws. With no-name maybe hard toothed saws it is sometimes better to test on the last teeth how the saw handles forceful setting.
    My experience (experience being the sum of the mistakes made) with setting is that is always good to start at the end of a saw.

  • Pedder

    Hi Christopher,

    that is a great tip, thanks. Everyone like me, who hasn’t got such a big vise, can use the tape trick: I glue a packaging tape on the saw blade just not the teeth and use a stone to dress the setting. I press the stone on the tape, so the set is just as much as a tape thicknes.

    Cheers Pedder

  • John Cashman

    Excellent tip! I’ve never heard of this technique anywhere before. The next time I sharpen a saw, I’m going to have to try this.

  • philjohnwilliams

    Very interesting. How long before Lie-Nielsen comes out with $12/sheet saw setting paper?

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