In Shop Blog, Techniques, Tools

We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. However, this does not impact our recommendations.

Right in the thick of
Woodworking in America – somewhere between duck fat fries and falling
asleep in a puddle of what I hope was my drool – Mark Harrell of Bad Axe
Tool Works put a saw down on my workbench and quietly left the

It was a 12″ carcase saw, filed crosscut with 14 ppi,
sexy black nuts and a cherry handle. It looked just like the carcase saw
I reviewed in July on this blog. During a break in the action, I and some of the students took it for a test drive to see what was different.

was immediately obvious. Harrell had made this saw with a thinner
sawplate – .02″ instead of .025″. And the new saw has a finer pitch – 14
ppi instead of 13 ppi. These changes make a difference, and this saw
cuts smoother and with less effort than the carcase saw with a thicker
plate (which is still available).

At least, I thought it made a difference.

see if I was correct, I had Megan and Glen each try both saws without
telling them anything about how they were different. Then I asked them
which they preferred. Megan liked the thicker saw because it cut faster.
Glen liked the thinner saw because it cut more smoothly. Both editors
could tell the difference between the two tools.

So if you are in
the market for a carcase saw, which should you get? Unless you are
tough on your saws, I think the thinner saw is the better choice. A
.02″-thick sawplate isn’t particularly fragile in my experience, so only
the truly ham-handed should be concerned. I like the finer teeth and
the thinner plate – the saw moves easily through the work.

with all Bad Axe saws, you can customize them quite a bit when you
order. You can select different materials and finishes for the nuts,
back and handle. Plus, I like the fact that you can get your saw made
with slotted steel nuts, which are more robust than brass split nuts.
Yes, split nuts look fancier, but not after you’ve munged them while
tightening them. Or worse, snapped them clean off.

At $210 you are paying a bit of a premium compared to a Lie-Nielsen saw ($137) or a Wenzloff & Sons ($139), but it is in line with the custom work done by people like Medallion Toolworks ($245).
At this price level, performance isn’t much of an issue – it’s a lot
about aesthetics and your wallet. Me, I like the way the Bad Axe saws
look and work. My only wish? That I could order one with an applewood
handle. That would be a time trip.

Read more about Bad Axe saws or place an order for one at

— Christopher Schwarz

Other Sawing Resources
• Please learn to sharpen your saws. Visit and get all the information you need to get started.

• Need a saw vise? You cannot go wrong with the Gramercy saw vise. It’s the one I bought to replace my ragged-out vintage one.

• Want to learn to saw but don’t have the money to take a class? I have two DVDs on the topic. “Sawing Fundamentals” shows you how to choose the right saw and use it. “Build a Sawbench” shows you how to put this knowledge to use while making an important workshop appliance.

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

Recommended Posts
Showing 11 comments
  • John Callaway

    I received my 12 inch Bad Axe a little over a month ago. I purchased the saw with a crosscut file and stainless steel hardware….and a cherry handle. Never mind the fact that the saw itself is a absolute work of art…. it cuts a super clean line. As a rookie to premium saws it took a little getting used to the thin saw plate….but after a few cuts I can knock out a straight, clean, square cut with no effort. I love the saw ….. and I fully intend to get the 12 inch in a rip file next.

    Thanks for reading.
    John C.

  • Daniel Holliday

    I’m pleased to count myself as a loyal customer of Mark’s. His commitment to the product and customer service is unequalled.
    I’ve just recieved a 14inch crosscut and 14inch rip as well as an 18inch Beastmaster rip and I couldn’t be happier. The saws are beautiful! I live in coastal Maine so stainless is an issue of practicality. With the stainless backs the saws have a classic American saw look. I choose the stainless nuts to identify the rip saws from the crosscuts. On my other Badaxe cross cut saw I have the brass nuts, but on my current sash saw, I got the niter blued hardware and it is eye-popping.
    More eye-popping though is how the saws cut! All of the saws tore through hard maple as if it were soft pine.
    Through 6/4 by 2" hard maple the crosscut took 7 strokes. Similar results with the ripsaws. All while splitting the line!
    Mark has restored for me an 1870’s Diston sash saw that is without a doubt my easiest saw to start as well as what I believe is a Davis carcase saw. These are top performers but Mark’s saws are in a class by themself. I feel blessed to own an 18inch rip and a pair of 16inch tenon sas as well.
    In 100 years, Mark’s saws will be what people write about in their blogs.

  • Jon C. McGrath

    Wow is my first reaction, I checked the package tracking this morning and knew it was out to be delivered today, for the remainder of the day I was a child waiting to go to Disney, finally to come home and get what is a beautiful tool. I am speaking of the Bad Axe 14" Sash Saw, 13 ppi x-cut, that I went ahead and "Blinged Out" with Gunsmith Niter-Blued Split-Nuts, how could I refuse to have my nuts blued and split?

    As quickly as I could get it out of the incredible packaging job – (thanks for keeping it so safe) I ran through a few inches of the unsuspecting piece of 8/4 cherry not hurting anyone, just content as could be as forever a scrap in the pile. Poor thing – it gave in easier than the bread I cut for dinner! I am relearning and executing the process of hand-tooling, I have been quite the power dude – I simply emailed Mr. Mark and asked him for his thoughts with what I wanted to do, he recommended this saw and then did something we rarely see anymore in business even with the economy we are in – In his reply email, he stated "I would like to make you a saw", and that he did…

    Truly and sincerely a great piece of work, Mark is very blessed at his craft.

    So, Mark I do hope you get to read this, thank you for a wonderful experience, thank you for a tool that will see the next generation and a very humble thank you for your many years of service protecting this Country. It was MY pleasure to do business with you. Merry Christmas to me!


  • Dave Schwarzkopf

    I’ve been putting an assortment of Bad Axe saws through the paces in my gara…errr, workshop, and they keep me coming back for more. Now that Mark’s offering dovetail saws at the beginning of the year, I’m chomping at the bit to give them a try.
    He’s a stand-up guy, always wanting to do the right thing by the customer, and to top that off, the saws work and look entirely Bad Axe.

  • Nice saw indeed, I have one that I can’t put down… Just love it! It is a nice kind of all around saw!! So Now I’m at 3 saws from Mark, and they are wonderful saws, the totes fits my big mits perfectly and the saws cut fast and straight with out any efforts!! Way to go Mark!

  • Bob

    Yes, Mark sure is working hard! He set me up with a nest of saws recently, 14" and 12" and two tuned up handsaws, all in both rip and xc so six lovely saws in total. So that’s four original Bad Axes, I am a fan!

    The quality is just as good as the attention to the customer is, Mark made sure he knew exactly what the bulk of my work is like before advising on configuration for each saw. I think it is extremely cool I can have such amazing interaction with someone so far away (I live in Switzerland) and I feel very satisfied about it all. Anyway, I’m happy as can be with my Bad Axes and I see myself using them more everyday.

    And I just found out he is working on a 10" open tote dovetail saw as we speak! How cool is that?

    Keep it up Mark!

    Cheers, Bob.

  • Bill Elliott

    I don’t own a Bad Axe 12" Carcase Saw (yet), but I recently took delivery of a Bad Axe 16" tenon saw. I ordered it with a few updated options: black walnut handle, gunsmith steel back, and matching gunsmith split nuts. Upon completing the saw, Mark Harrell referred to it as looking like Darth Vader. Well, that name stuck and Vader is one bad dude in my workshop.

    In the short time I’ve owned it, I’ve used Vader for some trim work; cutting 1" square and 2" square stock for shelf edges and a couple of table legs. I gotta say, this thing cuts beautifully. Imagine Darth Vader slicing off Skywalker’s hand in "Empire Strikes Back". Quick, clean and effortless.

    I can’t wait to tackle a Schwarz inspired workbench project with Vader.

    If you’re considering a Bad Axe, you won’t be disappointed.

    Bill Elliott

  • Jeff Burks

    Apple wood is no longer used for commercially made saw handles due to the shortage of suitable logs for volume production. Disston was forced to drop apple wood handles from their catalog in the early 1940’s for this reason. The apple wood was prized for its interlocking grain that made it resistant to chipping. Unfortunately the supply of "real" old growth apple trees got used up. Those were 30′ & 40′ tall apple trees with tight growth rings and thick trunks that had been around a couple hundred years.

    Most modern apple rootstocks were bred in the 20th century. These cultivars are selected for high apple yield, resistance to disease, and tolerance for shipping and storage, but NOT lumber yield. In previous centuries there were several thousand local apple varieties, and wild apple trees were everywhere on the east coast. The old trees got harvested for wood, and were mostly replaced by just a dozen or so modern commercial varieties.

    These new grafted trees are kept to about 10-14′ tall and heavily pruned to keep the branches near the ground for easy picking. The results look more like bonsai trees than the apple trees of previous centuries. Modern orchards also tend to replace their apple trees once the yield drops, so these little trees rarely get beyond 12" diameter.

    You can still get good apple wood for your own saw handles if you know the sawyer and express enough interest. They often pass up logs for species that are in low demand otherwise.

  • stjones911

    I took delivery of one of Mark’s first .020" carcase saws at WIA. What a beautiful thing it is – no bling but it cuts a dream. It and my Wenzloff dovetail saw may just wean me off my Japanese saws. Then I can sign up for a class at St. Roy’s school….

  • Mike

    I’m curious why you don’t see more applewood handles. At least where I lie the apple tree’s are being pulled out to make room for grapes and most of them go to firewood as far as I know. Is there a reason no one is using this for handles anymore?


    It’s interesting the see the innovation over at bad axe tools. My collection is limited to Wenzloff & LN (not that I’m complaining!) but I hear good things about the bad axe. Though speaking of innovation have you seen the new glen drake dovetail…

Start typing and press Enter to search