How Tool Tests Begin
With so many excellent hand tools on the market, it’s hard to find the space in the magazine to take the mediocre ones to task as much as I’d like. During the last six months I’ve been struggling to use a Stanley 20-331 flush-cutting saw in my shop without scarring my work and cursing like a pirate. Today the struggle ends.
The story begins in May when I was teaching at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. As I packed up all my hand tools to leave the school, somehow my flush-cutting saw disappeared. It wasn’t particularly nice or expensive (I paid $7), but it worked well and had lots of years left in it.
I didn’t realize I’d lost the saw until I was in the middle of a project a few weeks later and had to cut a bunch of drawbore pegs flush. A deadline was looming, so there was no time to order the saw I’ve had my eye on for some time from Lee Valley Tools.
So I went to Home Depot and picked up a Stanley 20-331 Contractor Grade Flush-cut Saw. The saw looked good in the package. The teeth looked about the right pitch (23 tpi). The handle looked rugged. The blade was replaceable. Plus I needed it. And I figured I was actually upgrading my equipment because the Stanley was $12.
I put it to work and immediately got ticked. The teeth of the tool are set to one side, so you can use only one face of the tool. If you flip the tool over it’s going to chew up your work, as I quickly found out. Why did they set the teeth? It’s unnecessary for a flush-cutting saw because they aren’t used for deeps cuts where binding becomes an issue. (Note: the photo at the top of this entry shows how the saw cut before I stoned the blade to remove the set.) Also, the saw cuts quite slowly compared to my old, somewhat dull flush-cutting saw.
The handle isn’t comfortable. There’s an octagonal section up by the tang that prevents the tool from rolling off the bench. But that section of the tool is uncomfortable to grip as a result. After six months I’m ready to admit I made a $12 mistake and just buy a new saw.
There is a bright spot in all this. I started looking around at all the flush-cutting saws available in the marketplace and have resolved that we need to test a group of them. And I’ll claim the winner as my own.
– Christopher Schwarz