Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Tool Works has always taken a different path than other modern sawmakers. Instead of imitating the look of classic British saws, Harrell has always favored American styles, with their steel backs and distinct tote profile. And he launched his sawmaking business by making the biggest backsaws first , most sawmakers have started by introducing a dovetail saw.
This summer Harrell has introduced two new backsaws that are going to make your buying decisions far more difficult. We still have a bunch of carcase saws here from our recent review of the category and spent a morning evaluating where these saws fit in the very competitive carcase saw category.
About the Saws
I’m going to call these new Bad Axe saws “carcase” saws, though Harrell calls the big one a “sash/tenon saw” and the small one a “carcase/sash.” The saws from Bad Axe don’t really fit into any one distinct category, according to Charles Holtzapffel’s seminal chart. But the Bad Axe saws we tested are filed for crosscut and are 12″ to 14″ long. So they will likely be used for carcase work. At least in my shop they would. Whew, explanation over.
I’m not a nationalist, but one thing I really like about the Bad Axe saws is their unapologetic American-ness. Before I started selling drugs in school zones and could afford fancy new saws, my favorite saw was a Wheeler, Madden & Clemson carcase saw. I like everything about the saw, from the way it looks to the way it hangs. And the Bad Axe tools are like that.
In fact, Harrell has taken this one step further by making the back available in gunsmith-blued steel or in stainless steel (for a small upcharge). You also have eight different options for your sawnuts, from traditional split nuts in brass to stainless slotted nuts, blued nuts and more.
For this fact alone, Harrell deserves a high-five. Though I like the way brass split-nuts look, I have munged far too many of them over the years as I tightened my nuts each season (this blog post will never make it through a parental dirty-word filter).
Offering steel nuts , slotted or split , is a great move in my book. Earlier this year a machinist made some stainless split nuts for my backsaws and I could not be happier. I am mung-free.
So they look good and feel good in your hand, but how do they cut? Dang fast.
I brought the entire staff into the shop one morning to work with all of the carcase saws we had sitting around. We all have different preferences, especially where the tote is concerned. But one thing was clear from our testing: the Bad Axe saws blazed through the material. They weren’t as smooth as the Gramercy, which cuts like silk. But they went toe-to-toe with the other fast saws, such as the Adria and the Medallion. And the Bad Axe saws left an acceptably smooth surface behind.
“That saw,” Megan said, “is a monster.”
Of course, a major reason the Bad Axe saws are so fast is because of their materials and teeth. The small Bad Axe we used is 13 ppi, 12″ long with a .025″-thick sawplate. The larger Bad Axe is 12 ppi, 14″ long with a .025″-thick sawplate. So these two saws are coarser and use a thicker sawplate than any of the other carcase saws we own, which are 14 ppi or 15 ppi.
The Bad Axe saws left a bigger kerf behind than the other saws, mostly due to the thickness of the sawplate. Sawplate thickness is a matter of taste. Some sawyers prefer thinner saws with a thinner kerf, which are easier to push. Others prefer thicker saws with a wider kerf, which are less likely to kink. It’s your call.
Bottom line: These saws are worth serious consideration; and they should be at the top of your list if overall durability is an issue. The thicker sawplate and the steel nuts (get the steel nuts) means you are less likely to cam out your nuts or kink your plate. You also can order these saws with a variety of filings. The 14″ saw filed rip would make a nice small tenon saw.
We’re happy to hang these saws up on the pegs above our benches and look forward to the Harrell’s next batch of saws.
– Christopher Schwarz
Like Saws? Want to Know More? Check these Links
– The Norse Woodsmith site is one of my favorite saw sites. Learn to make and sharpen your own saws.
– Pete Taran’s VintageSaws.com is a great place to learn about saws, how to restore them and how to sharpen them. Taran also sells refurbished vintage saws and sharpening equipment.
– When you start combing the DisstonianInstitute.com then you are official a saw geek. Learn about every saw that Disston made for woodworkers. An awesome and deep site.
– If you want to get started in sawing, I recommend our “Handtool Essentials” book, which features great articles from all of our contributors about all aspects of hand craft. Heck, that sucker is on sale right now for $15.