Cheap Saws – Part 1
I like to be honest about sharing what works well for me, even if that view might be unpopular: I sometimes recommend saws of the disposable type. And this and my following post, I’ll justify that. It can be a hard sell; “disposable” is a big mental hurdle to overcome – so I’ll deal with that first.
When these saws become blunt they cannot be sharpened. But when most of us think of a saw, we think of the traditional style that can be sharpened and whether new or old they typically are beautifully made and fantastic to use. Linking the term “disposable” to that mental image naturally makes us recoil.
But nearly all woodworkers, even many hand-tool evangelists, use battery-powered drill drivers. Batteries can fail within two years and the price of new batteries is so high that a new drill/driver is often better value. Imagine what is easier to recycle – a simple metal saw plate (that’s not fancy tool steel) with a plastic handle, or nickel cadmium/lithium-ion batteries. (All that when there are enough braces, egg beaters and screwdrivers to fulfill the needs of most workers for eternity.) The teeth on the cheap saws last a long time, too – maybe five times longer?
So it’s not as though these things will be thrown out every five minutes. I’ve heard of some woodworkers using the saw plate to make scrapers and scratch stock cutters too, so it could be even useful to have a couple hanging around.
Some also assume they don’t work very well. Like anything, choosing the right saw is still important. The cheap saw shown here is the Irwin Jack 880 and I find it terrific as a panel saw. What I expect from my panel saw is the ability to rip and crosscut wood up to about 1″ thick and to cut larger scale joinery. You can see examples of this in the video below where I do some basic trial cuts and use some old footage from my bench build where I cut a tenon.
One thing you will not be able to do so well with these is resawing. At best, the teeth on these saws will be hybrid or just crosscut. The good news is that handsaws that are good for ripping are the perfect saw to learn sharpening on, and for the less sadistic many woodworkers simply rip thicker stock on a table saw or bandsaw. If you need any further assurances, read David Savage’s thoughts on them. (And check out his other fantastic guides to tools while you’re there.)
Another reasonable concern is where tools like this get made, so if that’s of interest, do your research. This saw is made in Denmark.
In Part 2 I’ll discuss further things in praise of the disposable saw.
— Graham Haydon