Thursday, February 21, 2013

Saws, saws, saws...

Decision made
This year I am going to seriously improve my saw sharpening skills.
I have a lot of saws. Many dozens in fact ... most awaiting cleaning up and sharpening.
Sure, I do sharpen the occasional saw - but mostly I pay someone else to sharpen them for me. Saw sharpening is not what I would call one of my strengths. However that is all going to change. I have commenced my upskilling process.

Q: Why bother mastering saw sharpening?
A: It's the smart thing to do! It's about sustainability, self-reliance, flexibility and independence.
It's also about respect. Respect for a quality saw and respect for the people who have used, owned, and valued the saw before me.

Q: Why fix up old saws when it is cheaper and easier to buy new hardpoint saws for under $10?
A: It's about being a responsible global citizen. Hardpoint saws are "disposable" saws of low grade steel with hardened teeth and nasty plastic handles. They cannot be sharpened. There is a cost to the planet when these bluntened hardpoint saws are thrown into the bin. However an good quality old saw can be re-sharpened until there is almost nothing left - which may be decades or even centuries.  I regularly use my great-grandfather's Disston carcass saw, which is over 100 years old. It is a beauty, and there is no reason why my own great-grandchildren can't be using the same saw in years to come.

Q: Which are the best saws to clean up, sharpen, and bring back to life?
A: The handle is often a good indicator. After the Second World War, modern mass production brought about saws with increasingly chunkier handles. In contrast, look at a good quality saw from before WWII. The handle will have a more ornate shape. Saws made earlier, before WWI will commonly have an even more ornate shape. The more ornate handles have longer horns, which help the saw hang nicely in the hand. They are shaped to fit better in the hand than the chunkier more modern saws. These more ornate shaped handled saws can be used all day and are a joy to hold. The chunky handles are not moulded to fit the hand and will become increasingly uncomfortable as the day goes by. Saws made in the late 19th century were also mass produced, but there was a convergence of excellent technology and the concept that tools would be owned and used for life. Watch for the more ornate handles. The other issue is the state of the sawplate. Is it badly rusty or pitted? Is the blade badly bent, dented or damaged? The less damage to the sawplate the better the saw will be when resuscitated.   

Now that's a beautiful dovetail saw. English made. Marples. A joy to use.
I found the old dovetail saw pictured above at a flea market. It was worth resuscitating and putting back into service. Shown here at work! Nice comfortable handle, nice thin sawplate. Delicious...

An invitation. As I embark on this journey of saw sharpening, I invite you to travel with me. Every now and then I will post something about saws and how to bring them back to life - including the sharpening process! ...Come share with me in the joy of saws, sawing, and saw sharpening!!

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