This is part five of my restoration of an I. Sorby tenon saw.
For part one, you can read my earlier post by clicking here.
For part two, you can read my earlier post by clicking here.
For part three, you can read my earlier post by clicking here.
For part four, you can read my earlier post by clicking here.
The next step is to re-attach the tote to the saw plate. I guess you could file in the new teeth and sharpen the saw first (there would be nothing wrong with that, probably a better option in fact), but that is not the way I did it.
The brass saw bolts and split nuts are very soft and as such, I don’t plan on ever removing them again if I can avoid it. I don’t want the part of the saw plate that is hidden inside the tote to rust over the years, so I applied a liberal amount of oil to the plate prior to assembly.
Once the plate was oiled, I pushed the tote back on and aligned the holes.
The medallion and saw bolts need to be pushed into the holes and seated. They’re soft, so use as little force as possible. Normally, I can push these in using thumb pressure, but occasionally they need to be taped a little to fully seat them. I didn’t want to ruin the brushed finish that I had created on the tops of the saw bolts. To avoid striking the brass with a steel hammer, I used a wooden block to fully seat the saw bolts. This is an important step and should not be skipped over. With a normal nut and bolt, tightening the nut on one side would fully seat the bolt head on the other. In this case, both the bolt thread and the nut is soft brass and the threads will strip long before exerting enough force to pull everything in tight.
Once the bolts are pushed all the way in, carefully attach the split nuts on the other side. I used the same split nut driver that I made earlier to disassemble the saw. I found this part a little tricky. You have to be careful to keep the split nut flat and level while slowly turning it to get the threads to catch. Crossing the treads even a little can ruin the bolt/nut.
Don’t try to tighten the nuts too much. Just make them snug.
Alright, almost done! The plate, spine, and tote have all been refinished. The only thing left now is to shape new teeth and sharpen the saw.
I have never sharpened a saw before. That’s okay though, judging by the shape of the teeth on all of the saws that I bought this summer, the previous owners had no idea what they were doing either. I spent a lot of time reading up on the topic and researching how to properly file a hand saw. Here are some good resources that I found:
Vintagesaws.com – Read this first, before you do anything else! It’s a great source of information.
Logan Cabinet Shoppe Blog. Bob Rozaieski has a great video on sharpening handsaws. His website is a wealth of fantastic information.
I also bought a Ron Herman Handsaw DVD from ShopWoodworking.com. I thought it a good source of information for general handsaw knowledge. He also has a DVD that deals more specifically with sharpening. I haven’t seen that one yet; perhaps I should have started there.
The absolute best source of information on sharpening handsaws is a video on YouTube. It was made by a guy in England named Andy Lovelock and covers every aspect of sharpening that you can imagine. Take the 2 1/4 hours and watch the video. It will answer just about all of your questions. I can’t over emphasize this. Watch this video before attempting to sharpen your first saw.
My post here is not to teach someone how to sharpen a saw. Many other people have taken on that challenge and done it much better than I ever could. I am a beginner in the world of saw sharpening. This post is more to show what I did. The good parts and the screw ups. It also might serve to point you to some other online resources that I have found that you hadn’t come across yet.
With all of the above information in hand, I felt that I was ready to give it a go and try sharpening my first saw. I bought a saw vise on eBay last year and had restored it and put it aside. It was in pretty rough shape when I got it with quite a lot of rust present. I took it all apart, cleaned it as best as I could with the wire wheel on my bench grinder and put the parts in an electrolysis tank to get at the rust I couldn’t remove with the wire wheel. With the rust removed, I repainted the vise and re-assembled it. Here is my saw vise:
The vise is completely unmarked. I searched on Google and found pictures of the exact same vise. In one place it was listed as a Disston and on another site it was listed as a Seargeant. Who knows which it is? Perhaps this was a model made for various companies and marked by them. I’m guessing from the ornate bat wings on the locking screws, and the star nut on the head of the bolt that locks the ball clamp, that the vise probably dates from around 1900. But who knows, I could be way off.
For files, I purchased the Handsaw File Holder and File Set that is available from Lee Valley. As with all things Veritas, it is very well made.
The final thing that I needed to start filing the saw, was a template to tape onto the saw to ensure that I space the teeth correctly. I found some fantastic templates for both the teeth spacing and the fleam angles on a website called Galoototron.com. This document has separate pages for each of the various tooth spacings that you may want to use.
There is also loads of other cool stuff on his Plans and Guides page that you might want to check out.
So here are all my supplies assembled and ready to start sharpening the saw.
With the research and shopping done, I felt that I had the knowledge and equipment (if not the experience) I needed to start. Here is where I encountered my dilemma. I knew how to file the saw but not what configuration I should use. By that I mean, what number of points per inch (PPI), degrees of rake, and degrees of fleam I should use. You may have read in one of my earlier posts, that I bought six back saws on eBay.co.uk this summer. There would be no point in filing them all to the same configuration. Having six different saws means that I can set-up and tune each one differently for optimum performance either cross-cutting or rip-cutting in either hard or soft woods.
As I have heard him mentioned many times on the woodtalk online podcast, I thought I would send a question to Bob Rozaieski at the Logan Cabinet Shoppe. I must admit, I wasn’t sure if he would take the time to answer a question about how to set up six different saws, but wow, he sure did. I sent him the dimensions of the six saws and here is how he suggested to set them up (the underlined text is what I sent him):
Tyzack & Turner – 14″ plate with 3 7/8″ left under the spine: I’d file this one rip at about 11 PPI, 4 degrees of rake, no fleam. This will make a good dedicated rip saw for large tenons in soft woods.
I. Sorby – 14″ plate with 3 3/8″ left under the spine: I’d file this one rip at about 12 PPI, 8 degrees of rake, no fleam. This will be a good dedicated rip saw for tenons in hard woods.
Crownshaw, Chapman & Co – 14″ plate with 2 7/8″ left under the spine: Good sash saw size. 13 PPI, hybrid file with 10 degrees of rake and 12-15 degrees of fleam.
Parry & Son – 13 3/4″ plate with 2 7/8″ left under the spine: Dedicated crosscut saw for soft woods, 13-14 PPI ~12-13 degrees of rake, 30-35 degrees of fleam. (this is a lot of fleam, but it will crosscut softwoods really smoothly).
Copley – 11 7/8″ plate with 2 3/8″ left under the spine: Nice carcass saw size for a dedicated crosscut for hard woods, 13-14 PPI ~17-18 degrees of rake, 20 degrees of fleam.
Tyzack & Turner – 10″ plate with 2 1/2″ left under the spine: This is the smallest saw. I already have a dovetail saw, so my instinct is to file it 15 ppi x-cut.: Agree, 15 PPI crosscut, 15 degrees rake, 20 degrees fleam.
What a great guy! I was really impressed that he would take the time to give me that kind of detailed advice. Bob, thank you very much!
Everywhere that I have looked in the woodworking community, I have only found people who are passionate about the craft and willing to share their knowledge. I’ve yet to meet a bad apple in the group.
So, with the advice from Bob, I proceeded to set-up my I. Sorby tenon saw for rip-cutting hardwoods. 12 PPI, 8° rake, and 0° fleam.
Based upon the file size chart that I found online, 12 PPI calls for a 5-inch double extra slim file.
I set my file holder for 8° of rake.
I taped a 12PPI paper template to the saw plate, mounted it in my vise, and began to file in the new teeth.
On these paper templates, I use the black line to indicate where the bottom of my gullets will be. The blank white areas in-between each line become the teeth. I found that you are better off taking only one or two passes with the file on each black line first. Then go back and take a couple more passes to deepen the cut. If you try to fully shape one tooth before moving on to the next, the file tends to wander and slip. Like when using a marking knife, a light first pass followed by deeper ones, yields far better and more accurate results than a heavy first pass.
After you have made 3-4 strokes in each gullet (but before you eliminate any of the flat spots at the top of each tooth), I find that the paper template starts to get in the way. That’s alright, it can be removed now that the teeth have all been started.
Again, I worked my way up the saw plate from heel to toe, deepening all of the gullets until the flats from the top of each tooth were removed.
You really have to concentrate to ensure that you are maintaining the correct rake angle. It is very easy to inadvertently rotate the file holder by a few degrees in either direction while you are filing. I’m trying to file in 8° of rake here, not 5°, not 11°. Avoiding even a 2-3 degree variance is harder than I thought it would be.
A basic guide for sharpening a saw is to:
- Joint the teeth (in this case all the teeth were removed and I had a flat saw-plate)
- Shape the teeth
- Set the teeth
- Lightly joint again
- Sharpen the teeth
Maybe the above guide is for a saw that already has established teeth. I don’t know. I found that on my first attempt at filing in new teeth, my spacing (even with a template) wasn’t so great. You really have to concentrate on holding the file just right and on the direction that you apply pressure. You can move the teeth by adding pressure either to the tooth on the front side of the gullet or to the tooth on the back side. Straight down (in theory) shouldn’t move the tooth in either direction.
I found that I needed to add an additional light jointing step before setting the teeth. My process looked more like this:
- Start with a flat jointed saw-plate
- Shape the teeth
- Lightly joint the newly created teeth
- Continue shaping the teeth to adjust them for even depth and spacing.
- Set the teeth
- Lightly joint again
- Sharpen the teeth with light passes.
I am not completely happy with my tooth spacing. I need to improve upon this as I continue to sharpen saws. I felt that continued jointing and shaping was just going to eat up my saw plate. The teeth are not pretty but the points are all in line. Time to set the teeth.
I found a Stanley 42X saw set at a flea market this past summer. It was a little gunked up but I managed to buy it for $5. I took it apart, removed the rust and old finish, and repainted it. I also have two bronze eclipse saw sets (fine and course) that I bought while in England earlier this year. I’m still experimenting with which I like most. You can see the Stanley 42X below.
After shaping all of the teeth, you have essentially created a row of mini chisels the tops of which are all (hopefully) in line. By setting the teeth in alternate directions, the tops of these mini chisels are no longer square to the saw plate, rather they are angled by the bending of each tooth. It is time to lightly joint the teeth again before final sharpening.
For this final sharpening, I took very light passes and concentrated only on the tops of the teeth. The final light jointing, created very small flats on the top of each tooth. File in the gullets until the flats disappear. This should be one or two strokes at most. If you keep filing beyond the flat disappearing, you will lower the tooth out of the cutting line and reduce the efficiency of the saw.
The final step that I took was to side-joint the saw plate. I forgot to take any pictures of this, but I had a piece of 400 grit sandpaper glued to a flat piece of granite counter-top. I made 2 light swipes down each side and then made some test cuts in some scrap wood. The saw cut well. How well, I cannot accurately tell as I am not an experienced sawyer, but I was quite happy with it.
The appearance of the teeth however, is another thing entirely. The points of all of the teeth are in line and the saw cuts well, but the gullets do not line up. Theoretically, the bottom of each gullet should be in line just like the points. Mine aren’t. The picture below is greatly magnified and shows what I mean. See… it’s not pretty! The saw is 12PPI so the teeth are very small. It doesn’t look this bad to the naked eye. But blown up… yikes! I’ll keep practicing until I get the hang of it. I have six back saws to do after all.
It has taken me some time to document this whole process. Much longer than it actually took to restore the saw. As you may have seen in some of my photos, I was restoring parts of a few of my saws at once, which speeds the process up. While waiting for the danish oil to cure on the totes, I would work on the other parts.
I found this whole process rewarding and I have gotten some great saws out of it. I paid an average of about £5 ($7.50) for each of the six saws that I bought, so my file set cost more than the saws. Its been a fun process learning about saws and saw sharpening.
I am not going to repeat this whole blog series for each of the saws that I have restored as it would be repetitive, but I will post some before and after pictures in subsequent posts.
Here is the saw as I bought it:
And here it is after all was finished. Sorry for the off color photo, the tote does not look this bright orange in reality.
Not bad looking for its age. I hope that it sees another 140 years of use.
If you have any thoughts or comments, please let me know.
Thanks for reading, I know this has been a rather long post. Hopefully, I will learn to make them shorter in future.
wow! great posts! many details, very very instructive and helpful. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks, I’m glad that you liked it.
Very nice post, thanks!
You’re welcome. I’m glad you liked it.
Nice write up showing both detail and your level of patience. You’ve probably finished the rest, but to strip an old finish off, oven cleaner works wonders. Spray on , let sit a few minutes, and scrub off with a nylon brush a quick rinse and drying period and you are ready to lightly sand or steel wool and finish as the quick water rinse will raise grain.
Thanks for the tip. I’m glad you liked the series.
All the best,
As always very informative