I flew into La Crosse, WI from Helena, MT hoping the trip would turn out as well as I imagined. I knew I would see a few friends who are also woodworkers, expected that I might meet a few more woodworkers and expand on the small circle of buddies that I got into at WIA in Cincinnati last November. The stated agenda was a two day seminar in hand saw sharpening taught by Mark at Bad Axe Tools. See the pics from the event on facebook. I’ve been serious about hand sawing for about a year now and was excited to get some practical knowledge of the hand saw sharpening craft. I surely was not disappointed.
I was a little disappointed when packing to leave for the trip. I had decided to bring my Bad Axe Roubo Beastmaster to get it tuned up. The last thing I did in the shop on the evening prior to departure was construct a nice sturdy sheath for the saw to protect it in my checked suitcase. That done I closed up the shop, headed to the house and began to pack. After a nice soft bed of tee shirts I grabbed the saw and placed it toe first into the bag only to discover it was one inch too long. So I left it behind and saved myself a few bucks by using only a carry on. If this seems like a non story you may have missed the commercial flying realities of the last several years.
My hopes and expectations were exceeded by miles. I reconnected with friends. I made new friends. I learned how to sharpen hand saws. I gained confidence in my ability to maintain my own saws. The surprise was making two new back saws to add to my quiver. And that is the short story. Upon reflection many details were also learned about the craft and the tools that are used. If you really think you want to know more about hand saws read on:
Bad Axe Tools is going to offer more hand saw seminars in the near future. So if interested you will also be interested in the details.
Hand Saws for cutting wood in general:
- The anatomy and use of panel saws and back saws.
- The geometry of a saw tooth for cutting wood. The difference between the geometry for rip and cross cuts. What makes a saw cut aggressively. What makes a saw cut cleanly. What is a hybrid geometry.
- Why you might choose a Western saw over a Japanese style saw.
- How to evaluate a vintage saw as to whether it is a potential user or a wall hanger.
Back saw assembly and sharpening procedures: (The following was all hands on for as long as it took for me to get it done properly. I was left to do it myself when I could and needed to. Mark was always right there when expert advice and encouragement were needed.)
- How to tooth a saw plate. I probably toothed 5 saw plates, some for practice and two for real.
- How to set teeth. I set three saw plates, two for real.
- How to joint the tooth line.
- How to hand file teeth. I filed three saw plates, one rip for practice, one hybrid for real and one crosscut for real.
- How and when to stone the side of the teeth.
- How to mount the back. I mounted two backs for real.
- How to mount the handle. I mounted two handles for real.
Doing these processes was no doubt the most important part of my experience. The understanding of how a saw is put together and actually doing it is what gave me the confidence and satisfaction to know that I will be able to maintain my own saws. It also gave me new respect for the craftsmen who build these to the highest standards I also learned how to take a saw apart if needed for repair.
- How to operate a saw tooth cutter on new plates, when and when not to re-tooth a saw plate.
- How to shape teeth on a saw filer.
- How to use tooth setters. The pros and cons of hand squeeze sets over hammer sets.
- How to mount a saw plate in a saw vise for jointing. Mill bastard files.
- How to mount a saw plate in a saw vise for hand filing.
- All about taper files. How to hold them, how to push them. Proper stance and ergonomics for filing teeth. How to walk like and Egyptian.
- Selection of sharpening stones for stoning tooth sides.
- How to make specialty clamp accessories for saw assembly and disassembly procedures.