Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Tools and Tool Maintenance/Restoration Advice for Lie Nielsen saw which cuts very badly

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    Hi all, I have a Lie Nielsen carcass saw (crosscut) that is almost unused but also almost unusable. I am new to handsaws but even so, this one cuts terribly. It jams seriously once I have cut in just a short distance, say, an eighth of an inch or so. It does this in oak and in pine. I change how I saw, add wax to the saw, change the pressure I put on the saw as I cut, and nothing helps. I also have the Lie Nielsen dovetail saw and it cuts well. In fact I am making good headway learning to hand cut dovetails with it. So my question is what can go wrong with an expensive saw like this? Is there anything I should try before I discard it?

    Oh, I first bought these two saws four or five years ago. Almost immediately I had to put woodworking aside due to shoulder injuries and surgeries. So both saws sat for four or five years in their original boxes. But the environment was very dry and there is no rust etc. I am now back to woodworking. However, the carcass saw did not work any better when I first got it.

    Thanks for any advice, Sanford


    Do yoU have any photos? Are there any kinks in the plate?

    I would resharpen and see how it performs then.



    I’m in almost exactly the same boat, so I have to say that it seems really unlikely that a new LN saw is at fault, as opposed to a rookie woodworker with questionable sawing technique. I say this as a rookie woodworker with very, very questionable sawing technique who has in the last two weeks bought a brand new LN carcass saw, not out of disrespect, so you and I are in the same situation.

    I found it to be really “grabby” on the wood fibers, but thus far it’s always been my horrible technique. I’m finding that I’m very often trying to muscle the saw instead of letting the teeth slide across the surface of the wood. Even when I think I’m using very little pressure, it’ll sometimes come to an instant halt. Then I have to re-set my brain, and actually lift the saw a bit, so I’m not even allowing the full weight of the saw to rest on the teeth.

    Sometimes even that’s not enough, and I’ll have to reduce the number of teeth contacting the work by sawing at a slight upward angle. I think this is because the teeth are so dang sharp that they bite into anything with almost no effort. 100s of teeth grabbing deep over 14 inches of saw plate == a lot of grabbing power, and so the lesson I’ve learned in just two weeks with the saw is that I do no work whatsoever, and sometimes I can’t even let the saw do it’s full work! It’s been a big adjustment…sometimes the saw is running so light that I can’t imagine it could even cut tissue paper. I’ve applied shellac with more force. But that’s when the saw runs it’s best.

    Having said all that, even LN isn’t perfect, maybe your saw has a flaw. Send it back to LN — they offer a professional sharpening service for LN saws (IIRC, it’s 25 or 35 dollars) and you can ask them to inspect the saw while they have it. Maybe there’s some problem — you said it wasn’t new, so maybe the previous owner damaged the plate in some subtle way?

    David Perrott

    There was a Woodwrights shop with Chris Schwarz called sawing secrets. Its good, watch that. Try crosscutting with your dovetail saw, then compare it with the crosscut saw. If the saw binds in the cut it would need more set. If the teeth get clogged it probably needs sharpening. Watch Pauls videos about that.

    Larry Geib

    If you posted pictures of the teeth from the side and down the saw, we might be better positioned to offer advice.

    Marc D

    My LN large tenon saw had the exact same problem out of the box, purchased directly from LN. One day it dawned on me that the problem probably was that it had too much set. I decreased the set per Paul’s method and the difference has been night and day – the saw works much, much better. It still isn’t as smooth as I would like it to be, which I will take care of when I gather the courage to sharpen it. I plan to alter the tooth geometry at that point as well, but that isn’t strictly necessary. Just like their planes, their saws are usable out of the box but must be sharpened for optimal performance. I believe this is what people mean when they say that LN’s saws aren’t that great. There is nothing wrong with their steel, and their handles are well executed, it’s just that their saws do appear to require some attention. Once taken care of, these saws should be just fine.


    By chance, is this happening after you’ve drawn the saw back a few times? You then find you cannot make a forward stroke? If so, there’s nothing wrong with the saw, probably. If you start a saw by drawing back, what can happen is that the saw hops vertically as you draw back (since it cuts on the push), landing repeatedly on its teeth. This produces a series of indentations that match the tooth pitch. When you try to push forward, it is impossible because you are locked in those dimples. This is why drawing back on the first stroke(s) isn’t a great idea.

    If, on the other hand, you are saying that you get a few good back-and-forth strokes in and then the saw binds, that’s different and I don’t have a guess. It’s hard for me to imagine a real bind with only 1/8″ of the teeth and plate sunk. To me, “binding,” means the kerf has closed in and is pinching the plate. This would indicate too little set for the wood being worked, a long rip, or some frisky wood.

    As a final option, if this is neither of the first two but instead is just a matter of the saw moving along well and then it just grabs so that you need to get your rhythm again, that can just be the sign of a well sharpened saw and a new sawyer. That happened to me with saws sharpened by Paul until I got better. Honestly, it still happens to me.

    -The other Ed

    Steve Brookes

    I agree that some photos would be good; couple of things though. If the teeth are really sharp they will bind when cross cutting if too much downward pressure is put on the saw. This is not such an issue with dovetails as most of the cutting is with the grain (rip cut) but a cross cut needs to ‘cut’ across the fibres. I keep a really loose grip on the saw handle and try not to bulldoze through it but more let it glide – hard to describe but you let the saw teeth do the cutting and like using a knife – several light cuts work better than one hard cut.

    The other thing is the ‘set’ of the teeth; if the saw cuts nicely in the first few strokes and then starts to bind it is often that the teeth need a wider set to stop the blade (above the teeth) from jamming in too narrow a slot.

    Also worth checking the angle of the teeth when it was sharpened; a rip cut has a very aggressive angle as the teeth act like little chisels; cross cut don’t have that aggressive angle because the edges of the teeth cut across the fibres like little knives.

    Hope this helps a bit but feel free to upload some photos as it would give us a better look at how the teeth have been sharpened and set.

    Derek Long

    I find that their saws are pretty aggressively raked and come out of the box sharp, so bad form makes for bad sawing in a beginner. Go lightly with the saw to get it started and let the saw do the work. I think you’ll find it saws easier as it goes dull, proving the point. When you get more comfortable with sharpening saws you may want to start easing up the rake on the teeth in the first couple inches of the plate, which will make it easier to start.

    Derek Long
    Denver, Colorado


    Hi all, thanks for the reply. No doubt Ed is right that the sawyer (me) is partly to blame, but I tried crosscutting with my dovetail saw and had little trouble. I know to let the saw do the work and after reading the comments I experimented being extra careful not to put any weight extra on the saw. A nice light touch helps, but not much. The cut actually starts easily enough (no binding when I start) but then binds after I am in a short distance. Also, the saw is not bent at all: it has been sitting safely in its original box for several years with no damage, rust, etc.

    The idea that the saw has too little set, or is overly aggresively raked might be right. I plan to learn sharpening but will start with something easier and less expensive than a Lie Nielsen saw. I have attached some photos. I hope they are good enough and are the right ones to help. In any event, I appreciate all the feedback. It gives me a lot to think about and work on.


    David Perrott

    the teeth from one angle look rounded. Probably needs sharpened. It may be easier to sharpen it then a “flea market” saw since the teeth are in good shape. I say go for it. Whats the worst that could happen? It wont saw? Well you have that now. If it had too little set it would get pinched in the kerf. If you think it has too much set, just sharpen it. No need to set it. Sharpening will reduce the set.

    Hugo Notti

    The saw looks very sharp to me. Perhaps the pictures don’t show it well enough, but you can check for yourself. Best watch Paul Sellers’ videos about saw sharpening, he explains, what to look for. And it is quite unlikely, that a blade dulls from resting in a box for years.

    But it looks like it has no rake at all. Rake means, that the teeth are bent outwards very slightly, to widen the kerf. This prevents the saw from binding in the cut. However, binding just after 1/8″ is unusual.

    Perhaps you can find a woodworker nearby and ask him. It is very difficult to judge a saw from photos.

    Sorry, this might be of no help. But don’t just resharpen the saw without knowing, what causes the trouble. Perhaps it is your technique after all. The saw should cut pine like butter without any downward pressure, and it should definitely not jam after only 1/8″. Try sawing with the blade barely touching the wood. The teeth cut forwards, not downwards.


    Steve Brookes

    The teeth look fine to me; they appear sharp and the angle is also good (not too aggressive). The only thing I can’t judge is the set and if I was to take a guess it would be that the teeth need more set – that is, they should be angled out a little more. If that angle is too much the saw makes a wider kerf and becomes sloppy but if the angle is too little the saw will bind.

    My advice would be to flatten the set completely, Paul shows how to do this in one of his videos but it is pretty simple. I use a large flatish hammer in a vice and gently tap with another hammer – the saw blade is sandwiched between the two. Then I would grab a cheap saw set (like the Eclipse) from Ebay and re-set the teeth.

    I would persevere with it – when I first started restoring saws it took me ages to get everything right – but you learn as you go along and I can now sharpen and set a saw pretty quickly. Might pay to get some cheap secondhand saws to practice with – I grabbed a heap from the local tip shop for $2 each with the theory that if I really stuffed them up it’s no big deal. As it turned out one was a Disston panel saw and I use it a lot.

    Experimenting is also good; I was having trouble cutting deep tenons in the local hardwood we have here. I picked up a Disston carcase saw with a very deep blade from a secondhand shop and sharpened as a rip cut. It worked OK in pine but not so well in really dense timber – so I left it as a rip but re-sharpened and put a slight edge to the teeth so it became a ‘hybrid’ cross-cut and rip saw. It’s way too aggressive to cross cut timber with but it does a beautiful job with the deep tenons – that extra edge allowed me to reduce the set slightly and produces a really smooth wall to the tenon. That experiment was a success but I’ve had heaps of failures too, but if you have the time it is actually great fun playing around with different combinations.

    Hope it works out OK for you.


    Lie Nielsen has fantastic customer support. Before you do anything to the saw, send an email or give them a call. I think they will be happy to help.

    One of the photos leaves the impression that the teeth have been stoned (to reduce the kerf/set). It is very hard to tell from the photos, so that may not be true. If so, maybe the set is too little. Try wiping some oil on the saw and see if that changes how the binding feels. If it reduces the problem, that may suggest a problem with the set. You’re cutting well dried wood, yes?

    Larry Geib

    The saw looks generally sharp. The rake looks like it should not be causing great issue, though it maybe a little aggressive for a beginner. A few teeth looked a little nicked, but not enough to cause any issue.

    But with only pictures from the side, it’s a bit tough to say anything about how the teeth are set. Maybe another picture of that view is in order.

    Alternating teeth should be angled slightly outward to allow clearance for the plate in the kerf, and to expose the chisel edges of the teeth to the fibers of the wood.

    With a crosscut saw, if you sight down the teeth from one end, there should be a little valley that looks like you could slide a sewing needle down. The width at the teeth tips should be slightly greater than the thickness of the plate.

    For an example Veritas sets its teeth outward on its 14 tpi dovetail saws .003″ PER SIDE ( calipers on the teeth should read .006 wider than the plate thickness), and a carcase saw perhaps a bit more. Lie Neilson might use a slightly different set. Some people might choose more or less set, but whatever it is, the saw plate should not bind in dry wood, even if the saw is lots duller than yours.

    If you don’t sort it out, I agree with Ed that the correct course of action is to at least discuss the issue with Lie-Neilsen. They are outstanding in resolving customer issues. They want their customers happy and coming back for more.

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