Handsaw Skills

  • Creator
    Topic
  • #397182
    Greg MarshallGreg Marshall
    Participant

    Hi All,

    Since this isn’t really about choosing or maintaining a saw, but using it, I put it in the methods and techniques forum. Hopefully that works.

    TL;DR version: I think I need a handsawing mentor

    Full version:
    Although I’m quite handy and have done alot of things like framing walls, and building crude shop projects over the many years, I’ve been “hand tool woodworking” (in the Paul Sellers sense) for about a year. I’m still very unsure that I’m using my handsaws correctly. I have a few decent quality saws:

      A veritas dovetail saw
      A veritas carcass saw
      A veritas tenon saw
      A Pax 7 TPI ripcut panel saw
      A Pax 12 TPI crosscut panel saw

    Now, I know the tool doesn’t make the man 🙂 I just love the feel and look of handsaws, so I’m not expecting them to do the work for me.

    I never get the results I see Paul get, or other online woodworking videos. My rip cuts don’t produce the nice smooth cut with the little curl of wood at the bottom of the cut that I see all the time. Mine are always shaggy and wavy. I can’t imagine getting a 1/8th inch rip cut down an 18 inch long door stile, for example. It would all rip to shreds. I suspect this is a sharpness issue but I may just not be sawing correctly.

    My crosscuts are ok with the very fine saws, but as I go more coarse in TPI, I get progressively worse results. The Pax crosscut is so bad that I am scared to use it on more expensive woods because I get a lot of breakout. Again, I am wondering if this is sharpness or finesse. These PAX saws are brand new, but they could be dull out of the box. I didn’t sharpen them, and they haven’t been used much.

    My problem is I have no frame of reference for what the feel or result SHOULD be like.

    So – my main question is this: Where would you go – what would you do in order to learn to use handsaws correctly? I’ve been searching for local classes, but they are very rare in my area and far away. I can’t seem to find a mentor to connect with. This isn’t my full time job, so I can’t join the only woodworking school (about 90 minutes away) – they require a full-time 4 year program 😀

    Can anyone share thoughts on finding a mentor? Nothing beats some hands on instruction from an experienced craftsperson. Barring that – can anyone recommend a resource (video / book) that goes into depth about using / practising / saw skills and how to know if you’re improving or getting expected results?

    Thanks in advance for your tips, referrals, resources, kind words of encouragement, and anything else you care to contribute!

Viewing 14 replies - 16 through 29 (of 29 total)
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    Replies
  • #441388
    sailforfun15sailforfun15
    Participant

    @sailforfun15

    Glen-Drake’s Using a Joinery Saw video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfBvQEih5BE) has a lot of good information and three practice exercises. I just got one of his joinery saws and like it better than my LN dovetail saw. Also, the scooping motion he shows while sawing really does help. A useful companion video on saws is also available on his Youtube channel.

    #441703
    MTaylorMTaylor
    Participant

    @mtaylor

    Woodworking guilds have started to pop up all over the US. Search in your area for one. If you can find one but its to far away contact them anyway. The goal of most guilds is to promote the art not make money. They may be able to put you in touch with someone closer to you that would be willing to help.

    #478270
    ByronByron
    Participant

    @reuser

    Greg.
    I might be abit late here. I apologise in advance if this is too basic, but I don’t think anyone above has checked how you hold your saws, and hopfully youve got it right from YouTube.
    I’ll double-check anyway: Make sure that you only have your bottom three fingers and thumb wrapped around the handle. Your index finger must point foward and rest against the handle in a pistol grip. This will reduce side to side motion which will jamb the saw in the cut as you saw. It also gives you better rotational control of your cutting angle.
    Then place the saw blade exactly where you want it to cut with the teeth at the back of the blade (near your hand) on the far top corner of the wood. Put your spare thumb softly against the side of the blade and firmly against the wood. Hold the wood. Relax, stand comfortably. Draw gently back using your spare thumb as a guide. Move gently foward. As the cut gets deeper, romove your spare hand and get less gentle. Dont become rough with the saw. Let the saw do the work. Dont try to push the teeth down hard into the wood. To get the saw to cut faster drop your hand. To get the saw cut to go more left or more right, twist your forearm with your pinky going in the direction you want the cut to go in. This way you should be able to cut a straight line even with a not set 100%, which is indicated by constantly having to steer left or right on one saw and not the others. Well thats how I do it. Be concious about doing this with every cut until its second nature.
    As I said, this might be too basic, but its difficult and frustrating to progress if something like this is holding you back, and it is often something small and easily overcome.

    ReUser

    #478329
    Ecky HEcky H
    Participant

    @eckyh

    [quote quote=478270]Draw gently back using your spare thumb as a guide.[/quote]
    Could you please tell the reason(s) for that first stroke as a pull stroke?

    Backround of my question is that Mr. Shannon Rogers recommended that the first stroke is to confidently push forward (with a western push stroke saw).

    Maybe it’s similar to the question, whether to cut the tails (“english school”) or the pins (“german school”) first: there are reasons for both variants.

    E.

    Veni, vidi, serravi.

    Münster, Germany

    #478339
    EdEd
    Participant

    @ed

    Paul teaches “push first,” too. Otherwise with finely sharpened saws, especially in soft woods and end grain, when you draw back, the saw bounces up the ramps of the teeth, falls on the points of the teeth, and makes little pockets. Then, when you try to push, the teeth get stuck in those pockets. This is why you sometimes feel like the saw gets stuck when trying to start, even though it isn’t binding. But, if you start on the push, he claims this is avoided.

    What I do is to unweight the saw and gently rub the teeth along the line until I feel I’m lined up and the saw is lined up. The teeth are just barely scratching the surface. When it feels right, I relax during a definitive push forwards and the saw bites in and defines the cut because relaxing returned the saw weight into the cut. If the saw is dull, it can (and will) still wallow and skate around, but if the saw is sharp, one push and I’m in and relatively secure. If you watch Paul, I think this is really what he does….light rub, then a defining push. Actually, I’m sure of it, because I learned it from him.

    #478407
    Larry GeibLarry Geib
    Participant

    @lorenzojose

    I went this weekend to the lie Nielsen hand tool tool event when it came to town last weekend (twice).

    At the show was Kevin Drake, and he was showing his unique joinery saw. It has no teeth at the start of the saw plate so you can get get a “running” start on your stroke. I have to admit, it worked pretty well.

    But instead of the saw, I sprang for a Tite mark gauge with some accessories. That thing is way more than I have spent for a qauge, but man— it is nice.

    And I may have to budget for a small high angle brass smoother before I die.

    #478479
    sailforfun15sailforfun15
    Participant

    @sailforfun15

    One thing I finally realized after using the Glen Drake joinery saw is that I’ve been grasping my saws way too tightly: like a firm handshake or even harder. For some reason, the joinery saw taught me to loosen my grip way up, especially at the start. It works best starting a cut when I just use my hand to lightly guide it. I would not even call it a grip. If I grip it tight I find my cut is off. After I establish the cut I can move faster with a slightly firmer grip.

    #478965
    ByronByron
    Participant

    @reuser

    Hi Everyone

    EckyH, I think you’re right. I’ve given it some thought though:
    1- I pull on the first stroke because I’ve always done it, and its how I was taught. Not a full stroke, but running back a bit creates an accurate notch for a good foward stroke. On a cross-cut or end-grain it draws the fibres against the body of wood and severs them, reducing the tear-out that a foward stroke could produce.
    2- I had a look at Shannon Rogers’ videos. The video of him cutting the end grain is really good. A foward cut works there. But watch his video on cross-cutting, at 2:15 his first stroke is a small backstroke followed by a confident foward stroke in the notch he created. If I remember correctly, Paul creates a small notch with the first foward stroke, takes a break, then has a good foward stroke. He protects against tear-out with knife-walls. You could also do a foward stroke on the corner closest to you.
    3- Each person must develop their own techniques. I dont think that there is a right and a wrong way, as you say, some people cut pins before dovetails, others are adement that that is wrong. But some methods do deliver better results.

    Larry – the Kevin Drake saw seems like a great idea. An extreme variation on sharpening with progressively more agressive teeth towards the back of the saw, which in itself might be difficult to sharpen. And good guages are always useful.

    @sailforfun. Thats a really good pointer.

    I’ll be trying the push first method for a bit, as there is always room for improvement.

    ReUser

    #479001
    EdEd
    Participant

    @ed

    I realized after my post that I use Paul’s progressive sharpening so the first inch or so progresses from very gentle rake to aggressive rake. This helps with the “gentle rub” before setting in with a definitive push.

    #479023
    Ecky HEcky H
    Participant

    @eckyh

    Hello,

    thanks for your explanations.

    All those different techniques help to ease the start of the saw cut.

    In particular for crosscutting I used to make a rather big notch on the waste side of the knife line – big enough that at least 3 teeth of the saw start the cut. Further advantages are (for me) that the cut is right beside the line and the deep notch guides the first strokes.

    E.

    Veni, vidi, serravi.

    Münster, Germany

    #479026
    Harvey KimseyHarvey Kimsey
    Participant

    @hkimsey

    Instead of paying big bucks for a high-angle brass plane, get hold an old Stanley #3 and hone a 10 degree back bevel on the iron. I’ve found it’s just as good or better.

    #479620
    Larry GeibLarry Geib
    Participant

    @lorenzojose

    A Stanley number 3 ain’t shiny brass, is it?

    🙂

    #479904
    ByronByron
    Participant

    @reuser

    I was thinking how good these forums are for improvement. It’s important to question even the most set habits, which might just be bad habits. And the forums provide a place where knowledgeable peers can ask the questions that would never have been brought up otherwise.

    ReUser

    #480102
    Larry GeibLarry Geib
    Participant

    @lorenzojose

    Supporting the weight of the saw using the leverage of the bottom handle horn to allow the saw, initially, to glide over the top layers of wood minimized the jarring, catching, and tearing almost immediately for me. Especially so for the larger saws due to their increased weight.

    His tip to take a step back on your sawing side to open up your stance is also a great tip.

Viewing 14 replies - 16 through 29 (of 29 total)

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