Saw Sharpening: Setting with a Hammer & Punch

Hammer & Punch

This is a free video, want to watch it?

Just log into the site and you can enjoy this video and many more!

Paul introduces a method of saw setting that he’s used for 50 years. It can be difficult to set a saw with small teeth using a saw set. This is where the punch/nail set comes into play. Paul shows how to centre the nail set on the tooth and use the hammer to achieve just the right amount of set.


  1. redwood on 3 January 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks Paul, going to try this one. Nice job 😉

  2. Matt Hood on 3 January 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks so much, Paul! I was about to drop about $35 including shipping to buy a saw set tool. My tenon saw is sharp but it has very little set and seems to bind in the cut very easily. I will try this method!

  3. Thomas Hanson on 3 January 2017 at 4:56 pm

    All the 12 oz cross pein hammers I found seemed to be much bigger that yours. Can someone send me a link?

  4. Doug Allison on 3 January 2017 at 5:35 pm

    Awesome saved a purchase $ l

  5. Godfrey Lewis on 3 January 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks Paul, a really useful video presentation. It’s these little tips from your experience, that prove so useful in the workshop later on, to us amateurs.
    Might I add, your pace of presentation I find ideal and a pleasure to listen to and follow.

  6. Sam Jackson on 3 January 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Great video thanks – More patience and practice coming up along with the courage to try it; confidence follows and satisfaction guaranteed. Cheers Paul

  7. John Babcock on 4 January 2017 at 12:47 am

    Would this work on a larger saw or would a saw set be better?

    • poolshark86 on 4 January 2017 at 2:11 pm

      I gave done this on a 7 ppi saw with a thicker plate, it’s doable but was a pain

      • veaceslav chicu on 30 January 2017 at 2:52 pm

        I tried this on a 7tpi saw yesterday, main is not thick, it’s thin but I think it depends on metal. With 350g hummer no effect on it, but with 800g hummer exactly what is needed. An old sandvik I restored. I have drawn pencil lines on the board, for each 2nd tooth, it’s easier like this to find the right one. Takes 2 min to draw this marks but very useful, especially if you stop for some reason.

  8. tim ziegler on 4 January 2017 at 1:16 am

    What a pleasure it is to watch your videos. You reduce wood working to its simplest form and make a pleasure. Thank you

  9. Jeffrey DiBella on 4 January 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Thanks Paul. As always another helpful tip. Simple, easy, and much appreciated.

  10. robertparsons81 on 5 January 2017 at 7:16 pm

    thanks Paul i will be using this next time i get back to my shed.

  11. drdee1280 on 5 January 2017 at 7:46 pm

    Thanks Paul this is great.
    My dad showed me how to set small dovetail teeth with a short, fine (thin) cabinet screwdriver. Basically put the blade between the teeth (in the gullet), and then twist the blade lightly the same amount (forces the teeth to apart in opposite directions). I’ve never seen it on the web, and was wondering what you thought of this idea? I think your method might be more consistent, and I can’t wait to try it out in the shop!
    BTW, dad learned it when he trained as a cabinet maker in Italy before WWII, and like you he always seemed to have simple solutions to these kinds of problems. Thanks for all you do and happy birthday!

  12. António on 25 January 2017 at 6:37 pm

    Thank you WWMC team!

  13. Hikmat Alfi on 15 February 2018 at 5:50 pm

    Should i set my tenon saw teeth?

    • Philip Adams on 8 May 2018 at 2:10 pm

      Tenon saws certainly need some set, though smaller teeth cut in well dried wood need less set.

  14. William Nenna on 3 May 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks so much, Paul. I have a saw set for rip and panel saws up to about 13TPI and I’ve thought of making my own smaller saws for some time but the prospect of filing and setting new teeth from scratch did not settle well with me. You have given me new thoughts of roughing in teeth with a small hacksaw and template which would reduce filing substantially and serve as a guide. I’ve read about hammer setting which serves nothing in the way of actual guidance but seeing your video has given me everything I need to know. The mystery became crystal clear immediately! Some things can ONLY be learned directly and you’ve given that to me. I Thank You so much!!

  15. Michael Schreiber on 5 March 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Hello all. I’m new to hand-woodworking at 71, thanks to Paul’s videos. Recently ordered the Spear & Jackson tenon saw as Paul recommended. Out of the box it seemed to be rather “catchy” as I would describe it; and difficult to get the cut started and to control the finish on through-cuts. To me (no experience) it sounded like “too much set”, so I gave the Two-Hammer procedure a try using a VERY light touch. The saw now cuts without “catching ” or baulking mid-cut. I have now noticed more “fuzz” to pare off on the shoulders left from the sawcut on both the workpiece and the waste piece. Is this normal with less set? Did I take out too much set possibly? I did the tapping to both sides of the saw, and with a very light touch. I have a cheap Stanley “mitre saw” with plastic handle that came with their plastic mitre box, and this one seems to cut smoother than the S&J, albeit with less rigidity. The S&J is 15tpi, and the Stanley is 12tpi. I got a little Zona Gent-saw (24tpi) for cutting dovetails, but the kerf is so fine with it that I can hardly see the cut! Any thoughts or recommendations would be much appreciated. Mike

    • Andrew Sinclair on 23 February 2020 at 9:13 pm

      Sorry to be late to the party @banjolover47 – reading this now I have one suggestion which helped the cleanness of my tenon saw cuts: try lightly “stoning” the two sides of the teeth.

      I.e. using a fine oilstone or similar, just make one or two light passes on each side of the saw plate; I do this a whisker shy of the top of the teeth (possibly redundantly). The idea is to clean off any burr left by the filing, and to create sharp 90 degree edges to the sides of the leading edge of each tooth.

      Other related thought is to make sure your final saw-filing stroke is with a light touch, if you’ve sharpened yourself (which you should by now, one year on!). Paul emphasises this in some of his filing videos. Again, it cleans up the corner and reduces burring.

      Having said all that, if it’s cross-cutting you’re doing and you’ve got a rip saw then a certain amount of fuzz is expected. I think it’s why some people advocate for cross-cut sawteeth in tenon saws, to get a cleaner cut. Given you usually clean up w plane or chisel anyway I’ve been very happy with Paul’s “rip teeth only” advice.

  16. Jim Thornton on 6 March 2019 at 2:57 am

    I’m one year older than you and also new to hand tool woodworking after a lifetime of amateur machine woodworking.

    Can’t help you on your “set” question, but did want to mention that it would be worthwhile to check out Paul’s new “Knife Wall” video and do a little experimenting with that. I think that might solve your fuzz issue.

    I hope you are enjoying the journey…….. as I am.


  17. Alec Cicciarella on 24 June 2020 at 8:19 am

    How do you determine how much set a saw has? Can you completely remove set by the light hammer taps between the two hammers?

    Thanks Alec.

  18. YrHenSaer on 24 June 2020 at 3:47 pm

    You’ll never completely remove the impression of a set pattern on a saw tooth. Certainly not by whacking it with a hammer – that’s not the point of the exercise.

    Tapping it on an anvil, such as another hammer (or as I do on the back-plate of an engineers’ vice) effectively neutralises the distortion left by the previous saw-set-pliers; a faint impression remains until it is worn down by repeated filing (or you cut the whole thing away and re-shape a new line of teeth – but that’s major surgery). It helps to be able to see the remaining marks of the previous set so that you can re-set the same tooth in the same direction. Never bend it the opposite way!

    Whatever method you use, it’s best to just bounce a medium hammer an equal number of times under its own weight, moving evenly and rhythmically along the line of teeth, rather than belting the daylights out of it in an attempt to flatten the whole lot. Turn it over and do the same again on the other side. I think that it helps to start at the heel and work forward, so that you can see easily where you have been as you progress; starting at the other end, the toe, means that the teeth you have worked on are partially obscured by the hammer-head.

    It is not, in my opinion, necessary to do it every time that you re-file an edge on your saw-teeth. Damping down a previous set is something that I would typically do on a new (or second-hand) saw, just acquired, in order to remove what may be an excess set. We all have our preferences in this respect. You can then re-set it to your own liking. Nor is it usually necessary to re-set teeth at each sharpening….. only when the kerf begins to ‘grab’ as you saw – then only enough set so that the plate is firm in the cut, neither tight nor loose. If the set is right – leave it alone.

    Metal retains a malleable memory, it is possible to work-harden the metal of the tooth at the point where the saw-pliers grip by too much tapping… so go gently. Don’t bust a tooth off!

    Good luck

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.