Saw Sharpening: Ripcut

Saw Sharpening

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Sharpening a saw can be one of the most daunting sharpening tasks for a woodworker. Paul Sellers tries to simplify this by showing how a simple rip cut pattern can be used for many crosscut saws as well. This is a great beginners guide to sharpening the essential saws.

118 Comments

  1. Ken Haygarth on 11 December 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Paul, Joseph, thanks guys great job

  2. ballinger on 11 December 2012 at 4:39 pm

    I’ve been reading a lot about sharpen hand saws both rip and cross cut but this has been a beautifully explained approach that removes all the calculation of angles and what not. Thank you.

  3. John Poutier on 11 December 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Very well done Paul and kudos to the fantastic camera work. Thank you.

  4. Dave on 11 December 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Paul, what kind of file is that you used to do that bevel on the backside of the teeth? I have never seen something like that before.

    • Paul SellersTeam Member on 12 December 2012 at 9:39 am

      Sorry I missed the file type. This small, purple file is made by EZE Lap who supply also the 3″ x 8″ diamond sharpening plates we use in the schools and my home shop.The file can be either medium, fine or superfine, and for this purpose the difference would be only marginal.

      • Dave on 12 December 2012 at 3:08 pm

        Thanks Paul, I do believe I have a small diamond stone that would be perfect. I use it for sharpening my pocket knife 🙂

      • johnlevon72 on 21 April 2015 at 2:42 am

        Hi Paul, and good day to you all. I have been wondering for some time and I noticed in this article or comment you made you said that EZE Lap supplies these diamond files and the diamond 3×8 ones also. Ok are you saying that EXE Lap supplies these free of charge for your use and to advertise there products that is you endorse there product? I think this is fine I was just wondering ok, I have purchased three of these and the small ones also and they are not cheap here in the US. I love to watch your simplistic if I can use that term approach to teaching and working, Not to say it’s all that easy or simple it takes some skills that don’t come easy when you are old and set in your ways. as I am. lol

  5. jonkilleen on 11 December 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Hi Paul,

    That was really excellent, thanks, and I’m now really looking forwards to getting my old eBay Disston (if and when it ever arrives….I’m getting to really despise the Royal Mail) and giving your method a go. I second what John said re the camera work too – great angles and close ups, which made it really clear to see what you were doing.

    One thing I didn’t pick up from the video though was what sort of file was it that you were using for putting the secondary bevel on the back of the tooth. Could you share with us what it was and what the brand was please?

    Many thanks.
    Jon

  6. David Gill on 11 December 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Hi Paul Great video ,Has given me the drive to try again , I have tried before without great results
    How do you know if a saw requires setting is there a part of the tooth I could measure to determine the set was correct or is there a way of measuring the width of the cut produced , Is the objective to achieve the narrowest cut possible without the saw sticking

    David

    • Paul SellersTeam Member on 12 December 2012 at 9:51 am

      Hello David, Good to hear from you. Fingertips are a great way to test and that’s what I do mostly. But here is the thing. You can set a saw before or after sharpening so the ideal way to test for set is to saw with it. If it binds in the cut then it really needs setting, if mild friction is felt then it still needs some setting unless it’s only a dovetail saw which benefits from mild support on either side. If the saw skews off in a cut then something is wrong with the set or the sharpness or the plate is curved from top to bottom (rare).Sometimes, before you buy the saw or the grandkids got hold of it, saw teeth caught metal one side and dulled every other tooth. Measuring is a possibility but I wouldn’t go that route.

  7. JONATHAN WARREN on 11 December 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Hi Paul
    Thanks for a very good, informative video. I have just got back to the boat and sat spellbound eating spagbol and watching your excellently filmed and delivered method. I must agree with other posters about the video. I have been buying old saws and looking at youtube videos on sharpening. Yet again, you offer simple, easy to follow, accessible instructions that blow away the cobwebs of doubt. I expect that my weekend will be spent sharpening saws!

    I’d also like to know what small file you used – I didn’t quite manage to see it. Now for the washing up!

    Many thanks
    Jonathan

  8. Gary Palmer on 11 December 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Very nicely presented and produced Paul 😉

  9. juryaan on 11 December 2012 at 10:46 pm

    I have a cheap stanley Tenonsaw, wich i bought years ago from a local hardwarestore
    in our village.
    If i hadn’t seen this video i would have tried to make some cardscrapers out of it,
    because it can’t even cut trough butter anymore.
    Now i will practice my sawfilling on it.
    Thank you for this video.

    I apologize for my bad english, but woodworking is not
    the only thing i am learning to master.

    • Paul SellersTeam Member on 12 December 2012 at 10:08 am

      Actually, I hadn’t realised that you weren’t English so it’s not bad at all.
      I have a plastic handled tenon saw with teflon coating on it and a steel back and it is one of my favourite saws to use. I bought it in 1970 or thereabouts. Yes, with a four or five practices you will gain confidence and have sharp saws for the rest of your life. Keep on pressing in. Well done!

  10. STEVE MASSIE on 11 December 2012 at 11:24 pm

    This was a great video and very informative, Thank You so much for sharing this. I have your book but it is nice to see it live as well. I am just getting into saws and have been wanting to learn how to sharpen and preserve them. Like your simple “PoorMan’a Router” ( another thank you very much for showing that as well ) your easy split wooden vise’s look to be very useful. I love your approach on this no nonsense way to work wood.

    Steve

  11. kelly on 12 December 2012 at 4:47 am

    Paul,

    Thank you for being a teacher. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I’ve become a huge follower.

    Woodworking is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. But, it’s all seemed very daunting. Because you desire to teach, that’s becoming less of a factor for me. I feel encouraged to start swimming. 🙂

    One question regarding the saws. I’m a little hard headed … this may be obvious to many but …well, what I *_think_* I’m gathering from your book, DVDs and, various videos is …that if I purchase a used saw, and it’s filed as a crosscut, it’s perfectly acceptable to change that saws filing to a rip cut. Is that right? So for instance, a 12″ tenon saw with 12 or 13 ppi filed as a crosscut, can simply just be filed using the rip filing method you described in this video? Therefore making it a rip saw?

    Thanks,
    Kelly

    P.S. I have to agree with the previous posts, the production value on your videos is really good. As a former film and video pro, I have to say congrats to you and your crew. Pass the word. 🙂

    • Paul SellersTeam Member on 12 December 2012 at 10:25 am

      Most people selling saws on eBay say they are crosscut saws when in fact they are just as likely to be ripcut. In other words, they DO NOT KNOW. I don’t want to be disparaging at all. I think people make this pronouncement naively in the same way people confidently describe a number 80 scraper as a spokeshave. If it is a genuine crosscut saw then yes, you can sharpen it for a ripcut by following the saw video we just launched. You can sharpen it with a more passive rake to the fronts of the teeth or aggressively as shown. These are choices. You may want saws sharpened differently to task too.

      • Ed on 10 January 2013 at 4:04 am

        The used saws I purchased have badly shaped teeth with quite different heights. Is it best to take a single pass with the bastard file so that just some of the teeth become sharp and let the saw improve gradually over a few sharpenings, or do you go heavy with the bastard file hoping to get more teeth up to level?

        • Ed on 10 January 2013 at 4:10 am

          Ah…The answer to my question is already down below on 22 Dec 2012. Thank you for the excellent video.

  12. John Guengerich Jr on 13 December 2012 at 3:14 am

    Thank you so much Paul. This has been a mental block for me. Kudos on the camera work showing your technique so well for sharpening and setting.

  13. Thom Edwards on 13 December 2012 at 7:43 pm

    This may be beyond the scope of the video, but watching it has sparked a few thoughts in my head.

    In my mind (without putting file to saw) I imagine the tips of the teeth being ground down more as the angle is lowered when compared to teeth with a vertical front. Does this, in fact, happen? If so, would you simply joint the teeth again and start over until all of the teeth are uniform in height? Are you literally moving the teeth a bit when this all occurs?

    Also, if I were to *really* mess things up and messed the teeth up pretty badly, is it biting off more than one should (or could) chew to attempt to completely re-tooth a saw using this method?

  14. kelly on 13 December 2012 at 9:57 pm

    I don’t mean to butt in here …I’m sure you really want to hear Paul’s opinion. But, I just read this blog post earlier today and, it seems to cover (at partially) what you’re concerned about. Maybe it could help with your understanding. I thought it was a good article (explanation).

    Saw beyond restoration
    http://paulsellers.com/2011/12/saw/

  15. Thom Edwards on 13 December 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Kelly, thank you! That is perfect!

  16. Brent Ingvardsen on 15 December 2012 at 4:12 am

    Excellent video. I loved the close-up on the saw teeth. Well done sir..

    • Paul SellersTeam Member on 15 December 2012 at 8:11 am

      Thanks Brent. Making these films is very demanding for everyone but they feel so good when they are done. I feel in our small way we are a oart of craft conservation by doing it this way and now people will be able to access our work at little or no cost.We have some more filming on sharpening saws yet to come that will expand the methodology to become a comprehensive resource for people to hook in to so this was just the beginning.

    • Paul SellersTeam Member on 15 December 2012 at 8:13 am

      PS
      I’m only the man in front of the camera, it’s who is working the other side of the lens that really makes this happen.

  17. JONATHAN WARREN on 15 December 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Well, I spent the afternoon sharpening saws – a very pleasant way to spend the time – thanks, Paul! And thanks to the photographer(s) for a brilliantly produced instructional video. The fine focus and sharp detail is great!

  18. tobias on 20 December 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Paul, I’d like to as so many before me, to thank you for again giving some very good information delivered in an excellent format. The camera view – especially the close up following your hands while filing the teeth – is fantastic. It almost made my jaw drop in the first moments…
    As most already know you have some very unique views on some subjects – at least when you compare it with the “internet knowledge” that you can find on so many youtube channels, websites etc. and I am a big fan of this. Having successfully tried your sharpening methods that convinced me in it’s simplicity, speed and results the general approach to sharpening could not be more controversial. And with this video you again question the general believe in which saw pattern to use and how to sharpen! Great and I already know what I am doing tonight…
    Anyhow I have a question a little off-topic: How do you take care about misshaped saw teeth, or do you bother at all if it’s only a few? In your video at 23:00 you are filing a tooth that is smaller compared to the others and subsequently below the tooth line. This tooth is adjacent to two teeth a little bigger in size – which is quite logical. Do you somehow adjust this while filing or leave it as is and if it becomes to severe the saw is being filed down and re-cut?
    As I just received some ebay finds wich some odd teeth the solution to this would be of great interest to me!

    Thanks much Paul and keep up this excellent work!

    • Paul SellersTeam Member on 22 December 2012 at 12:49 am

      Tobias. When a tooth is still there but low, I still file each side of the tooth because I have to get to the face or the back of the larger adjacent teeth. Instead of pressing down only, as is normal, and a stroke that cuts both the front and back of the adjacent teeth, I press into the face or back of the larger teeth and this allows the low tooth gradually grow over subsequent sharpenings. An odd tooth too low will it be a problem, but two or three next to each other is and so the whole saw must be topped (jointed USA). It become very intuitive the more you do it and the more yu think about it the harder it becomes so I suggest you just do it and take the risk. You will master it in a very short time

  19. berber5985 on 21 December 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Hey Paul, I love your no-nonsense approach to so many things and this is no exception. I just had one question. Do you sharpen most of your smaller teeth saws with a rip cut? It sounded like you did? Also, how would you go about sharpening say, a miter box saw? I have a couple smaller tenon saws that I’ve picked up here and there that I’m going to do your method on and convert them to progressive rip. I think that’s a great way. I’d love to see some crosscut sharpening videos too and if you have any secrets on that. Thanks for the information!

    • Paul SellersTeam Member on 22 December 2012 at 12:34 am

      We have a crosscut video planned for the near future but we wanted to get the progressive ripcut out to counter some of ideas people have that you had to have dedicated cross and rip cut pattern teeth for every size of saw tooth. Not the case at all.If you have continuous crosscutting to do and you do a lot of this, then I would definitely have a fleam tooth crosscut saw regardless of the size of the teeth probably, but most people are ripping down tenons and panels and using the progressive tooth pattern shown in my video gives you the perfect saw for almost everything you do. It really works.

      • Hugo Baillargeon on 7 June 2016 at 5:05 am

        Dear Paul,

        I Would appreciate your advice. I bought two old Diston saws, both crosscut, approx. 8-10 tpi. One of the crosscut already cuts pretty well (i was quite surprised)! The other one needs love. So my question is: should i transform this one to a progressive ripcut? Thank you for such fantastic work, to you and all the team.

        • Philip Adams on 13 June 2016 at 10:59 am

          Hello Hugo,
          You could convert one to a ripcut. We tend to use a 10tpi ripcut to saw with and across the grain, but once you get beyond that, such as 8tpi it is useful to have rip and crosscut saws, especially if you are planning on doing a lot of re-sawing by hand.

          • Hugo Baillargeon on 22 June 2016 at 12:36 pm

            Thank you very much Philip! Will do that. Really appreciate the feedback .



  20. Paul SellersTeam Member on 22 December 2012 at 12:42 am

    I still use the progressive ripcut pattern for mitre box sawing and have perfect cuts straight from the saw most of the time. Any variation from dead 45 can be corrected on the mitre shooting board.

  21. MickA on 6 February 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Paul, if I wanted to put a secondary bevel on larger teeth, would the size of that bevel increase proportionately? I’m guessing that it would, but just want to make sure.
    Many, many thanks for all your help.

  22. chris harvey on 2 March 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Paul,
    this is an incredible video. I hope to sign up for some of the others. Question, can you drop in and out easily, for example there is a lot of stuff which I would never have the time to make?

  23. Tim457 on 10 March 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Great video and thank you for your work teaching. I was able to use the techniques in the video to sharpen a saw for the first time and it worked out pretty well. I was even able to even out many of the teeth that were different sizes. It was nice to have a simplified explanation and saw sharpening pattern to get started on sharpening my own saws. From looking at other saw sharpening information I think I have it figured out that the pattern recommended in this video is 30 degree rake for the first inch, 15 or so for the next inch and almost zero after that, and zero fleam and gullet. Is that right? Also, I’ve read that a little bit of fleam on a rip saw can help the cut be a little cleaner and faster. If I think I’m ready to try a little fleam, what amount do you recommend on say a tenon saw or a panel or larger rip cut saw?

  24. mking1 on 12 March 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this knowledge and approach. It has given me the confidence to buy an old Charlesworth Sheffield tenon saw on eBay, and with a bit of elbow grease to clean it up and sharpened to your method, it cuts beautifully. I’d encourage other folks to give it a go.

  25. Eddy Flynn on 13 March 2013 at 2:11 pm

    hi ive just had a bahco saw file delivered ,so thought id give it a go on 14tpi ebay find it definately makes a difference when you’ve been shown these techniques thanks again i am gaining in confidence onward and upward cheers

    • Paul SellersTeam Member on 15 March 2013 at 6:29 am

      Glad to hear it, Eddy. Keep the file straight, level across the plate and feel and listen for each stroke so that they are even. Sharpening saws is rhythmic,critical thinking that connects us to the work in hand by in the same way music connects us to the musician and the composer and the conductor.

  26. skodger1nine80 on 15 March 2013 at 6:51 am

    THANK YOU Paul, I’m a little late to the party, but this was excellent. I got your dvd set at your first Creesing Temple show well worth it, hope to see over this side of the uk again in the near future. regards J.

  27. Mark Armstrong on 17 April 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks guys that’ one of the best videos out there. The close ups and HD really help.

  28. Michael Petre on 18 April 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Paul,

    thank you for the video. I have sharpened/tuned one of my dovetail saws with the progressive ripcut pattern and it is a blast to use. It is now cutting way faster than its siblings with similar PPI.

    I was wondering if you would, by any chance, have an opinion on using diamond saw files to actually sharpen the saw teeth.

  29. gilrubin on 11 June 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Hi Paul
    I find it hard to see and concentrate the small 12PPI teeth, any suggestions?
    Thanks, Gil

  30. gilrubin on 11 June 2013 at 6:18 pm

    thanks

  31. Mexiquite on 25 June 2013 at 6:40 pm

    @Gil Rubin use a desk lamp to add light to the subject and it will reflect the teeth that haven’t been sharpened. (after you use the flat file to get all the teeth level they will reflect light on the part that was filed down. Once that light is gone after you’ve used your triangular file to sharpen the tooth, the light will go away)

  32. smfield on 27 July 2013 at 7:45 pm

    The “microbevel” technique that you used was actually typical of that used in American. Called the ‘American’ crosscut technique by the Brits, it was once widely used by the Disston and Sons saw tool firm. In addition to this secondary rake, a deep and round gullet was also part of the sharpening technique.

  33. RL on 28 July 2013 at 2:06 am

    I’ve never had this particular problem before but after I recently sharpened my dovetail saw, it is now bouncing over the wood at the start of a cut.

    Is it not sharp enough? Is my rake angle too acute? I have sharpened saws several times before but I’ve never encountered this issue.

    I’d appreciate any ideas you have.

    Thanks.

  34. smfield on 28 July 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Try putting Paul’s secondary rake angle at the tip of the teeth.

  35. Paul Bakker on 8 November 2013 at 8:28 pm

    I will never upload my saw files to any video or file sharing websites now I’ve learned this.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  36. Tom Babula on 14 November 2013 at 12:36 am

    Paul,

    It takes a very special person so share knowledge and expertise. It has not gone unnoticed. Thank you.

    Does Highland Hardware carry the saw set and necessary files required to sharpen the saws using your method?

    Tom

  37. davebulow on 21 November 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Paul & Team,

    Many thanks for this really excellent video! Once again, thank you for putting it so simply and clearly. A huge help for all!

  38. Sandy on 20 December 2013 at 8:43 pm

    That makes saw sharpening very easy…. I’ll repeat that after I sharpen my first saw… Great video Paul. Thank you

  39. Stevenjfritz on 20 January 2014 at 1:14 am

    Paul,
    Your doing a great service to us all. Keep up the good work. You are a great teacher and refreshing to watch. I appreciate your non-snobby attitude towards woodworking. Cheers!

    Thanks!
    Steven

  40. Sandy on 20 January 2014 at 11:21 pm

    I sharpened a couple of saws now using Paul (Sellers) method and it works great. I could not get a sharper saw.

  41. Gary on 21 March 2014 at 6:42 am

    I too have had good luck using this method….from my very first attempt! Great instruction! I’m now looking forward to the future video featuring more detail on cross-cut filing and setting the fleam. Well done, as always!

  42. Salko Safic on 27 April 2014 at 6:56 am

    Paul were you then setting the saw to be a combination saw, because I thought that a rip cut saw doesn’t have any set.

  43. Alan Pointon on 13 May 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Paul. As you seem to have a high regard for the saw vice used in the video would it be possible for you to post a sketch or a few still photos along with appropriate dimensions which would allow us to construct our own version??

    Thanks again for all the help and encouragement we receive from your blog and videos and apologies for making more demands on your time.

  44. Jay on 31 July 2014 at 7:11 pm

    I would love to see more short videos on shop appliances/jig in general. I always enjoy and find them very useful.

  45. Ben Fisher on 8 September 2014 at 5:19 pm

    If I were to buy something like those two saws to start out, what would I look for? I think the two that are left after Paul trims down is the panel saw and the longest of the two 11tpi tenon saws? I watched the video several times to try and figure out which ones were left over and I think that’s it. It seems like Disston is the most sought after secondhand brand at least for the hand/panel saw. Not sure on the tenon saw.

    • Philip Adams on 28 October 2014 at 11:31 am

      It’s worth looking at the following blog:
      https://paulsellers.com/2012/12/questions-answered-which-handsaw-for-a-beginner/
      If you are wanting to buy saws that might need a bit of work, such as sharpening, then a 12″ tenon saw with 14 tpi would be a good start. Look for an older Spear & Jackson, a Disston (Philadelphia one) or search on Paul’s blog for other makers.

      For handsaws you would be well off going 10 tpi ripcut handsaw and look at the blog post for what to look for.

      • Hugo Baillargeon on 3 June 2016 at 4:22 am

        Dear Philip,
        Tx for the tips. I have bought the three saws from Veritas. Should i resharpened them right now, using Paul’ s method? I find them extremely agressive at the start point (toe).. Tx again for all the other answers!

        Cheers

        Hb

        • Matt McGrane on 5 June 2016 at 4:02 pm

          Hello Hugo. Some people prefer to sharpen their saws when they are bought new. The teeth on new saws were not filed to get their shape – they were stamped. Some people say that the stamping process does not leave a tooth that is as sharp as it can be. If you are new to sharpening, I would suggest you use the saw for a while first. Saw sharpening takes practice like anything else and you don’t want to make it worse before you even start using it. If you are experienced at sharpening saws, then I would say to go for it.

          I have the Veritas 12″ tenon saw and I have never been happy about how it cuts for me – either when it was new or after sharpening it. Try using a light touch when starting the cut. Maybe it will do better for you with some more practice.

          • Hugo Baillargeon on 7 June 2016 at 4:15 am

            Thank you Matt for your Time and answer. Indeed, i am not good enough at sharpening saws so i will wait, even though i find that frustrating. I am using crosscut and ripcut old saws and have no problem following the lines… So much to learn…. Cheers!



  46. Ben Fisher on 12 September 2014 at 3:46 am

    How would one restore a saw that has a couple chipped teeth?

    • Philip Adams on 27 October 2014 at 6:54 pm

      There is a new video on youtube concerning this subject. Look at Paul’s youtube page. Hope that helps.

  47. Thomas Marange on 25 September 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks so much for the great job. I think I’ll give it a try. I have a few saws that need attention. both dovetail and panel saws. What files should I buy & where can I find them. I went to the Grobet web site and now I’m totally confused. They must have a thousand files listed. Do they sell single files? I did not see a checkout button or prices. Can I buy direct or should I find another source?

  48. Thomas Marange on 25 September 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Eddy, Thanks for the reply. It looks as though they are available in the UK. None of the google results show a US supplier. I’ll keep searching. Thanks Tom

  49. Ben Fisher on 26 September 2014 at 10:32 pm

    For correcting too much set, do you think two small nylon-faced hammers would work as well as the steel ones for what you’re trying to do? I am out of budget for a while on tools and I have some nylons but I don’t have much in the way of steel hammers except 1 20 oz claw hammer I use around the house. I don’t have a vise yet either (I need to sharpen my second hand saws before building the workbench) so I may need to get creative.

  50. Thomas Marange on 27 September 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Greg, Thanks for the reply. I’ll spend some time on the Lee valley web site. Thanks again Tom

  51. Ben Fisher on 8 October 2014 at 1:39 am

    For my workbench build it seems I do need a panel saw. I got an old Disston 18″ 10 TPI panel saw off E-Bay. I got it cleaned up; rust is gone and it looks nice. I seem to be chipping teeth on my when I take the saw set to it. I’m not sure how I am doing this. I just push the handle all the way and sometimes hear a break or in 3 cases the tooth chipped out much to be dismay. I have the same saw sets Paul uses in the video from Lee Valley (at least I think that’s the one he’s using). I tried both. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong with the saw set. Maybe the thing just came with teeth that are shaped wrong or too small but I’d think the “fine” saw set would work on them anyway. Second, no matter what I do, the blade binds heavily in the cut and eventually starts to cut in a curve from binding and twisting about. There are 3 teeth chipped out now spaced throughout the blade, not in the same place. I would think it should cut OK but it binds like crazy. There doesn’t seem to be any bend in the blade when stationary and I do have it oiled after sharpening and setting. I tried typical set, set and hammer like Paul does and both sets (so 4 times). I’ve sharpened twice to make sure I am getting it right. I need to get this right so I can do the workbench build. I know things take practice and I’m OK working at it for months if I need to, but I’m not sure what I am doing wrong? I don’t think I’m at the skill level to file the thing down and start all over with new teeth, given I don’t have a workbench or bench vise of any kind yet. Thoughts???

  52. James Savage on 31 October 2014 at 5:03 am

    I have just sharpened my few saws when I wondered if I should have a dedicated file for each tooth size?
    I have only one file in my toolbox so far which has faces more than twice the height of my largest (6 tpi) saw teeth to avoid uneven wear to the file face. When filing a 10 tpi saw with the same file would this create a step in the file face which could cause me problems when I sharpen my larger toothed saw again?

    • Paul SellersTeam Member on 31 October 2014 at 9:40 pm

      You are right, it’s best to size your files.
      At first glance, having so many saw file sizes can be confusing and it would be nice to have a one size fits all file but that’s not going to happen. You can reduce the number of files needed with judicious thought to about two or three. All traditional Western handsaws can be sharpened with a standard 6″ triangular saw file. It’s when we use larger saws that we need bigger files and smaller saws like tenon and dovetail saws that we use say a 4” double extra slim. Using too large a file creates a wide bottom to the bottom of the gullet and shortens the height of the teeth. So you must decide which large or small saw you need for your work and find the files you need as a max and min. For my handsaws I stay around 8-10 tpi but use a 6 tpi rip too. For the 8-10 tpi saw a 6” slim taper is good. For the 6 tpi saw I use a 7” tapered file.

      The right size for a file should be with file sides just over double the length of the tooth face you will be filing.

      The less obvious logic in sizing saw files is that as they decrease in length the files become slimmer and the file teeth become more fine and the small flat faces that form the corners suit the bottom of the gullet.

      The reason for using saw files of varying sizes and tooth cut then directly correlates to the sizing index of the saw teeth. For finer saw teeth we need finely defined corners to the file to create equally fine gullet bottoms and fine cuts to the teeth. Coarser files of larger size remove too much steel to fast because they are harder to control in the stroke so the finer the cut of file the better control we have.

      File sizing appropriate to the tooth size gives balanced wear on the faces of the file and gives you the equivalent of three larger flat files united by three small ones in one file. Since each corner functions as an independent file and the faces must function equally and therefor wear equally and to the same depth. Using a file where the sides of the triangle are a lesser height than half the face of the tooth being filed wears into the face above half way so when the last face is in play one face is already worn and only cutting at half pace and so the file cuts unevenly and is difficult to balance in use.

      Diligently choosing the right sized file appropriate to tooth sizing ensures sensible and safe filing. Generally, we need wide-faced files for ripsaws since most ripsaws have 5-8 tpi, and a couple of additional files to cover the range of panel rip- and cross-cut saws.

      In summing up I would say a 4-5″ slim or extra slim file will handle crosscut saws from 8 to 10 tpi and the 4″ double extra slim will deal with saws from 12 to 22 tpi. Saws with more than 16 tpi become very fine and thereby are much harder to sharpen accurately.

      • James Savage on 1 November 2014 at 10:02 pm

        Thank you, that makes perfect sense. I’m off to the file shop in the morning!

      • mike melendrez on 4 November 2014 at 4:07 pm

        Thank you this is great information. I need to purchase some new files and now I know what to buy. Thank you.

  53. Gareth Martin on 22 February 2015 at 9:37 am

    Since first viewing this video about 14 months ago I have spent some time sharpening saws I’ve bought for little money at car boot sales and online. Very little “maintenance” work gives me so much pleasure as saw sharpening and I’ve started to use it as a form of meditation. When I get worked up about a mistake or a problem which would usually act to discourage me, I sharpen a saw and after 20 minutes or so things seem much less problematic. I really love saw sharpening and come back to view this video every couple of months, just for the sheer enjoyment of watching. Thanks Paul.

  54. dsigntrail on 6 March 2015 at 9:37 am

    are there any plans for continuing the series with how to sharpen a crosscut saw with the fleam pattern?

  55. Jah Rap on 4 June 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Many thanks Paul, you excell at teaching, love your attitude to life and work. CHEERS

  56. Ross Andrews on 25 June 2016 at 5:34 am

    How straight do sharpening files need to be? I recently ordered some Bahco files. another were very slightly bowed in one direction and another looks like an aspiring hockey stick. The third seems pretty obviously flawed but will the slightly bowed files create any problems when sharpening? Are slightly curved files fairly common or do I just have bad luck? (Newbie so thanks for your patience; haven’t found any discussion of the issue online or in my books.)

    • Philip Adams on 29 June 2016 at 11:31 am

      If your saw sharpening file is lightly bowed, it shouldn’t cause any issues.

  57. drwillie on 15 November 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Almost all the new back/tenon saws I see for sale are filed in a cross cut pattern, which makes no sense to me because, except for the shoulders of a tenon, ALL cutting on a tenon is rip cutting. The great majority of the sawing I see here on the videos is ripping. If I buy a new back/tenon saw, should I just suck it up and refile it for a rip cut? Should I eventually plan on getting more than one so I’ll have at least one of each? All I have now for this type of saw is a medium quality “Gent’s” saw, with approximately 15 tpi.

    Thanks

  58. jeffdustin on 19 March 2017 at 5:58 am

    If you have an aggressive diamond file from DMT or similar, can you sharpen one of the modern saws that have hardened teeth?

    It seems like the diamond sharpener would far outlast a steel file saving the woodworker money and keeps with your philosophy of avoiding waste.

  59. Steve Hawkes on 6 December 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Hi Paul, and Thank you Thank you Thank you for being such an excellent instructor and for choosing such fun and beautiful projects that also manage to keep it at least a but challenging to us novices! I was trying to figure out how your sharpening clamp was made and I Think I can make one that will work but would it be possible for you to do another short video just on the clamp and if not walk us through how to make it at least give the dimensions and some detailed views so we can better figure it out? I do think it would be a really fun and Very USEFUL project to do, but then so far, ALL of your projects have been! I’m a disabled and retired journey level machinist/tool maker but the equipment for that is VERY expensive and I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and working with wood and thanks to your video on You Tube and then joining your Master Classes here, I have to say I have found a whole new passion that will keep me busy and active for the rest of my years!!!

    Steve Hawkes

    • Philip Adams on 8 December 2017 at 12:14 pm

      Hello Steve,
      There is some information on it here:
      https://paulsellers.com/2012/06/solid-saw-chocks-simply-made/
      It is on our list for possible filming, but that is rather long and we are trying to focus on the essentials as much as possible, so I can’t make any promises. Sorry.

      • Steve Hawkes on 9 December 2017 at 1:25 am

        Thanks Philip and I totally understand. I just think it would be a really fun and Useful project and I KNOW there are others out there like myself, who would really enjoy making and Using such a wonderful tool for sharpening our saws!

  60. Gambo Richards on 13 January 2018 at 6:25 am

    Hi Paul, I have sharpened a panel saw and a back saw using this method. They are wonderfully sharp, but both saws seem to get “stuck” on the push stroke at certain points.
    – is this normal?
    – Is there something i can do to stop this? I have looked for a tooth that is not as uniform as the rest, but they all seem ok by eye.

    • Philip Adams on 16 January 2018 at 1:07 pm

      Hello Gambo,
      Have you checked the set? Sometimes saws are unevenly or underset. Could cause the aforementioned problem.
      Best, Phil

      • Gambo Richards on 22 January 2018 at 4:24 pm

        Fantastic! this is the answer. I saw that my set was uneven, so after setting the teeth i have a lovely clean cut.

        Thanks Phil

  61. amgrima on 28 July 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Extremely helpful video and great camera work. One question: do you recommend the microbevelling on the back of the teeth (where you use the EZE file) when sharpening a cross-cut saw? Didn’t see that on the cross-cut sharpening video, and was curious. Many thanks.

  62. whamridge on 1 January 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Paul, thank you for this wonderfully informative video. Comprehensive in scope, easy-to-understand instruction, and truly excellent camera work in a reasonably priced subscription service offers rare value! Everything about this particular video is excellent, but I especially appreciated the segment on saw setting. I recently purchased a saw set but the instructions are horrible. Your closeup demo just removed the mystery entirely. I also am intrigued by the micro-bevel idea and am eager to apply that step.

    Because of a recent foot surgery I have been unable to walk or put any weight on the foot for over a month, with another month to go. I have really appreciated having access to your videos, which have helped me make productive use of my confinement.

    And finally, I’m wondering if you might consider doing a project video about the saw clamp you use.

  63. Robert Scruggs on 31 January 2019 at 7:51 pm

    Just wanted to add my thank you! I have a couple of old saws that were my Father’s. It will be great fun and better memories to see them working again!

    Thank you!

  64. shavitz on 8 January 2020 at 10:32 am

    Hello,

    I know this is quite an old post, but I hope to get an answer anyway 🙂

    When using a saw set it bends the metal and I guess every material has a breaking point. so my question is how many times can one convert a rip-cut to a crosscut and the other way before the metal breaks?

    Thank you!

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 9 January 2020 at 4:04 pm

      Hi,

      I passed your question on to Paul and below is his answer:

      There appears to be some confusion here, perhaps I can make it clear. Rip cut and crosscut saws have the same level of set, set is a different character of the saw. Sharpening alters the tooth from a pinnacle point to a chisel point but has nothing to do with bending the teeth. You can follow saw sharpening on my videos and on my blog.

      Kind Regards,
      Izzy

  65. Colin Scowen on 8 January 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Unless I am mistaken (a distinct possibility), changing a saws tooth profile from rip to cross to rip etc. is generally going to be done by filing the teeth rather than just by setting the teeth.
    So, if you are filing the teeth, then you would be changing the tooth profile, the depth of the tooth and so you would never be bending the same tooth in the same place on the tooth more than once.

  66. Benoît Van Noten on 9 January 2020 at 3:00 pm

    To complement what Colin said in his second sentence,
    – you always bind the tooth in the same direction (unless you made a mistake or you want to reduce the set – A good reason to not put too much set);
    And to use other words: the bending is mainly at the root of the teeth which is moved with each filling.

    Bending a teeth in the other direction might break it (directly or while correcting the mistake).

  67. Benoît Van Noten on 9 January 2020 at 3:24 pm

    To avoid any misunderstanding due to my previous comment:

    – one doesn’t use the saw-set to diminish set, one uses light taps with a hammer.

  68. Alec Cicciarella on 21 June 2020 at 5:46 pm

    How can you tell if your saw can be sharpened or how manny points per inch? I have a hardware store back saw and a small panel saw and I couldn’t find any information on how many points per inch these were.

    Thanks Alec.

    • Alec Cicciarella on 21 June 2020 at 7:27 pm

      Could you please do a video on hand saw files I don’t have a store that sells them locally. I looked online and I found these sizes on highlandwoodworking.com. Size:
      Extra Slim – 4 inch
      Slim – 6 inch
      Extra Slim – 6 inch
      Extra Extra Slim – 6 inch
      Slim – 7 inch
      Extra Slim – 7 inch
      Extra Extra Slim – 7 inch

      What does slim / extra slim mean? Not sure how many points per inch my saws are (see my question above) but they are rip cut saws

      Thanks Alec.

      • sanford on 22 June 2020 at 8:09 am

        People talk about points per inch (PPI) and teeth per inch (TPI). Sometimes folk seem to use these interchangeably, but they are slightly different. For example, a saw with 4 TPI will have 5 PPI. You can determine either PPI or TPI simply by counting points or teeth in an inch of your saw. For the difference between PPI and TPI, and how to count them, I found the following very clear. https://thesawblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/t-p-i-vs-p-p-i/.

        Which file to use seems very mysterious until you sharpen a few saws. I have a number of files. I originally agonized over them, but now I just reach for one that pretty obviously works for the saw in hand without thinking about whether it is extra slim or extra extra slim. The bottom line is that you want one that is just thick enough so that when it sits in the gullet between two teeth to sharpen them, half (or two thirds?) the file stands above the teeth. The reason is this. As you file your saw teeth, you wear out the file. As long as half or so of the file stands above the teeth, you only wear out part of the file face. So each face can be used twice. Hm .. . . I have no idea whether that is clear. A picture would help, but I do not have one. Once you try sharpening, it might just be obvious. You should take a look at something like Blackburn tools which has some good info on files. Here is a page with some fairly standard recommendations for which files to use for various PPI. http://www.blackburntools.com/new-tools/new-saws-and-related/taper-saw-files/index.html. They have a chart with the relevant info. The chart is a bit quirky. Focus mainly on the first column with the files and the last with PPI for the saw. (They have a TPI column too, but that refers to the teeth in the file, not the saw. Some file sizes have finer teeth than others. I do not know how important that info is for someone who just wants to learn to sharpen a saw as long as you match your PPI to more or less the right file .) For some more info about files, e.g., what slim, extra slim etc mean, try http://www.blackburntools.com/blog/concerning-saw-files-which-i-am-now-selling/ . If you search the web, I am sure you can find other explanations that might be better for you. There are a bunch of decent tutorials out there.

        I am not sure, in general, how to tell whether your saw can be sharpened. I have one modern hardware store cross cut saw that cannot be sharpened. I can only say that the teeth look very different from my saws that can be sharpened. The teeth have a sort of different color which, I guess, is the result of them having been hardened.

      • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 3 July 2020 at 12:33 pm

        Hi Alec,

        Paul says:
        Extra slim file is slightly slimmer than a slim file. The number of points is the amount of points between the start of the 1” mark and the 1” mark. Place the ruler on the first tooth and then measure the points that come in between.

        We have a guide on Common Woodworking which you may find useful: https://commonwoodworking.com/saw-files/

        Kind Regards,
        Izzy

        • Patrick Rippl on 7 July 2020 at 8:42 pm

          Thank you Paul for the great video, it really helped me getting started and I had great results over the last few month.
          But recently I hit a brick wall:
          I bought a veritas 14 tpi rip cut carcass saw.
          The first half of the plate cuts perfectly fine, but then somewhere around the middle, always in the same area, it suddenly stalls. On rip cuts you can compensate for that by either brute forcing it or lifting the teeth slightly, although both still dont make for a great sawing experience. But on crosscuts it completely stalls, now way around: lifting does nothing until the saw jumps out of the cut and forcing does either nothing or it breaks the wood (!).
          I’ve tried everything I could think of, but nothing worked:
          Neither sharpening nor changing the set of the teeth helped even a bit.
          Maybe the rake angle is the problem, but to be honest, according to veritas it’s 10° and from the looks of it its the same angle over the full length of the saw, so why would it cut perfectly on the first half and suddenly completely stall for the latter half?
          I know a remote diagnosis is impossible, but do you have any idea what I could be doing wrong or what I overlook?

          As it is, the saw is unusable, because it stalls so violantly und suddenly that you almost certainly will break off the wood when this happens near the end of the cut.

          Thank you for your help!!

          • YrHenSaer on 7 July 2020 at 10:52 pm

            There must be something happening at that point……It is possible that one or more of the teeth are standing proud at the point where it stalls or there’s a change in the rake angle. Too aggressive rakes will cause a jamming effect.
            If not, have you tried jointing the plate?
            This involves leveling all the teeth for the full length of the saw plate.

            1 – Fix the saw, teeth upwards, in a saw vice or similar holding implement. Next, get a box marker and dab all the teeth. This will show where you have jointed the saw when you carry out the next step.
            2 – Use a long straight file – or as I do – a medium or fine diamond sharpening plate. Position it over the teeth and take a single, long, even stroke along the teeth, front to back. Look at the tips. If all the tips show show a shiny contact with your file or plate. Go to the next step. If not and you have tips tat are not touched, repeat until each tooth shows wear against the background of the black marker.
            3 – With a saw file, sharpen down each tooth to a sheer point. This should give you a clear even saw plate with all the teeth at the same level.

            Hope this works.



          • Patrick Rippl on 9 July 2020 at 9:28 pm

            Thanks for your reply!

            Yes I have jointed the plate already, no tooth is proud and they are well set.
            You are probably right concerning the rake angle. It’s hard to tell by eye whether it changes or not, especially since I already jointed it, but I tested it a bit latley and judging by the cut performance on rip cuts I’m pretty shure now the latter half of the plate has a more aggressive rake.



          • Jim Allen on 11 July 2020 at 3:23 pm

            Hi Patrick,
            I have sharpened quite a few saws over the years and I still have some trouble getting the rake angle correct. I have a solution and it is to use a small block of wood on the small end of the file. Drill a small hole in the side of the block and when you have the file at the right angle drive the file into the block so the top of the block is level. Now you just need to make sure that the block remains level as you sharpen. I hope this helps. –Jim



  69. YrHenSaer on 22 June 2020 at 10:54 am

    @Alec Cicciarella
    A lot of questions….
    First, sharpening: Most (not all) modern, ‘new’ saws intended for the building trades are ‘hardened tips’ which means that the tips of the teeth are treated so that the are resistant to wear, last longer but cannot be sharpened because the steel is too hard to file. When it’s blunt you toss it. To find out is easy. Often you can see visually that the tips are darkened in relation to the rest of the metal. Alternatively take a small file to a tooth and see if it bites. If the file slides off, it’s a hardened tooth. If it cuts the metal then it can be re-sharpened. Simple as that.

    Teeth-per-inch/points-per-inch.
    Teeth are what they say – the two sides of a triangle that stick up in a peak. The ‘points’ of a saw are the bottoms of the gullet.
    To find out, lay a rule against the teeth and mark off one inch: count the tips visible for one inch – if there are, for example 12 tooth tips, then you have a 12 TPI saw. You will obviously have one less ‘point’ measuring this way, so a 12 TPI saw will also be a 11 PPI saw. Two ways of measuring the same thing.

    Saw files at first glance are triangular – but if you look closely, they actually have 6 sides. Three flat sides joined by a rounded edge at the junction. It is this rounded edge that cuts the gullet; the flats cut the straight edges of the tooth. Usually it is the rounded sections that wear first and fragment, because they are subjected to the most force and are worth looking after. Better quality files last longer in this area that cheap ones.

    Size the file?
    The correct size file, technically speaking, is one that sits firmly in the gullet between two teeth with the longer flat section (the back of the tooth) occupying a tiny amount less than half the width of the flat face of the file. This is so that you can use all three sections of the file in rotation without re-using an old surface.
    Obviously, the less TPI, the bigger the size of the teeth and the larger the cross-section of file needed. Because the sides and corner are proportional, the radius at the base of the gullet will increase with size and this is why it is bad practice to use a file that is too big. It will deform your saw.

    The slim, extra-slim/extra-extra-slim part of the file size refers to the width of the flat section of the file.
    The best manufacturers will provide the effective length of the cutting stroke of each file as well as the side width so that you can select what size is needed from the size of the tooth on your saw as I explained.

    Hope that this helps….. it’s all quite simple!

  70. Larry Geib on 12 July 2020 at 6:16 pm

    I once set a saw,lost count of which way to set the teeth, and set half of them the “wrong” way. It’s pretty easy to lose track with small teeth.

    The saw exhibited behaviour a lot like you describe. Fortunately, after a good session in the moaning chair I was able to go back and correct the mistake without breaking any teeth.

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