Sharpening Saws: Crosscut Handsaw
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When and why do we sharpen saws to a crosscut? How do you go about doing it? Paul explains the reasoning behind them and goes through the full process of sharpening a crosscut saw. With a little practice, you will be able to sharpen crosscut saws with confidence.
See our video on recutting and resizing saw teeth if working on a saw that needs more drastic restoration.
The new workshop looks good, it has much better lighting than the old one which is a plus.
Paul excellent video, thank you for this. I have several old saws in various conditions that need attention. I also like your simple saw vice which I am going to copy even though I have 2 older saw vices bt are not as long as your hand made one.
I also got notice the book and DVD shipment arrived in the US and I can’t wait, yeah. ARE the DVD’s compatible to work with a Mac computer or do you have to use a DVD player ?
Thanks again !
@Steve Massie … There’s no difference between a dvd player or a PC or Mac or Linux computer with a DVD drive.
I just completed making a vise extension for sharpening saws. I took a 14 inch length of planed 3/4 x 5 oak and re-sawed it into twin 5/16 inch thick slabs, except for the last 2 1/4 inches which I left joined … that’s the depth of my vise. I put in a couple of screws from each side at the top of the vise, to prevent splitting force from reaching blow that depth.
Then I added a couple of crosswise pieces, 12 inches wide. The top is 1 inch, the bottom 3/4. I planed a 1/8 inch flat section to pinch the saw blade, and the cut a notch below that, just to differentiate.
I made side-by-side dual mortise and tenon joints, so each half-slab had two tenons sticking up, 1″ x 5/16. The mortises are ugly but tight. I planed the to surface sloping 15 degrees each way away from the middle … or 75 degrees, if you think about it the other way) and drew lines at 15 degree angles, to guide me in filing cross-cut. (based on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IGVjLPNsXA) Though maybe I should use a wider angle, 25 or 30.
I find the vise extension brings the work up to a comfortable height, but the dual 5/16 slabs are two thin. Maybe I should have used two 3/4 inch slabs? It all wobbles too much. I made it work, today, by having my left arm the other side of the stand, holding the other side of the triangular file, so the file was clamped between my arm and side. I’ll see how I cope with that … but if you make something like that, I definitely suggest making it thicker than 5/16 inch (8mm).
Very clear instructions. Thanks.
Was this shot in the new workshop?
Nice and straightforward explanation makes it look very easy.
Thanks for the video.
Have you ever used Engineers layout fluid (dykem) usually blue but also red to quickly coat the teeth so that it is obvious which ones have been filed?
Very useful especially for longer saws.
A bit messy but can be removed with meths
Cheapskates use magic markers instead of engineer’s fluid 🙂
I’ve used both. The felt tip on the marker gets torn up very quickly. A small bottle of Dykem will last for many years. It’s also easier to apply and shows up better (but it is really messy).
A good reason for using a marker pen is they are clean and easily available.
Engineers blue marker is messy, stains everything in its path and not that easy to buy for the masses.
Thanks for this Paul, I’ve been waiting for this video until I sharpen some cross cut saws that I have. Looking forward to the day that I don’t need the plastic handled Bahco panel saw that I’ve been relying on for my cross cuts.
Hi there from Portugal,
Congrats on new Shop,
And Thanks Master Paul Sellers for Another great video.
(Blog das Madeiras)
THANK YOU Paul!
I have long enjoyed sharpening my saws rather than sending them out and waiting, and waiting, and waiting for their return. It’s such an easy skill to learn and you make it easier and less mysterious.
BIG Kudos for the new shop! While I enjoyed all the videos from the castle shop, this one is noticeably improved. Better lighting, as mentioned before is one factor making the videos clearer. And, it looks like you’ve probably added improved camera handling rigs. The multi-camera views, and editing between the views, is yet another improvement. I saw multi-camera recording in other videos but it seems these are better yet.
Thanks, as always, for the instruction, and for constantly improving how it is delivered.
i don’t have a crosscut saw .all my saws are filed rip .i do how ever use a disposable saw for large crosscuts which tears the grain on the exit of the cut badly unless i use a knife wall.i noticed your cross cut in the demo there was minimal tear out even for a 7 point saw .i just wonder are disposable saws filed or cut differently to a sharpenable saw?
I seem to have the sharpening down as far as with the file. Setting the teeth is still something I have a problem with. Keep plugging away and one day it will all come together. Enjoy working in your new shop. I know I’ll enjoy watching you build masterpieces.
so detailed yet so easy to take in thanks
Thank you for the lesson.
Thank you Paul very much for this video as for all the other videos and for everything you have done for me. You have opened me a whole new world which has now become a very important part of my life complementing and balancing my demanding job and my wonderful little family. I have watched all of your videos and read almost every entry of your blog. Every time I watch a video of you I become calmed and at the same time excited to try out all the things and create (unfortunately it is mostly in the nights so I have to wait till the next spare time – it could be the next day or weeks later).
I would second Philipp J. as exactly as he wrote: “Nice and straightforward explanation makes it look very easy.”
Last week I needed a vintage grooving saw get working which had a rip saw pattern with about 8 tpi and had to be sharpened. Just having read your instruction from 5 APRIL 2016 “Sharpening Your First Crosscut Saw–Part 1” I gave a try and it was a really easy and quick process as you said.
Coincidentally I bought the same Spear & Jackson saw two weeks ago because of the resharpenability. But beside the questionable aesthetics the handle just does not feel right: the grip hole is very big vertically and horizontally. I think it is probably meant to put in all four fingers and grip it like a hammer but this way I miss the sense of control I have with my Disston D8 putting the index finger on the side pointing forward. And the hand is positioned too far from the saw blade. This was very disappointing.
So I thought okay then maybe I will make a copy of the Disston handle as a replacement. Then I realized that the handle is completely riveted! I have no idea how to get them off.
So I would like to ask you and others how I can get these rivets off and how I can replace them since my only known source offers bolts and split nuts for 7.70 EURO up to 14.80 per piece! (four of them are needed and the saw cost me 25 EURO!)
Maybe I could cut out the grip hole square and glue in some wood pieces and carve out the shape.
Maybe you could make a nice series of saw handle making? 😉
Again thank you very much for your teaching!
Je Hyuk Lee
Hello Je Lee, I had this issue with riveted saw nuts on a tenon saw I refurbished. It turned out that drilling the centre out on one side, which was pretty straightforward, allowed me to just knock them through with a pin punch (nail set). Fitting new saw nuts was not overly difficult. If they are old and you are careful, they can sometimes be simply levered apart. Not recommended unless there is some play in them already as it is difficult to not damage the handle. Also, look out for really awful condition saws that have a full complement of saw nuts that screw together. It can be cheaper to get replacement saw nuts this way, and throw the rest of the saw or turn it into card scrapers or similar. Good luck.
thank you very much for your advice! Yes, drilling out the rivets seems an easy method. Quite sure that I will do it that way.
Getting old saws with intact saw nuts on the other hand would be rather difficult because that type of saw is rarely found here in Germany. Most common are frame saws.
Great video Paul. I have a few old Disston saws that I will be restoring and this will help a great deal.
Thanks Paul. Been looking forward to this one for a while. The shop looks great!
Thanks Paul. Excellent video once again. Thank you for all you do. We all appreciate your commitment and lessons. Your new shop looks very nice!
Great, refreshing video on filing a saw. I took it upon myself to learn to some of these methods some 45 years ago when I was a carpenter apprentice. We hand sharpened our circular saw blades on the job site back then as well before carbide blades came into vogue.
Now that I’m a semi retired tradesman, I can once again indulge myself in using hand tools to my heart’s content. While in the course of building a new workbench for myself recently, I ran across your blog and was influenced to make my design closer to the one you built in your video series. Now I’m hooked on watching the many other videos too. Your great teaching skills make them a joy to watch. Thanks for passing on your knowledge and skills.
Thanks Paul. I do have a few questions. How do you determine set? That is, how do you determine how much set to put into the teeth of a cross cut saw when using a saw set?
Would there ever be a reason to remove the set?
What is a good rule of thumb for setting the teeth again? I would assume it is when the teeth have been sharpened a few times and are losing their set, but how would you tell when that point has been reached?
Thanks for the great video. Do you have any tips on what type of file to buy for sharpening the saw?
Paul wrote an article on saw files that I think will answer your questions:
The new shop looks great! I agree, the lighting is much better.
In this video the overhead camera added quite a bit for me – the novice saw sharpener.
Serendipitous ( I had been wanting to be able to see from overhead in a couple previous videos )
I agree with all the comments above about the lighting and camera angles. Very nicely done.
I really enjoy the instructional videos. They bring clarity to the issues involved and your instructional method is very comfortable.
I have little difficulty in sharpening saws, but I never seem to get the teeth setting correct. Have I missed something in you classes that will help mr to set the teeth correctly?
Noticeably upgraded production, the close ups are very clear, the lighting superb. Well done, very clear instructions. Please cover the setting options next.
Thank you for the kind comments re the new workshop and setup. As always, we are working to improve the clarity and quality of the productions.
We are planning on addressing saw set in more detail the near future.
@ Je Lee
I have Bought S&J also, but handle is just made for me. My friend with smaller hand tried it and had a remarks similar like Yours but it you place your hand so that middle finger touches upper end of the hole made foe hand you will have no problem with three finger grip unless you have relay small hand.
This saw is superb for what i do (i have cut almost 50m of 55mm thick stock of super-dry and hard walnut rip and crosscut ) and there still no sign of dulling.
Price of the saw makes it cheaper than Jap disposable blade and it performs better than much more expensive saws of this type.
I am going to buy another one and resharpen it to rip cut and i wont buy more of this type. Except if i find same model S&J but with 7ppi – SJ-9525X which I cant find now.
I’ve been lucky enough to sell expensive one costing about 5 time more than S$J.
Use nitrocellulose lacquer thinner to remove protective coat (it will also remove stamped S&J sign fron the blade) and out a coat of thinned bee’s wax instead. You will up the performance significantly.
However handle is finished with NC soluble finish so pay attention not to remove finish from the handle.
Even if you remove it you can dye handle (if you don like beech color) and protect it with curing oil or wipe on varnish.
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.
PS. I’ve posted this question in the other saw sharpening comments sections in the hopes of getting a quicker answer. Please excuse the redundancy.
I am a little bit confused. If I am filing the back of the tooth leaning away from me and front of the tooth leaning towards me, that would leave the pinnacles of the teeth inside of the saw kerf. In the setting video, Paul clearly showed that the pinnacles need to be on the outside of the kerf. Am I wrong?
You must make sure that you are sharpening at an angle from the toe of the saw to the hand of the saw otherwise you will achieve what you say you are achieving. Wish you all the best in your sharpening endeavour!
Thank you Izzy and Paul. I think my problem was in misunderstanding what back and front of the teeth were. For some reason I thought that the back is the part of the tooth that we don’t see from sharpening position and vice versa. No I get it that the front and back are in relation to the toe and handle.
I have an older saw that I resharpen now and again, to a rip cut. It was a rip cut before, but as I looked at the teeth then (and now), I noticed that the gullet on some was deeper than the gullet on others, and the length of the tooth (heel to toe) was also variable. I have followed the method above, and every time I sharpen, I am getting sharp points on the teeth and the saw works.
So, my question is, should I be trying to vary the pressure / number of strokes to try to even out the size of the teeth and the depth of the gullet, or not worry about it?
Thank you for your question.
It may be that you are looking at the saw from the side when it still has some crosscut profile from the previous configuring. When you look at a crosscut saw from the side it will indeed look as though you have large and small teeth because the side you’re looking at shows the bevel on one side, and you see the small surface of the bevel on that side. In actuality they are the same size. If the saw is working well then each subsequent sharpening is an opportunity to resize teeth by pressing the file into the face of the larger teeth on the foredge.
Thanks for the reply, when I realised I’d posted in the wrong thread, I went and read the comments under the rip cut sharpening thread, and lo and behold, the question had already been answered 8 years ago (Dec 20th 2012 to be exact).
So I shall keep on keeping on with the sharpening and pay attention to teh pressure I apply and any wear on the short sides of the file.
Thank you Paul, excellent video. I have a S&J saw which I think is similar to the one you depicted, and also their 12″ tenon saw. Looking at the teeth through a magnifying glass, the former is cross cut whilst the tenon appears to be rip cut, as one would expect.
However, both saws are packaged as ‘universal’ – suitable for both cross and rip cutting. Is this just marketing billhooks or is there really such a thing as a universal saw, other than that either will work both ways to some extent?
On a tenon saw with small teeth a ripcut saw will cut both with and across the grain quite readily, this is because the size of the teeth. I sharpen all of my backsaws for a ripcut. I can adjust the aggression by altering the pitch which is angle of the front edge of the teeth.
Hi Paul and everyone,
Sorry if I missed it somewhere but I would like to know about gullet depth. How do you determine how deep to go? I just got a Sandvik panel saw and it looked like the previous owner had been cutting sheet metal with it. Every tooth was “flat topped” and shallow. I’ve been up and down it twice now, and it still doesn’t cut as well as I think it should. It’s 22″ and 12 tpi. The set is ok but does need some attention. However, it just doesn’t cut as efficiently as some of my other similar saws. Is there a formula for how deep the gullet should be, or is it just a matter of feel and performance?
Thanks in advance for your help and expertise.
Paul says: The depth is governed by the number of teeth per inch with equal spacing. It is a difficult task to true-up poorly shaped and abused teeth. You must apply different pressures to each side of a tooth to even up the spacing and the points.
Not an easy one to start on. The gullet depth is governed by the number of teeth per inch. That distance, say 7ppi means that the 1” distance is divided by 6 giving you seven spaces the width then determines the depth.
The gullet dept is determined by the file you use and the spacing of the teeth.
After jointing the plate ( the most important preparation to sharpening) you just file down to where you have jointed to ensure an even tooth line. . It’s important to use the correct triangular file for each spacing. Most file companies and sharpening sites have chart to help you size the file.
A good place to start is here: http://www.badaxetoolworks.com/pdf/SawFile1.pdf
Bad Axe has a host of filing info.
Hi Paul and team,
I am new to hand tool woodworking and bought a job lot of three old saws on eBay.
When I received them I discovered that two of them had 5.5 teeth per inch so I decided to sharpen one as a rip cut and the other as a cross cut.
I followed your instructions on the videos and found the whole process very quick and easy and had completed them both in a few minutes.
I have a question about using the saw setting tool, do the numbers on the tool relate to the number of teeth per inch?
Thanks again for all the great videos.
You might find our free guides on Common Woodworking (our sister site for beginners) useful, particularly the one on the sawset, I have included a section below along with the link if you would like to read more:
‘The numbers on the anvil (wheel) determine the different depths of set, larger saws often need more set than smaller ones. The anvil increases the angle which the tooth is set to each time you turn it.’
Paul has an extended discussion on the numbers on saw sets at about three minutes into this video.
He recommends setting his example 6 point saw using the 8 or 10 setting, with the advice that less set is almost always better.
Curious about the angle of the file while sharpening – or the angle of the face of the file perhaps. I know with a rip cut the front edge of the file is perpendicular to the bench (after the first inch or so of teeth). It looks like the top of the file here for the crosscut is “flat” or parallel to the benchtop making an equilateral triangle on the teeth.- Is this a correct assumption? I noticed you didn’t mention in the video.