Tools Safety: Advice On Sharpening A Handsaw

Maintaining your own hand tools will help cut down on injuries and saves you money. Sharpening your handsaws is inexpensive and not difficult; learn how with these tips and instructions.

Always use caution when working with any tool and use safety glasses and gloves to protect eyes and hands. Handsaws are just as dangerous and in some instances more dangerous than power saws because we tend to overlook the dangers because they are not electrically powered.

Dull blades can be a safety hazard so it is important to always make sure your saw blades are sharpened and in proper working condition. Sharpening the blades can also be dangerous and should be done with caution and with the proper equipment.

Tools needed:

* Saw vise

* Small tapir file (triangular file)

* Fine mill file

* Saw set

* Safety glasses or goggles and gloves

How to properly sharpen a hand saw!

A saw vise is used to hold the saw steady. It also helps deaden the vibration of filing the blade. You do not need an expensive vise. Vises can be purchased at flea markets, garage sales, and bought new. Files are available in the same manner and saw sets can also be found at flea markets.

Sharpening a handsaw consists of three steps:

1. Jointing (making all teeth the same height)

2. Setting (kerf - adjusting the width of a groove made by the saw)

3. Filing (putting the edge on)

Anytime you sharpen a saw you must first examine the teeth to make sure they are all the same size and shape. Chances are unless you personally bought the saw it has been sharpened many times or poorly used making the teeth irregular. You must make all the teeth uniform before sharpening. This step is called jointing. It is only necessary when the teeth are really messed up. When you joint the teeth you use a fine file to take off the tips making the teeth the same height. Be sure to hold the file square to the teeth so as to not round the tips. It is best to use a jig for this and you can find saw jointers at flea markets or you can make your own out of a couple blocks of wood. Find a picture of a jointer and design one from wood blocks or search the flea markets or old tool stores.

Once you have your jig or jointer you set the file on the top of the jig with the face of the jig secure against the saw. Then you will make light strokes on each tooth along the entire length of the saw.

The next step is to set the teeth if needed. An easy way to tell if setting is needed is to pay attention when sawing. If the saw binds in the kerf it needs to be set. Using a saw set allows you to bend the teeth in the correct direction so the saw will slide smoothly instead of binding when you are cutting.

The type of wood you are cutting makes a difference on the saw set also. It is good to have more than one handsaw of each cut. If you are cutting green wood you want a wide set and if the wood is not green you want a narrower set. It also makes a difference what type of saw you are sharpening. If it is a mitre saw for example you do not even want a set. Once you know what type of saw you have you can easily check the set of the teeth and then make the adjustments.

Next you will place your saw in the securely in the vise. Fine the first tooth pointing away from you. Set your saw set so the plunger is lined up behind that tooth. The stop rod should rest on the saw blade. Gently squeeze the set handle so the plunger brings the tooth against the anvil. Repeat this process for every other tooth on this side. Once done flip the saw over and repeat the process. To check your work half the teeth should face right the other half left - right, left, right, left.

The last step is to file or sharpen the saw. Make sure the saw is still tightly secured in the vise. Make sure is set down as low as possible also. Doing this will help cut down the squeal made from the file and keep the vibration to minimal. To sharpen you will use a tapir file, which is triangular in style. Smaller files are easier to use. Most do not come with handles so make sure to buy a file handle also.

There are two basic saws:

* Rip saw

* Crosscut saw

We will begin with the ripsaw. With a ripsaw it is important for the top edge of the teeth to be sharp. You will guide the file straight across each tooth. Do not file at an angle when sharpening a ripsaw. File one tooth, skip a tooth, and so on till the length of the blade is done. Flip the saw over and sharpen the remaining teeth. Each tooth that is facing towards you will be filed on the front of that tooth and each one facing away from you will be filed on the back of that tooth.

Filing a crosscut saw is basically the same as with the ripsaw other than the angle of the file. With the crosscut saw you want to hold the file at an angle to the blade. About a 45 degree angle should be sufficient. File the same way as with the rip saw then flip the saw and finish the remaining teeth.

Once you have finished the filing it is time to see if your hard work paid off. Make a straight line on a piece of wood and test the saw. It should follow the line leaving a smooth cut surface. If it does not do this you can make some adjustments. The saw also should not bind or have ragged cut edges.

If the cut is ragged you probably over set the saw. If that is the case you will have to just use the saw until the set corrects its self. You can try dressing both sides of the teeth, which I will explain next, but only do this if you really don't like the ragged edge cut. To dress the teeth take a whet stone and lightly run it across the sides of the teeth. Retest the saw and make any further adjustments necessary. If the saw is not following the line and going off to the right or left you will need to dress whichever side is off. If the saw binds in the kerf (cut groove) and follows a straight line it needs more set. If it does not follow the line and binds try dressing before setting.

This should give you a workshop full of well-maintained handsaws without the hefty cost of professional sharpening or replacement saws.

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