Back saw – Beech and Walnut – 2015

With David Rae

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With a long weekend looming and fridge temperatures in the forecast David and I got out of my poorly insulated shop and headed to The Woodwright School in North Carolina.  We are slowly filling up our tool box with the spoils of our classes there including the bow saw we built last year, and the single iron jointer plane slated for construction this summer.  This time around we sunk our teeth into both a tenon saw and a dovetail saw under the watchful eye of Tom Calisto.  You can see Tom put a saw together on The Woodwright Shop here.  There is nothing cutting about it – in addition to being a lot of fun we both walked away with a lot more saw options to build a cabinet to store all of these saws.  Tom was an awesome teacher – gave us room to sink our teeth into the project but ensured we didn’t stray to far from the line.


David set up at his bench.  Yet again, he choose the one closest to the coffee pot and the pile of antique tool catalogs.  The blades come as rolls of spring steel, they were cleaned with vinegar and cut to size.  Tom prepped the bronze backings, slicing a kerf in the metal allowing the steel to fit in. The bronze backing adds rigidity to the saw while cutting – although limits its potential as a musical instrument.  Without teeth I guess these are the finest saws anywhere, so fine they couldn’t cut a tomato.

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After the handle was cut to shape – I squared the faces and marked lines for the saw blade.  As carefully as I could, which turned out to be not that carefully at all, I sawed a kerf and a small mortise.  I made up for my crooked cutting by sanding the interior.  As is always the case in woodworking – mistakes end up taking a lot longer and using too much sandpaper.  I didn’t spend that much time thinking about it but this kerf also effected the hang of the saw.


Using this tool was one of the true delights of the class – it is a hand cranked punch that cuts a specified number of teeth into the saw plate.  It got us a head start on the shaping and sharpening of the teeth.  I was sort of dreading the idea of cutting teeth with nothing but a file and a heck lots of patience.


Drilling the holes for the saw nut – it has a stop so it can’t be much easier.


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With the teeth punched it was time to add the set.  I made a rip saw so bent each tooth less aggressively than David did on his cross cut.  The saw set allows the teeth to cut a kerf wider than the thickness of the blade – preventing binding.  The trigger in the set pushes each tooth to one side.  In order to keep track of which teeth were going in which direction we put a pen mark on each tooth.

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Each tooth received it final shape at the end of a file.  David is using a jig to sharpen each tooth to the  specified angle of his crosscut.  I chose the ripsaw so sharpened my teeth straight across.

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After driving the split nuts into the place the blade is held firmly in place.  The saw nuts were filed down and than sanded smooth with the surface of the saw.

As another perk of the weekend – I was better emotionally prepared to ruffle through the piles of planes in the tool shop – David and I both bought a wooden plane which I am hoping to figure out before the jointer plane class this summer.



Turns out I don’t cut my dovetails any straighter with a homemade saw but some how they are more satisfying.  Back in my shop and already putting these things to work.




3 thoughts on “Back saw – Beech and Walnut – 2015

  1. Pingback: Custom Butcherblock – Yellow Pine – 2014:2015 | raecreation

  2. Pingback: Jointer plane – Beech – 2015 | raecreation

  3. Pingback: Kerfing Plane – Fixed Fence – 2018 | raecreation

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