And I suppose that is
the first thing I should have told you—I am not an
expert in anything I have done here. That is a
big part of the story, in fact.
It’s the story
of craftsman-made tools more generally. I
think part of the reason people don’t make their own
tools more often is because they are not experts at
it, and it seems sensible to let the experts handle
Of course it is true, the
experts make fantastic tools. And yet there is something
uniquely satisfying about making a tool yourself, especially one
as subtly complicated as a handsaw. It affords you the
opportunity to express yourself, to learn a lot, and to make
something that is tailored precisely to your liking.
That last part, though, the
“tailoring” part, that requires a bit of understanding.
Not just any old arrangement of saw parts will do.
Research was a very important part of what I did. I read
what I could find, like Holtzapffel and Grimshaw, and pretty
much any website or article I could find that pertained to saws.
I also consulted people who have already made saws. I wrote
in to the Wood Central Hand Tool Forum and got some questions
answered by the friendly people there - notably the professional
saw maker Mike Wenzloff, Vlad Spehar of Spehar Toolworks, and
Adam Cherubini. I also consulted the Norse Woodsmith web
site, where Leif Hanson has documented how he made a batch of
dovetail saws. I spent a lot of time sketching and mulling
things over before I actually did anything.
Something I discovered early on was
that the various design elements of a saw are like a puzzle in
the way they interlock and influence each other. Some of
it is kind of subtle. My saw plate, for instance, is on
the thin side for a panel saw—.032”. I liked the idea of
making the saw more delicate, as opposed to beefier, but in
doing so I was concerned that a thinner plate might kink.
So I thought about ways I could minimize the amount of force
required to push the saw through the wood—I used very minimal
set and kept the pitch relatively fine (11 tpi). The rake
and fleam are then somewhere in the middle, 12 and 20 degrees
respectively. And I haven’t had any problems - if anything I
think the thin plate has resulted in a saw that cuts through
boards surprisingly fast, not unlike having a thinner kerfed
blade on your table saw.
Making the saw required
surprisingly few tools. I used a circular saw freehand
with a cutoff blade to rough out my steel blank, and then I
refined and cleaned up the cut edge with files. Using a
circular saw for this job was a little harrowing and I wouldn’t
recommend it. You could probably cut out the blank using a
hacksaw, with the metal sandwiched between a couple thin pieces
of wood for bearing surface. There was no step along the
way that couldn’t have been done some other way.
For a handle I decided to use the
basic outline of an old D-7 I’ve got that fits my hand just
right, and to alter its decorative elements to my liking.
The hang of the saw and the ergonomics of the handle were
elements in the equation I chose to play around with maybe next