Monday, September 23, 2013

Saw Sharpening

I just had another experience to support my "people really overcomplicate things" theory.  The theory, in short, is that people overcomplicate things by assuming they're harder then they are.

This experience was using a saw set.

Now, I know that a lot people think sharpening a saw is hard.  I don't know why they think that, but I also don't know why people think putting up tile walls is hard.  I'd always been a little hesitant to say "Sharpening saws is easy," because I'd never had to set the teeth before.  Well, now I'm going to say it:  sharpening saws is easy.

A year or so ago I bought a saw on eBay.  It cost $7.50, with free shipping, so I knew I wasn't getting a fantastic saw.  But it was a backsaw, with a usable looking tote, and around 14TPI, which was what I wanted.  After some poking, I decided it had three real problems with it:

1) The plate was curved.  That wasn't too hard to fix, so I did.

2) The teeth were dull.  OK, that still needs to be fixed (I still can't figure out where I packed my needle file when I moved), but I've done it before, and it's not hard.

3) The teeth had no set at all.  In fact, it's possible that they were leaving a kerf narrower than the sawplate.  In any case, it would jam tight about 1/4" into a piece of wood, which isn't actually very useful.

Over the weekend, though, I finally found a saw-set that would work on teeth that small, and time to use it.  You know what?  It's easy.  Granted it's a small saw -- about 11" -- but the teeth are pretty small, too.  It took me about 10 minutes, some of which was spent trying to figure out how to best clamp it to be able to reach everything.  Given that sharpening usually takes me about 10-15 minutes, I would say the whole job could be done in under half an hour per saw, barring weirdness like severely bellied blades, missing teeth, or a desire for unusual tooth geometry. 

Do I think everyone should be able to completely sharpen and set a saw in 20-25 minutes?  No.  I have some advantages going in.  I have better than average vision, which helps with the little teeth.  I have good hand-eye coordination, which means I hit the wrong tooth fairly rarely.  And I don't feel a need for my tools to be perfect, just very good, which means I don't worry about it a lot if I get one stroke too many or few on a couple of teeth.  Yeah, it's not ideal, but it will average out in the long run.

But, do I think everyone who uses hand saws should pick up a file and saw set and learn to use them?  Yes.  It's easy.  Just try not to overcomplicate things too much.

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