It's a matter of knowing all the angles
Synopsis: Harold H. Payson remembers a time before circular saws, when the handsaw that cut fast and true to the line without biding or rattling in its kerf was admired and remembered. Properly sharpened handsaws make short work of most cutting tasks; improperly sharpened, they’re drudgery to use. Here he explains how to remedy a saw’s problems: he outlines the basic process of sharpening and then details how to do it. He uses a filing bench and a filing vise to hold the saw properly, and he uses a sawtooth jointer and saw set. He clarifies the differences between sharpening crosscut saws and ripsaws, and he shares tips on troubleshooting a saw. Side information by Henry T. Kramer explains how to use handsaws.
Years ago, a visitor to my father’s shop in Rockland, Me., spying the half-dozen or so heavily chewed file handles sitting on his filing bench, paused his conversation for a moment and asked, “You got rats?”
No, my father, Herman W. Payson, didn’t have rats in his shop. What he had was the best reputation around for sharpening saws of any kind, especially handsaws—an honor not to be taken light ly. Many of the best ship and house carpenters in our area brought their handsaws to him and returned faithfully, time and time again. The handles on his files were chewed up not from rats, but from years of being lightly “thunked” on freshly sharpened sawteeth to remove the burr left by the file. If removal of the burr showed a tooth not brought up to a sharpened point, then that tooth received another swipe or two with the file until it did.
My dad’s heyday was back in the 1930s, in the era before circular saws replaced handsaws as the common…