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Are expensive tenon saws worth it?

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rwillett

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Hi,

This is my first post. I have lurked for a while and seen some 'interesting' threads as well as some very informative ones. I will keep away from the 'interesting' ones for a while :)

Anyway, I'm getting more involved in woodworking as I've moved from London to North Yorkshire and have the time and scope to do more, I also now have a garage which is mine, all mine!

My knowledge of wood working is limited to what I learnt at school (which was very little), but I'm having to do more and more, so I need to start to learn. As part of a separate piece of work, I have just printed and built a CNC machine and am using that, originally that was aimed at a narrow market of foam cutting. See here for my trials and tribulations (New build in Clapham, North Yorkshire, UK).

After I built the CNC machine, I got a number of requests to do free sign engraving, so have done a number of "No Dogs" signs for the park and similar. I've glued two planks of wood together to make the sign high enough, flattened the surface and carved the letters out using a 2mm router bit. I spray paint the letters and then do a small 0.1mm pass over the surface to remove the excess paint, cut to size, varnish and then give them to people. This is NOT a commercial venture and is helping people out.

Anyway, as I am doing more woodworking, I thought I'd try and learn more about the tools and how to use them correctly and hopefully avoid burning the garage down, or losing a finger, or leg or killing myself. All of which are likely with my lack of motor skills. :)

Whilst many of you probably never even think about simple things such as cutting a piece of wood square, this is a major piece of work to me as I never, ever seen to get it right. It's never clean and almost never at right angles and never vertical and never wholly straight. Apart from that, it's pretty perfect :)

So I wondered about getting a tenon saw and using that, but then I looked around and discovered that there are as more tenon saws than I ever thought possible. There are even Japanese tenon saws that look like nothing I've ever seen. There are different lengths, different teeth per inch (why not metric?), different handles, brass backs, plastic backs, wooden handles, open handles and the views range from rubbish to brilliant for every saw. Apparently most tenon saws need to be sharpened before use according to a highly respected poster on here. That actually made me gulp, I have no idea how to sharpen a saw and am genuinely scared to even consider it. I then saw the price range of the mass market (£10-£30) and then saw that people recommended Veritas saws, so had a look at them and thought, Wow! They are expensive.

So my simple question is, can somebody recommend a decent (tenon?) saw for making straight cuts across wood 300mm (ish) high, that makes straight cuts, is easy to use, doesn't require sharpening and is safe for a muppet such as myself to get the hang of and use. I'm drowning under data and need to get some air. Oh, and are the Veritas saws worth it? I happen to have an antique centre down the road which seems to have a lot of older tools in, never bothered before, but are they worth looking at?

Many thanks

Rob
 

billw

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I have a Veritas dovetail saw and even I can cut a straight line with it. Saying that I'm comparing it to a lot of previously rusty, blunt saws. I wouldn't hesitate to buy another one though.
 

marcros

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Hi,

This is my first post. I have lurked for a while and seen some 'interesting' threads as well as some very informative ones. I will keep away from the 'interesting' ones for a while :)

Anyway, I'm getting more involved in woodworking as I've moved from London to North Yorkshire and have the time and scope to do more, I also now have a garage which is mine, all mine!

My knowledge of wood working is limited to what I learnt at school (which was very little), but I'm having to do more and more, so I need to start to learn. As part of a separate piece of work, I have just printed and built a CNC machine and am using that, originally that was aimed at a narrow market of foam cutting. See here for my trials and tribulations (New build in Clapham, North Yorkshire, UK).

After I built the CNC machine, I got a number of requests to do free sign engraving, so have done a number of "No Dogs" signs for the park and similar. I've glued two planks of wood together to make the sign high enough, flattened the surface and carved the letters out using a 2mm router bit. I spray paint the letters and then do a small 0.1mm pass over the surface to remove the excess paint, cut to size, varnish and then give them to people. This is NOT a commercial venture and is helping people out.

Anyway, as I am doing more woodworking, I thought I'd try and learn more about the tools and how to use them correctly and hopefully avoid burning the garage down, or losing a finger, or leg or killing myself. All of which are likely with my lack of motor skills. :)

Whilst many of you probably never even think about simple things such as cutting a piece of wood square, this is a major piece of work to me as I never, ever seen to get it right. It's never clean and almost never at right angles and never vertical and never wholly straight. Apart from that, it's pretty perfect :)

So I wondered about getting a tenon saw and using that, but then I looked around and discovered that there are as more tenon saws than I ever thought possible. There are even Japanese tenon saws that look like nothing I've ever seen. There are different lengths, different teeth per inch (why not metric?), different handles, brass backs, plastic backs, wooden handles, open handles and the views range from rubbish to brilliant for every saw. Apparently most tenon saws need to be sharpened before use according to a highly respected poster on here. That actually made me gulp, I have no idea how to sharpen a saw and am genuinely scared to even consider it. I then saw the price range of the mass market (£10-£30) and then saw that people recommended Veritas saws, so had a look at them and thought, Wow! They are expensive.

So my simple question is, can somebody recommend a decent (tenon?) saw for making straight cuts across wood 300mm (ish) high, that makes straight cuts, is easy to use, doesn't require sharpening and is safe for a muppet such as myself to get the hang of and use. I'm drowning under data and need to get some air. Oh, and are the Veritas saws worth it? I happen to have an antique centre down the road which seems to have a lot of older tools in, never bothered before, but are they worth looking at?

Many thanks

Rob
Welcome Rob.

You mention not requiring sharpening which reduces your choices to disposable saws. https://www.screwfix.com/c/tools/tenon-saws/cat9790019
 

marcros

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I will add, I dont know anything about Japanese saws- some may be disposable too. I have heard of people buying new blades for them once in a while
 

rwillett

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Welcome Rob.

You mention not requiring sharpening which reduces your choices to disposable saws. Tenon Saws | Hand Saws | Screwfix.com
Thanks for the replies. I have no experience of sharpening saws at all, I did look at some posts and videos but immediately labelled them as "Too difficult to do until I know what I am doing". So the saws mentioned are classed as disposable, I've learnt something which is always useful :)

Thanks

Rob
 

Rich C

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I bought a cheapy off the bay (about a tenner as I recall), seems fine to me - it cuts straight and feels nice in the hand. Needed a little clean up and a sharpen (it's really not that hard, just get a saw file and work methodically).
So yes, I'd say old tools are worth looking at if you're prepared to do a bit of work cleaning and fettling them. If you're buying in person look for all the teeth being intact and a straight back and plate. There's not much else to go wrong with a tenon saw.

 

AJB Temple

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Well...I like high end saws, partly because I appreciate the craftsmanship of them. I don't actually own any though. My everyday saws are all Veritas and I think they are excellent for the money. I also have a Flinn cross cut tenon bought second hand from a member here and I like that too. The blade is stiffer then Veritas. Do not buy the 4.5" large Veritas tenon - blade flexes too much. The others are all very good.

I was tempted by the one Mike G was offering with the bog oak handle, and I have been tempted by Rob Cosmann's saws. Managed to resist. These are lovely too: Two Lawyers Toolworks (drool).

All decent saws need sharpening. But very occasionally. I don't like disposable hard point tenon saws. I think they are OK for site work but not fine work, as I think the set is invariably awful.

Even starting out, assuming you can afford it, I would far rather buy really good tools on the basis that I will use them for life. But you do need to find out what you don't like.
 
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rwillett

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I will add, I dont know anything about Japanese saws- some may be disposable too. I have heard of people buying new blades for them once in a while
I have no knowledge as to how good they are, so I thought I'd ignore those. I think I should just get a cheap disposable saw and learn what to do slowly.

Rob
 

Rich C

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MY grumble with disposable saws is that if they're bad you can't really do anything but throw them away and buy another one and hope its better. I have a hardpoint panel saw I used for a bit of rough work, but it doesn't cut straight so it's essentially just junk.
 

rwillett

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Just had a look on eBay and can see that 'vintage' saws are reasonably priced. I may take a punt on a cheap one one and a saw file and try and learn to sharpen one.

Thanks

Rob
 

marcros

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Just had a look on eBay and can see that 'vintage' saws are reasonably priced. I may take a punt on a cheap one one and a saw file and try and learn to sharpen one.

Thanks

Rob
It is highly likely that you will end up with a better saw that way, and once you have learned the skill, if you see others that take your fancy then there is no stopping you.

I haven't sharpened a saw yet, but in honesty I am more hesitant about using a saw to cut certain joints that I am about having a go at sharpening.
 

Yojevol

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This is a difficult question to answer. Just as you have found that there are hundreds on the market, you'll probably get a hundred different opinions here.
In your position l would go for a hardpoint tenon saw in the 10 to 20 quid range. It will never need sharpening and when does you throw it away and move on.
You mention 300mm high. I assume you mean wide, which is going quite a tall order with a 300mm, say, saw. How will you hold it? Do you have a bench hook?
Brian
 

Woody2Shoes

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Another option would be to buy a sharpenable S&J saw cheaply e.g.


and then pimp it up like Rex does here (you'll learn a lot about sharpening etc):

 

Cabinetman

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Hi, I needed some tools out in America where I was visiting for a few months, and Axminster were brilliant they arrived within a week and the tenon saw below I thought was excellent, I make bespoke furniture for a living, and would happily use this. My son was very pleased with his very expensive dovetail saw until he tried to have it sharpened – ( no I’ve never bothered to sharpen my own either, I leave that to the professionals). It would appear that there are three different types of teeth on them?

 

MikeG.

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Welcome Rob.

Buying a fancy expensive saw won't solve your problems. It will help for a while, but all saws go blunt, and then they're difficult to use well. Ideally, you want to stand next to an old hand for quarter of an hour and be taught saw sharpening. That's all it will take. But here's the magic thing: once you can sharpen a saw, you can take any old rusty thing and turn it into a beautifully-performing tool. Here's a couple of threads worth a quick look:

Tyzack tenon saw re-worked

Bog oak tenon saw project.
 

rwillett

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Thanks to all the response's, I'll get an old one off eBay and a saw file, and learn how to sharpen a saw.

Another skill to learn :)

Thanks

Rob
 

billw

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Even I managed to sharpen a saw. Let's ignore the first attempt where I got it horribly wrong though.
 

Eshmiel

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I have (and have used a lot in the past) some up-market backsaws from Mike Wenzloff. These are the sort of well-made and well-sharpened saws one sees a lot of in the US market. They certainly work well once you've acquired the necessary skill to use them, which requires practice like everything else. I haven't needed to sharpen them yet but will one day - if they ever get blunt enough. They may not because ....

I recently had a play with some Japanese saws and became hooked on their precision, ease of use and speed. They cut on the pull stroke, unlike Western saws which cut on the push stroke. The pull stroke makes it much easier to keep the blade straight. That means a thinner blade and kerf are needed. That makes them faster to cut. I find them much easier to use in getting a precise and clean cut in just about anything. .... Joints that are correctly-sized straight from the saw. Western saw cuts so often need a bit of the chisel or shoulder plane to perfect.....

I would recommend any beginner at the hand sawing to get a Ryoba Japanese saw of the mid-price type (around £30 - 40) as that has both a rip and a cross cutting edge (two saws for the price of one) and can do deep cuts, unlike many backsaws. They seem to stay sharp even after extensive resawing, which is quite demanding on saw teeth. Teeth are often impulse-hardened at the tip only, so they last a long time but aren't so vulnerable to tooth-break as those with the whole tooth hardened.

You can usually get a replacement blade for half the price of the saw, should you need one; and the old one could be used for rough cuts or use with plywood that doesn't need an absolutely fine and precise cut. Some people turn their worn Japanese saw blades into scrapers.

This recommendation for the Japanese items comes not just from my own experience but that of a few WW novices I've had through the shed recently, who were introduced to both Western and Japanese saws and, without exception, much preferred the latter. They are easier to use well, especially if a tighter grip and push to cut are physically demanding for the sawyer.

********

Personally I would avoid old saws that need extensive fettling, including the sharpening. Despite what various WW Youtube "gurus" say, saw-sharpening is a skilled business to get right; and looks to be bluddy tedious. But if tool fettling is also a hobby, why not?

On the other hand, you could nip across the Pennines and get a traditional backsaw from this lad:

HOME | skeltonsaws :giggle:

Eshmiel
 

AJB Temple

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Ah Skelton. He makes lovely saws but the prices are uppity.

My dad taught me to sharpen saws when I was a teenager. He was a skilled engineer and so knew how to use a file. It takes 10 minutes to sharpen a back saw / tenon saw, including any set adjustments, once you have practiced for a bit. But it does help to have a big metalworking vice to get blade clamped between two stays. It is very hard to screw it up badly, as practically any mistake is easily corrected.

In practice a good quality saw will stay sharp for ages (years in some cases). (Bearing in mind I use a chop saw and track saw a lot).

I use Japanese saws too. They are brilliant for some things, but I hate them for use in deep rip cuts. If I am trying to do fine dovetails (not often) I also still prefer a proper dovetail saw with a stiff back.
 

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