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Backed Hand Saw Sizes?

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MayKitt

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I'm just reviewing my backed saw collection, which is fairly limited at the moment and I've started to do some groundwork research.

Basically what I think is correct is:

Gent's saw: small size (with turned handle);
Dovetail saw: Next up;
Carcass saw: bigger again and
Tenon saw; bigger than the above.

Any names that I've missed?

However, poking around the various saw brands online, some anomalies occur with, for example, one brand's tenon saw being shorter than another brand's carcass saw.

I don't want to get too tied up in nomenclature but is there an understanding around of the basic sizes of these named saw types?
 

Bod

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In modern terms, Gents, Dovetail, Tenon.
Tenon can be split into , Sash, Carcass, and Mitre, which is a longer Tenon for use in a mitre box/clamp.
Size is now directly linked to cost, B&Q tenon will be shorter and cheaper, than 14inch Pax.

Bod
 

Cheshirechappie

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There has been a bit of variation in nomenclature over time.

Holtzappfel (Turning and Mechanical Manipulation, Volume 2, page 699, published 1847) lists the following under 'Parallel saws with backs'

Tenon Saw - 16 to 20 inches long, 3 1/4 to 4 inches blade width, 10ppi.
Sash Saw - 14 to 16 inches long, 2 1/2 to 3 1/4 inches blade width, 11ppi.
Carcase Saw - 10 to 14 inches long, 2 to 2 1/2 inches blade width, 12ppi.
Dovetail saw - 6 to 10 inches long, 1 1/2 to 2 inches blade width, 14 to 18ppi.
Smith's screw head saw - 3 to 8 inches long, 1/2 to 1 inches blade width, 12 to 16ppi.
Comb cutter's saw, 3 to 8 inches long, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches blade width, 10 to 20ppi.

He doesn't mention veneer saws or gent's saws.

As time went on, and more work was done by machine rather than hand, the longer saws and the more specialist Smith's and Comb-cutter's saws disappeared, as did carcase saws. By the post-WW2 period, only 'tenon' (12 - 14 inches long) and 'dovetail' (8 - 10 inches long) remained.

More recently, with the growth of specialist hand tool makers, the 'Holtzappel' terms have enjoyed something of a revival.
 

AndyT

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This might help illustrate the range. My smallest dovetail saw, by Tyzack Sons & Turner - 9" - and my largest mitre saw, by Disston & Sons - 22".

IMG_20200301_111034_DRO.png


Sizes in between are also useful. :wink:
 

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Blackswanwood

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AndyT":1bww2rsc said:
This might help illustrate the range. My smallest dovetail saw, by Tyzack Sons & Turner - 9" - and my largest mitre saw, by Disston & Sons - 22".



Sizes in between are also useful. :wink:
I love the look of the Disston and all the big tenon saws Andy but could never envisage using one. I had a dabble with an LN one (not as big as yours) at the Harrogate show last year and found it quite awkward. Do you use yours at all?
 

AndyT

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I actually used it yesterday, first time for ages, making a mitred box. I'll post a thread in projects when I have finished it.
 

D_W

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Blackswanwood":2ud10d8j said:
AndyT":2ud10d8j said:
This might help illustrate the range. My smallest dovetail saw, by Tyzack Sons & Turner - 9" - and my largest mitre saw, by Disston & Sons - 22".



Sizes in between are also useful. :wink:
I love the look of the Disston and all the big tenon saws Andy but could never envisage using one. I had a dabble with an LN one (not as big as yours) at the Harrogate show last year and found it quite awkward. Do you use yours at all?
The big ones are for use in fixtures or across distances with a guide, etc. They are too heavy to use freehand like you'd think about using a dovetail saw. The teeth just dig in like a brake.

Not sure where Chris Schwarz got his early preference for a light plated tall 16" backsaw, but they're not seen historically for a reason. I feel bad for the people who wasted their money on those as I went through a saw making habit about 10 years ago and found anything with a tall flimsy plate ungainly. I'm sure one in ten likes them, but the majority will not (A poll on an american forum several years ago found most of the people who bought them had set them aside).

The plated miter box saws and all larger back saws made in the US have thick rigid plate to keep their weight from flexing the plate.
 

IWW

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As another who went through a frenzy of saw-making for about a decade or so, I did a lot of reading & searching around the topic. What I found about naming conventions for backed saws is that they vary from country to country & over time. Here in Aus., just about any saw with a spine will be called "tenon saw" by the majority of woodworkers of all degrees of skill. Some distinguish, but their terms rarely match those of someone else, completely. I've suggested in an article I wrote for a local mag on choosing & using small saws that we adopt the term "backsaws" as used in North America, as a general name (whether it originated there or not, I don't know, but they have certainly popularised it over he last 40 years or more).

I started with 'western' saws more than 60 years ago & am so rusted on to that style of cutting I would find it extremely difficult to change to pull saws. In fact I did try them back in the 70's when all tools Japanese were suddenly the rage, but we didn't get on at all, & I didn't persevere. I envy the ambidextrous types who can switch seamlessly from one to t'other, but I'm definitely not one. Either type can do the job, so if you are just entering the arcane world of hand saws, begin with whichever appeals to you and stick with it 'til you can saw well.

To distinguish between saws, I think it's far more useful to specify size & tooth pitch, not what you may or may not cut with it. I would once have said that hang-angle is equally important, and it sort of is, but different people like different angles for doing the same tasks; so much depends on bench-height, how you secure the workpiece, & simple personal preference.

Again, the choice of size of saw, tooth pitch & configuration (x-cut or rip) matter, but individual choices vary so widely. What you start with & learn to use has a huge influence on how you view saws.

About the only guidelines I give anyone who asks me these days is to find saws you are comfortable with, keep them sharp & well-set, and use them 'til they become part of your anatomy. Of course there are rules of thumb like having at least 4 or 5 teeth supported in the cut, but the height & length of the saw is your choice (I do advise using a length that gives you a comfortable stroke). Ease & comfort of use generally translates into efficient & accurate sawing.

Set is a source for endless argument. The problem is it depends not only on the wood, but he skill of the sawyer. I've watched beginners fight with one of my saws that were perfect for the job in hand (or so I thought! ). Not only the hardness, but the typical MC of the woods you work with will have a big influence on your preference. Down our way, our dry, hard woods need far less set than you'd use cutting softwoods at a higher MC, for e.g. My advice here is to figure out the minimum set that gives you free-cutting and a little bit of 'steerage'.

If you are lucky & pick up a saw of any type that is sharp & well-set and suited to you & the task in hand it'll be love at first sight, & you'll be hard to persuade that any other saw could possibly be as good!
:)
Cheers,
 
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