Reply To: Saw Heresy

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Michael Evans

Modern “big-box” saws that have been manufactured with the Japanese style teeth are best for crosscutting and are considered “throw-away” tools due to the reasons already mentioned by previous posters. They are a “hybrid” style meaning that they copy some of the geometry of Japanese saws but are configured for a push stroke and use a thicker plate as a result. The teeth are hardened just to make the edges last longer but that makes them too hard for sharpening with traditional saw sharpening files. Most modern professional carpentry is conducted with disposable tools due to the “time-is-money” outlook. A new saw costs less than the lost production to properly sharpen a saw, provided one has the tools and the experience, and most modern “big-box” tools are produced either for the occasional homeowner or professional carpentry use and not for traditional western style woodworking. They have their place for rough crosscuts. Properly sharpened and tuned, a good older saw should not bind in the cut and will be as efficient, or nearly so, as a Japanese tooth style saw provided you are willing to learn to maintain them. Use the “big-box” saws for rough work and preserve your finer saws for finer work. Traditional western saws were developed over hundreds of years for their specific tasks and are still very well suited to the task or hobbyist and professional bench woodworking.
Saw sharpening is a separate skill set that some woodworkers simply have no interest in but I have found it to be relatively straight forward and enjoyable. It allows me to take a $5 flea market find and turn it into a highly enjoyable and productive tool. Having said that, even I wouldn’t attempt re-sharpening a Japanese style saw due to the complicated geometry. Woodworkers should at least learn the differences in saw types, and if you don’t want to learn to sharpen, then find someone who can sharpen them for you. Sharp tools are a joy to use and dull ones are a misery. Have fun