Sharpen Your Handsaws

Woodworkers are finally waking up to the benefits of handsaws in the modern woodshop. I’m not talking about dovetail saws and tenon saws. The subject here is handsaws like your grandfather used. Twenty six to twenty eight inch rip and crosscut saws.

As with all hand tools you have to learn to use them properly and above all else you have to learn to sharpen them. It literally took me years to learn to sharpen handsaws! I read most of what was available on the web and bought the best video of the day, but had only moderate success. So I walked away in frustration. That was some years ago. This year I discovered a new DVD that piqued my interest. It is “Sharpen Your Handsaws” with Ron Herman. Herman presents this topic in a simple, low key manner that is easy to understand. You can find out more here. There is also a wealth of information on the web and in the many woodworking forums. My frustration with handsaw sharpening the first time around was expecting too much too soon. You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk.

SHARPENING HANDSAWS IS NOT DIFFICULT, anyone can learn to do it well. It is also not expensive, but sending your saws out to be sharpened is, in both money and time.

First you will need a saw vise. The cheapest way out here is to make your own. Here is a good start. Then you will need some files. Files can be found in numerous places on the web, in the big box stores and your local hardware store. Start with a rip saw that is not too fine or too course, 7 to 8 ppi is a good place to start. Go slowly. Pay attention to your file, keep it perpendicular to your saw in both the toe to heel plane and the up and down plane.

As the saying goes “Just Do It”. Your first saw will most likely not be great, but be patient and keep sharpening. Each saw will get better. Don’t move on to crosscut saws until you can sharpen a rip saw well. And remember, a saw doesn’t have to look perfect to cut, even a less than perfectly sharpened saw will cut much better than a dull one. There are plenty of cheap saws at local flea markets and yard sales to practice on. Just keep sharpening and in time you will become proficient.


Professional furniture maker and restorer. Dealer and collector of vintage and antique woodworking tools.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sharpen Your Handsaws

  1. Bruce L says:

    I made several attempts after reading a number of books and websites and viewing Law’s saw sharpening video, but after I watched Ron Herman’s video something clicked. My rip saw went from sharp (I thought) but rough and slow to sharp and smooth and quick. It’s a joy to rip now. I managed to saw a backsaw and a miter box backsaw so they cut well now. But I need to work on my dovetail saw. Like you said you just need to do it and practace. Good Blog!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s