Small Backsaw: Part 2

In the previous post I’d cleaned up my small backsaw but there were still a couple problems to address before the saw could be used.  First, the saw was dull.  Second, the handle rocked on the saw plate.

In order to find out how to sharpen I went to Google.  Eventually, I came two good pages on saws: The Norse Woodsmith and Vintage Saws. The Norse Woodsmith is a fan of saws and even went to the trouble of making a backsaw from scratch in his garage just to show it could be done.  On those pages, I found the Norse Woodsmith Sharpening page and Vintage Saw’s Sharpening page where there’s a lot of information on sharpening.  Both have good coverage of the topic but in slightly different ways.  I read over the pages a few times and decided to give it a try.  On the pages they say you need a triangular file and a saw vise.  While I have a triangular file, I didn’t have one small enough.  So, I picked up a 6″ double extra slim triangular file.  A saw vise clamps on the saw panel to hold it steady while you file the teeth.  I don’t own one, but I do have a 6″ Wilton vise which, with a couple of pieces of wood, held the saw suitably.  The first step in sharpening saw teeth is the joint the teeth.  To do this, you run a file across the top of the teeth points to bring them all to the same level.  Once most all of the teeth have small flat spots where the points used to be, it is time to file.


To create identical saw teeth the triangular file needs to be consistently held at the same angle.  To help the user hold the file at the correct angle, the pages recommend using a block with a line on it to make orienting the file easier.  The block has a hole drilled in it to stick the file’s tang in.  The angle of the line is determined by the amount of rake you want on the teeth.  Rake is the term that describes the angle between the front of the tooth and vertical.  A larger rake angle makes the saw more aggressive but harder to start.  The pages recommended 8 degrees which is what I went with.  The file is inserted in the block with a face of the file parallel to one side of the block.  Then while filing the block and file are held so that the line on the block is vertical.  This results in the file being rotated 8 degrees like we want.


Sharpening requires filing each tooth individually but it is recommended that you sharpen every other tooth from one side and then all the others from the opposite side.  This should balance any errors the sharpener has created while sharpening.  As this was my first saw sharpening, I took it slow and focused on the task.  I could describe how to sharpen more in depth, but I suggest you check out one of the pages linked above as they have much more experience than I.  After filing, I examined each tooth and found that a few required touching up.  When I was done, I noted that I have no inherent gift for sharpening as the teeth all seemed to be slightly different.  I tried it out on a piece of pine and was amazed.  The saw flew through the wood like a hot knife through butter.  Three cuts with the saw and I was 3/4″ into end grain.  So, while my saw teeth may not all be perfect, they seem to work very well.  Now about that handle rocking…


I started looking into the handle rocking and identified a few possible causes.  The first, seen below, is that one of the holes in the saw plate, where the barrel bolt goes through, was misshapen allowing the barrel bolt to move up and down.  The second cause is that one of the barrel bolts was stripped and wouldn’t tighten down.  The last possible cause, is that the barrel bolts could move freely around in the wood as the holes seemed to be slightly oversized.  I think the first issue was the main cause, because I tried some regular bolts which did tighten down but the handle still rocked.  Of course having a stripped barrel bolt is problematic too.  To solve all the problems I drilled the holes progressively larger until both holes were circular.  The final size ended up being 1/4″.


I drilled the handle to 1/4″ as well and temporarily used some regular bolts and nuts to see if the problem was solved.  Happily, it was and resulted in the handle being solidly attached to the saw plate.  I could leave this hardware in the saw, but you know I won’t.


There’s another style of hardware used to hold a handle on called a split nut.  It’s similar to a regular hex nut but is circular on the outside with a slot cut into the face of the nut to tighten it.  I found a page on the Norse Woodsmith where he made some and thought I could come up with something a little simpler for my saw.  I ran to Ace Hardware to find some brass 1/4″ hardware to use.  While there, I found some barrel nuts and bolts that were for a 1/4″ hole.  They fit a 1/4″ hole loosely and were no good.  On to the brass hardware I bought.  As you can see below, this is better than the zinc plated steel but still doesn’t fit the saw ascetically.



The first step to make my split nuts, is to cut the slot into the brass hex nut with a hacksaw.  I threaded the nut onto a bolt along with another nut and clamped it into the vise so I could cut it.


To make the hex nut round, I used my drill press and a flat file.  I cut the top off of a regular bolt to create an arbor to hold the brass nut in the drill press.  The shoulder of the unthreaded portion of the bolt holds the nut in place.



The drill press was turned on at a low speed and multiple light passes were made with my file.  Note to use a handle on the file so that the pointy tang doesn’t go through your palm if there is a catch.  Here’s a setup shot with the drill press off to show you what I’m talking about.



Once the nut was circular, I installed it on the saw to see what it’d look like.  That’s an improvement but I’d like to make the hardware not stick out so much.


Reducing the length of the brass machine screw is done easily enough with the belt sander.  While I was at it, I decided to flatten the dome on the other side of the machine screw which made it look a lot better.



To reduce the thickness of my split nuts, I threaded them onto a bolt along with another nut to hold things in place.  Back to the belt sander….



Here’s how the trimmed down nut looks compared to one at the original height.  The nuts are round but the irregular bevel on to the hex bolts still makes them appear slightly hex shaped.



Here’s my close to finished set of hardware.  I hit all the edges I created with some 2000 grit sand paper after this picture to remove some of the scratches.  Yes, I have a way to put a tool on each part to tighten it.  Typically, only one part of the hardware set on a saw allowed you to use a tool to tighten it.  I like it better my way.  The razor blade, which occasionally made it into some of the pictures, fits the slot in my split nuts perfectly.



Here’s how it turned out.  BS2_14 BS2_15 BS2_16 BS2_17


I’m happy with it.  The hardware holds the handle solidly to the saw plate and looks like it is supposed to go with the saw.


All in all, this project would have been easier with a metal lathe.  It’s on my list….


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