When I took my first saw file to my tenon saw I wasn’t a bit worried about the consequences of my inexperienced efforts. That was back around 1965. My thrusts with the file weren’t as deliberate or straight as they are now. My control was uneven, but the outcome seemed to work OK. Going deep in the gullet and hitting both faces seemed the only thing important. That was then. Two decades later I discovered shaping, progression, breasting and other things. I was able to change a saw handle quickly to suit my hand; to change the saw’s angle of presentation to the wood, I could file off the teeth and resize new ones large or small. Angles can be of no importance and then, minutes later, they become all important.
Not too many people know this so I will tell you. Tom Lie Nielsen knows this and so too Veritas and Bob Wenzlof. Too much set makes a saw most useless. It makes it grossly inaccurate and hard in the cut – sometimes twice as hard. I have one hammer in the vise. It becomes my anvil. With a second hammer the set yields and I temper its aggression with equal taps from both sides. My saws need minimal set. The right set is equal in importance to sharpness. No saw needs too much set. It’s an enemy to all good work.
My saw is lovely now, after 47 years, I at last appreciate its loveliness. It rests beside my 4 ½ and my 5 ½. I still polish its brass now and then. Bit of a luxury look I suppose.