I am brand new to woodworking and I’m trying to collect a good basic set of hand tools. I appreciated your blog entry about buying good inexpensive tools. It was very helpful. My question is what inexpensive hand saws would you recommend (for tenons, mitre cuts, rip cut, etc.)?
This is a good question. I want to advise anyone starting out to buy a good, small saw that is already sharpened and has the exact amount of set so that they are not trying to work with a good, well made saw that’s old, dull and badly set. Eventually they must learn to sharpen, as even the best saws go dull within a few hours of use on hard and soft woods for a variety of different reasons.
Small tenon and dovetail saws
There are less expensive saws you can buy via eBay but no guarantees as to quality of care, sharpness and set and so, in the early stages, best that you wait or practice on a junker until you are ready to start sharpening as badly maintained saw teeth on an old saw can be a challenge. My recommendation for anyone needing a first bench saw to get started with is the Veritas 14 teeth per inch dovetail saw. This saw will cut dovetails as we ll as tenon shoulders and tenon cheeks. Though it is not designed for large work, I regularly cut 4″ wide tenons with no problems. This would be a good saw as it is sharpened and ready to go with rip-cut pattern that readily crosscuts with a light hand just as well.
I know that the Veritas is not a particularly cheap saw to buy, but it is a lot less than most other saws and I think it comes to market at just about the best price out there and remember it does seem to me to be a lifetime saw. I have recently found more and more saws by what were once reputable makers that are junk, badly made or whatever so it has become increasingly more difficult to recommend a good saw.
Handsaw and not tenon or dovetail saws (Back saws USA)
Now, if you are talking handsaws, I have been regularly disappointed with even the high-end makers from time to time. Some think that quality components guarantee a good saw, but that is not always the case. Some plates have proven too thin and flex too much, wobble in the cut and even buckle when meeting even minimal resistance some times. Others have straight backs; That may be OK for a throwaway carpenter’s saw (I personally don’t think it is for that either) where the handle and back double as an on the job square, but when you understand how and why the refinements of a skew back came about, you better understand why they were so favoured by craftsmen, and then you wont settle for anything less. Another flawed view by some makers is that the plate doesn’t need to be taper ground. Again, flawed thinking by makers not users. On the job it makes a huge difference in the cut and so I look for these qualities in a saw.
If you are looking for a good bench hand saw such as a panel saw, which we use for rip and crosscut sawing, you cannot go wrong with a Disston D8 or similar. This will cost you anything between $20 and $70 in the USA and the same numbers in pound sterling in the UK. Spear and Jackson’s Superior 88 from the pre seventies will serve you well too, as will most of S&J’s pre 70’s handsaws. You can follow my saw sharpening video on YouTube here if you want to know how to sharpen them.
Best for now,