Refining Thick-Hammered Sawsets

For more information on sawsets, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

Secondhand sawsets
DSC_0023 Eclipse saw sets like the ones shown are inexpensive finds at garage sakes, flea markets and car boot sales here in Britain, mostly because they look like some kind of plier and no one knows what they are or indeed what they do. Even if someone did know what they do, they chances are that they’ve never used a pair and don’t need them so they go for £3 and less.
On old models, the hammer, the little plunger that bends the teeth by squeezing the handles together, is generally about half the thickness of the post 50’s models. Much finer and more practical on fine toothed saw with teeth smaller than say 10 TPI.

Compare the old at left with the newer, right

DSC_0015 DSC_0022

The problem is that the hammer in the saw set is often too wide for small teeth and if used the set ripples the saw plate rather than simply setting the tooth itself. I own several old saw sets that indeed do have finer hammers but it’s simple enough to remove the hammer from the barrel, re grind the sides of the plunger and reinstall with the fineness you need for setting your saw. That doesn’t mean you must have two pairs of sets. The finer set will set all saws.
Shaping the hammer
DSC_0023 To remove the hammer you must remove the setscrew that holds the two handles together. Inside there is a shaped piece, which is actually the hammer, pressured by a compression spring. It is a short compression so should not spring too far or hard. Pull out the shaped piece. This is the hammer you will be shaping. DSC_0025

DSC_0036 You will need to use a grinding wheel as the hammer is hardened and too hard for filing. You could use diamonds though. To grind the hammer, work equally from both sides on the grinding wheel. It’s not necessary to be parallel, a taper will do nicely. The leading edge of the hammer is angle so that as the hammer bends the teeth they are bent with the angled front edge of the hammer.

Here is how the hammer should look after grinding

DSC_0043 DSC_0041
Loosing the innards
Make sure you don’t lose the springs from inside the assembly. There are two not one, and they can Spring out if you are unaware of the innards.
It’s hard to imagine that Eclipse went from high quality bronze saw sets to plastic handled ones but they did. A Japanese company,Somax, started making them from metal again, but lighter weight alloy. DSC_0020 Somax saw sets mirror the UK Eclipse models exactly and are nicely made too. Just in case you want to purchase a set.
With regard to the anvil setting numbers on the anvil, that little wheel against which the saw teeth are forced over to control the setting distance. I use only the shallowest setting on my saws any way, so that’s what I suggest you do with yours. Lots of set means loss of control, loose cuts and twice as much effort in the stroke.


  1. Thank you Paul. I’ll put my late grandfather’s sawset to good use because of you.

  2. Thank you for this post. I recently acquired a beautiful Disston number 7 and have been looking at purchasing a saw set from Lee Valley. Do you have any thoughts on their set?

    1. You only need the finer sawset. One will do for all your saws as in general we do not set the anvil according to the numbers on the set as that is way too much set for most sawing needs. The fine saw set at the lower numbers will do all panel and hand saws upt 6tpi and the finer end will do all other saws up to 18 tpi. Otherwise you will have too much set.

  3. Paul thanks for this, I have an older Eclipse 77 that I bought for $15 as well as a Stanley 42X. I may go ahead and modify the Eclipse now that you showed us how. Have you use a Stanley 42X at all? Am wondering on what your thoughts are.


  4. Paul thanks for this post, I bought an old Elcipse 77 for $15 a while back, now I know how to modify this. I also have a Stanley 42X what are your thoughts on this one ?


  5. This is a little gem of a blog post, thank you Mr. Sellers. Reading through catalogs or whatnot, a person is led to believe that they will likely both saw sets if they have a range of different saws. The narrowing of the hammer is the kind of modification I wouldn’t normally attempt unless someone with experience such as yourself shows that it works fine. So I appreciate this, thank you.

  6. Thank you Paul, at last someone else who does this. I wrote to a woodworking magazine 2 years ago, in answer to a readers query, advising the same modification, only to be pooh poohed by the editor when he printed it.

  7. Thank you for this wonderful site and all your great youtube videos. Based on your recommendations here, I bought an older Eclipse 77 with the narrow hammer off eBay and had it shipped across the pond to me in Canada.

    In the post above you said you “use only the shallowest setting” on your saws, but I’m confused about how you decide which setting to use. It would be great to see some further discussion or demonstrations about where to set the anvil for a variety of saws.


    1. Just use the shallowest setting which is the higher number for normal, dry wood. If the wood is wet use a deeper setting The numbers are a reference point only, they don’t tell you how much the set is or correspond to the numbers of teeth per inch. It couldn’t be simpler unless we confuse it..

      1. Thanks for explaining this point & the use of the saw set. And most importantly the need for only minimum set. I wrongly thought the numbers referred to TPI. You soon learn that doesn’t work very well! Fortunately your 2-hammer technique for reducing set allows over-setting to be correct – with dramatic improvement is sawing performance.

Comments are closed.

Privacy Notice

You must enter certain information to submit the form on this page. We take the handling of personal information seriously and appreciate your trust in us. Our Privacy Policy sets out important information about us and how we use and protect your personal data and it also explains your legal rights in respect of it. Please click here to read it before you provide any information on this form.