Crosscut Dominance – Working Out the Kinks of Information – Part III


DSC_0010You can pitch a rip cut into a crosscut cut and you can pitch a crosscut at most rip cutting cuts in the wood if you are sensitive and understand the configuration and shape of the teeth of the saw you are working with. Usually there is something of a compromise in performance if you are using saws with dedicated tooth patterns deemed right for rip and crosscut by the makers. Usually, when a saw made for either rip or crosscut is used for the wrong cut they will really balk if you use the wrong one, but when you sharpen your own saws you can create a saw that will cut quite satisfactorily regardless of orientation. I think an advantage in buying dedicated saws is that you know what you have. Buying saws on eBay or from mass-manufacturers that’s often not the case. Often the saws sold to construction site users are not defined beyond fine, medium and coarse cut and then the given tooth size etched into the surface of the plate. In my experience eBay sellers of new and old saws know little about tooth patterns and regularly describe saws as crosscut saws when 95% of them are actually ripcut pattern. It’s important to know the difference between the two tooth patterns even if you have to change the tooth shape to one or the other. You see, generally, ripcut pattern teeth have no angles to the sides of the teeth when you look sideways on the saw plate. Here are the two tooth patterns ripcut and crosscut with an additional pattern showing the blued teeth on a non-sharpenable Bahco medium saw shown at bottom.

This saw below has pinnacle teeth that come to a three-sided triangular point. The reason you see this only on alternate teeth is because the two bevels forming the triangular point are on the other sides of the flat faces of the teeth in between, which are the same shape in reverse. The cutting edges are on the steeper angles. This saw is in need of sharpening.


DSC_0070The saw shown above has ripcut teeth that have two sides to the teeth only; front and back. This then creates more a chisel cutting edge to each tooth. This saw is in need of sharpening too.

DSC_0065This saw tooth pattern mirrors that of the picture second from top. Both saws are crosscut patterns, but the maker of this saw makes no claim to either ripcut or crosscut saw because it is biased to crosscut for construction trade work even though it can can also be used for the lesser use of ripcutting with the grain.

Notice the sharpenable saw tooth pattern (top) is identical to this non-sharpenable. The difference is only slight if any, but both saws will cut equally well.  As I said, to properly identify the tooth patterns is best done from the side first, but then look from a higher perspective and you will see the very distinctive pinnacle tooth shape coming to a pointed peak rather than a chisel tooth with a broad edge. It’s this broad edge that makes the ripcut less efficient in crosscutting unless you refine the teeth slightly to create more of a sheer-cut to the wood fibres in the cut. Well cover that later.

Here are pinnacle three-sided teeth shown slightly from above. here you see the two sides of the tooth filed against the flat pale to create the three-sided pinnacle tooth pattern at a different perspective.DSC_0024

Sharpening  a saw to either pattern takes about four minutes per saw once the skill is established. I own a panel saw made by Henry Disston dated 1848. I use it most days and sharpen it about once every three months. 16 minutes a year, 2 hours and 40 minutes for ten years. Equate that to a disposable saw a year at £12  a pop and you have £120 per ten years. Not too much. Still, which saw would I choose of the two types? You guess!


21 thoughts on “Crosscut Dominance – Working Out the Kinks of Information – Part III”

  1. Paul, have you heard of or used the Stanley Jet Cut series of saws? We often use these on conservation tasks for rough wood working on bridge and fence construction. They are a western style push saw that makes use of a tooth profile approximating the pattern found on a Japanese pull saw. They do have impulse hardened teeth and are thus impossible to re-sharpen, but they do perform quite well for a variety of different tasks; admittedly though I have never used one in a workshop environment.

    1. Paul Sellers

      I don’t think I have tried one of these, but I may have done. Are they available in tenon and hand saw types and different sizes? I will take a look online.

      1. As far as I am aware, they are only available as handsaws, no tenon saws. As you describe other such saws, they are available in degrees of fineness so to speak.

  2. Paul, considering your input on these saws, I do not wonder no more why folks working in construction are using induction hardened teeth saws. Let’s assume you are reasonably quick at saw sharpening, and it takes you 2 hours and 40 minutes a year to sharpen your saw. Chip in the money for files and you’ll probably break even with the £12 disposable saw. In the end, economically, (and I am playing devil’s advocate here) your 2 hours 40 minutes would be better spent working, teaching, building furniture, as it seems to me your hourly pay comes out higher then nil…
    If you are of the opinion to promote that these saws cut just as well, it’d be hard hard to justify to resharpen your handsaws in the first place…
    It’s different for the smaller saws, like Tenon, Sash, or Dovetail saws, as these, at least to my mind, are superior in cut when you hand sharpen them (smaller kerf to begin with). Thanks anyway for your input, it is much appreciated!

    1. Only 16 minutes per year! 2 hours and 40 minutes every 10 years. Plus the skill and satisfaction of sharpening your own saws. That’s my favourite part, the satisfaction and fulfilment.

      1. Paul Sellers

        You got it JB. Owning a saw 166 years old and knowing it will see me out and one of my children and even grandchildren is value added that counts for something real and solid!

      2. And they’re still waiting in the queue at Homebase while you’ve finished your third saw and second cup of tea…

        1. Jeffrey Dustin

          It’s a question of buying a mass-produced piece of junk that isn’t worth a spit and a quality tool made to last forever. The throwaway culture extends to infect all kinds of areas of life: don’t like that old saw, throw it out! How about the kids? Don’t invite them to Christmas! Old wife? Get a divorce and marry someone 20 years too young for you!

          I prefer things that last.

  3. Hello, I have been following your blog for a while and have learned much from it thank you. I don’t remember seeing you mention anything about the files you use to sharpen your saws, want to give it a try but not sure what to get.

    1. Paul Sellers

      Go to the blog and put in ‘saw files’ in the search box, that’s fastest and accurate. Lots there.

  4. mmelendrez1955

    I have always had a thing for saws. Only now that I know how to sharpen them I love them even more. Because I can actually use them. I must say I am great full for the tutoring that you so gracelessly give.

  5. Terry Pullen

    There are more factors at play than price alone. How about the time spent shopping for a new saw every time the old one gets worn out. Or the time, frustration and effort wasted using a dull saw because if you don’t sharpen your own saw you don’t learn what makes a saw work. Or because you think hand saws are outmoded tools of the past you never learn to use it properly so it doesn’t do the job correctly.

    The other day as I pulled into the lot at the local Home Depot I observed 2 gentleman trying to crosscut a 16′ 2×8 so it would fit in their truck. They were using a cheap battery powered circular saw to do the job and they were struggling. The saw kept binding and the task was taking several minutes. Finally the battery gave out and one of them went around the other end of the truck to fetch a fresh battery, as he returned I got out of my van, went over and asked if they wanted to use one of my saws as I had several in my van. The one turned to me and asked “Is it cordless?” I hesitated for a second then replied yes… while making a sawing motion with my arm. He looked at me like I was crazy and answered no, and thanks any way. I left them to their task but not before noticing that the $100 battery powered saw they were using wasn’t even capable of reaching the full depth of the 2×8 and that after about 4 minutes of trying two grown men had managed only to cut about 2/3 of the way through one board.

    Remember the first time you used a handsaw how you struggled to start the cut, or to follow your cut line? If no one teaches you how to use/sharpen a hand saw then 1 or 2 attempts to cut with one will be proof enough that they don’t work and you will resort to one of those pathetic battery operated saws like those guys in the parking lot that day.

  6. Paul- I have some 6″ base moulding to cut, miter, and cope while trimming a house. 6″ is too deep for a tenon saw unless you “cut on the flat” and I feel like I’ll be more accurate using a miter box with the work “standing up” rather than on the flat. Can one be as accurate with a panel saw as with a tenon saw? I’m picturing making a miter guide like you’ve shown in your videos, but with a panel saw so that I can do the full depth of the base moulding. Am I on the right track? Is this a time when choosing a cross cut panel saw might have some advantages, even if I take care to cut pushing in from the face to the back? Or would you just use a tenon saw from the top and drop the heel to get through the cut? I’ve done that, but it can get awkward in a miter box and I’ve still run out of depth (because of the miter box).

    1. Paul Sellers

      A panel saw is the way to go. Use the saw leaving the line in slightly and then plane the mitre down near to the lines and check for final 45-degrees with the combination square.

    2. Make a miter box for your panel saw and unique material size.
      You will have good results even without the stiffening bar at the top of the blade.
      If you have a lot of material to cut, make your own dedicated saw for this purpose by sharpening it as you would a miter box saw.


  7. valerio d'angelo

    Hi Paul,
    I have a cross cut hand saw, 6 TPI, sharpened with a passive rake, and a rip cut hand saw, 5 TPI, sharpened with a passive rake: both cuts well with and across the grain (only th start is difficult).
    When I sharpened them with an aggressive rake (after the initial changing in rake from the toe), they didn’t cut when I reached the half of the saw, because the wood stopped the penetration of the aggressive theeth (neither tapping the wooden handle with the hammer moved them!).
    Also sawing in a much ripping position, with the rip cut saw, were difficult (instead of sawing perpendicular to the wood).
    Also I’m in trouble with the cross cut saw: it cuts very easily cross grain, and also long grain. Is the passive rake that help? And why it didn’t cut at all with the aggressive rake?
    Tried both softwoods like fir and hardwood like elm.

    1. You’ve missed out some important info here, Valerio. Te angle of saw presentation. Aggressive rips work best on saw horses for when you work with your shoulder and arm weight over the work and the saw is roughly presented at 45 degrees and the hand drops in the cut to say around 20 degrees at the end of the stroke. if you are face on facing the work with the wood upright as you may often see me do then this changes the game.

      1. valerio d'angelo

        Here because you are the best master: Thanks for your explanation. And for the cross cut pattern? In my experiments the very aggressive rake binded because the points of the teeth poked in the wood.

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