Two Possible Stocking Stuffers for Christmas Gifts

DSC_0172I recently blogged about saw handle sizing because many handles since the last World War often became undefined, utilitarian and too big for anything but brutish work. That’s true of most hand tools that are mass made. Some of you responded with suggestions for high-end saws ranging in price between £100 – £200 per saw and whereas such saws are often quite beautiful to look at and even use, my heart sank a little when I thought about the majority who could never afford such a tool. DSC_0187I started to ask myself the question some months and even years ago as to whether it was really necessary to buy high dollar saws or are people simply postponing  the process of mastering sharpening so that they can keep their saws at the same level of sharpness of the better quality makers and I concluded that that really was the case. That being the case I went out and bought two saws that cost under £20 to see what they were like in the hand. I decided on inline gent’s saws because these saws are really better than pistol grips for much of the work we do at the bench. I also decided that a 10” was optimal with regards to length. What remained was the depth of cut and, as many if not most furniture joints rely on smaller joints, a gents saw works for many if not most.

The two saws I chose are both a common saw type  that’s been in the saw world for just under two centuries. One I bought directly from Thomas Flinn Saw Makers in Sheffield and is marketed under the old brand name of William Greaves & Sons. This saw has a steel back and whereas people might not like steel backs, there is no difference in functionality in the hand or at the bench. There can be a bit of snobbery surrounding saws whether that’s by the makers or the buyers, so I am saying here that both brass and steel backed saws work equally well. Look at the saws more closely and you will see the saws are identically made but one has a turned beech handle and the other turned rosewood.

DSC_0183The Greaves saw has 15 teeth to the inch, the most ideal number for the job of dovetailing and tenon cutting and for most benchwork jobs, but more importantly, the saw is equally ideal for sharpening yourself.  Don’t make the mistake of buying finer toothed saws for general joinery and most furniture work. They are nigh on impossible to sharpen by eye and hand with the accuracy needed. That said, keep a good Zona 24tpi on hand for fine bead work and you are fully equipped. These saws have hardened plate that will keep an edge for several years. Back to the greaves saw. When the saw arrived it was sharp but over set. A problem resolved between two hammer heads in roughly 10 seconds by anyone no matter the skill levels or skill sets. All I needed to do with this saw  was done and it cuts as well as any saw I tried. The cost was £17.

DSC_0179The second saw is also made by Thomas Flinn but sold under the Crown of Sheffield name, and available in the UK, EU and the US. I bought four of these saws for the tests and, unlike the Greaves saw with the steel back, found all of them had a gentle and shallow  bend along the length of the spline. This also caused the plate to curve too and even though it was indeed shallow it left me feeling a little disconcerted. Sometimes bends in the saw can be corrected by tapping the spine but not usually if the spine is bent too. Removing the plate didn’t help at all but we found that pulling the spine with the saw fully assembled in between the vise jaws and bending the saw opposite to the bend quickly straightened the spine to perfection. DSC_0182I was disappointed in the sharpness of the saw’s level of sharpness and, indeed, unless you knew differently, you might think this was the standard, but one light stroke through each saw gullet brought the saw up to perfection and wow! Is this saw a winner for me. Brass back, good steel plate and lovely rosewood handle and all for under £20, this saw cuts like a dream. Woodcraft in the US sells the saw and S&L Hardwoods sell the 10” version here in the UK. The saw is 16tpi so little difference between the two name brands. These would be great Christmas gifts for any serious woodworker or indeed anyone at all.

17 comments on “Two Possible Stocking Stuffers for Christmas Gifts

  1. Paul, I used your saw sharpening video to tune up a 20.00 two cherries gents saw that looks identical to the ones here. Terrible out of the package, mediocre after my first 2 attempts, pretty good after the 4th, and more than acceptable after the 5th.

    I removed most of the set, and used your progressive pitch pattern. It saws like it’s on rails.

  2. Paul you opened the door on this one when you mentioned the “gentle and shallow bend…..”. I have enjoyed bringing some old tools back to life using your instructions. What I am finding a bit difficult is straightening saw plates, especially the longer ones, like, panel saws. I have tried the process of peening the plate in the area of the bend to remove the hardness ( most likely the wrong word) peen it on the other side and so on. I find it baffling, because I usually make it worse. I have read that this type of procedure is semi art form in nature, if that is the case I am indeed in trouble. Any chance we could indulge you to do a tutorial on bending plates the right way? Thank you
    John Crosby

    • This is a difficult one to explain and to do to camera and not one that I feel I would invest my time in. You have to love the saw to want to do it. I have yet to meet anyone who can show me their success within a few minutes of doing it. It’s easier and quicker to find another plate and replace it.

      • Ok, sounds good. I would rather here this advice than waste anymore time banging my head against the wall LOL. Thank you for the response.

  3. I was going to buy a Veritas 14tpi tenon saw but now I am no longer sure. Do you have a preference for either of these saws? I do not own any tenon saws or back saws from before. I like the brass backed one a lot more due to the brass and rosewood, sad to hear its apparently of lower quality.

    Locally I can buy Thomas Flinn PAX gents saws for about 19-30 euros depending on mode, too.

    • For what its worth Dennis I have the veritas dovtail saws and love the way it registers in the hand,( I have found I prefer the pistol style grip over the in line handle for that reason). One of the things I like about Paul’s message is that its about the end result, so by pistol grip or in line handle – either way gets a tenon or dovetail cut!

      • The point really is that inline is still the better point of thrust in most all cases for small saws and of course the inline is a one size fits any and all hands, unlike the pistol grip

    • The good thing about Veritas is that their research and development produces user friendly goods all the way through to accepting criticism. Their saws are good and so too the sharpen ability which is what you want. I have as yet to try their larger tenon saws but one day I’ll take the plunge. If they are as good as their other saws they will be just fine.

  4. Ironically, I just bought that Thos. Flinn saw yesterday and I can’t wait to try it out. I bought a saw file too, just in case… Thank you for the review, the lessons and all the encouragement.

  5. I got the crown one a few months back to keep me going while i learned to sharpen my ebay ‘old specials’ peoperly. Still going strong and cuts neat and straight even with me driving. Still have not got round to the others yet – that’s a winter project in front ot the fire for me.

  6. I was interested in your thoughts on the Greaves saw as I purchased one several months ago from a vendor in the US. I was looking for an affordable alternative to the larger conventional dovetail saws however I found the performance a bit disappointing. It was difficult to start and grabby in the cut. Out of curiosity, I measured the plate and found that it was a .020″ plate with ~ .015″ of set , which seemed excessive. Using a small diamond file, I made a couple of passes down the sides to knock some of the set off. It seemed to help but I will try your 2 hammers technique also. I plan to build one of the tools chests like the one you just finished so I’ll be needing a dovetail saw and should be able to get this one sorted by the time the project is finished. Thanks for your insights on these saws.


  7. My first saw was the crown saw about ten years ago for around $20 U.S. I had a very hard go of it not really knowing anything for quite a while. I tried Japanese saws and found them remarkably sharp by comparison. After reading your blog, i bought the Veritas pistol grip and really liked it. In time I sharpened the Crown and find that I will reach for it sometimes without thinking. Funny how you can come full circle. It really feels more natural to me, at least for finer work. Thanks for the gift of knowledge Paul. (I still like the Japanese saws, but they tend to collect dust now instead of making it).

  8. I bought the Crown 10 inch to replace my German made saw and was amazed at the much higher quality and sharpness. Love Crown saws.

  9. I’m new to saw sharpening – and am actually here looking for information on this type of saw for purchase. Could you clarify this part – ‘but one light stroke through each saw gullet brought the saw up to perfection’

    • Jeff, I think the message there was that the saw needed light sharpening, one stroke of the saw file in each gullet. You can find innumerable articles and videos on the internet on saw sharpening including some excellent ones by our Maestro.

      Classic saws are like chisels and hand planes in that it’s rare – and usually quite expensive – to find one that’s good to go right out of the box.

      As far as which saw style/brand would be best for you, that falls into the same category as politics or religion, where just about everyone has a different opinion. I’d recommend you go to a woodworking show or specialty store such as Rockler or Woodcraft and actually hold some of the saws in your hand. Hopefully you will find one that calls to you, and even better, you be able to afford it. One last bit of advice – the saws you fall in love with are like the people you date – you probably won’t end up married to the first one.

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