I have a theory about saws and planes that’s different than hammers and axes. People sell planes and saws when they get dull and stop cutting because there’s nothing they can do about it. A dull axe on the other hand they will use no matter because a steel wedge on a stick will always split wood. Even a rusty hammer drives a nail or stake and you don’t need a computer or a licence to drive it either so these tools are usually left where they are, uncared about and unsold.
My theories are often wrong but here is the other half. Of all the saws that I’ve bought secondhand through the many years not one ever arrived sharp, even though each seller often declared them to be sharp and in good condition. They mostly arrive beyond dull with fully rounded and abused teeth . By that I don’t so much mean an odd missing tooth or even a bent or kinked plate, just plain over worked.
The saw teeth often look like this one below. This saw will be fully functioning inside four minutes at a cost of 30 pence.
I ask myself what the people were thinking (if they were) and what they must have thought about it (if they did). I would say all the ones I’ve bought have been abused beyond workability by about 100 hours. None of the saws I have bought would cut through a stick of pine 3/4” thick with or across the grain more than a few millimetres deep without a lot of force and adding to the demise.
Sellers on eBay are a savvy bunch for the main part. Terms like vintage means if anything is wrong with the tools you can put it down to its age. Terms like, “needs a little TLC.” means the rust is too deep for me to bother with and, “fully restored.” can mean a wire brush in an angle grinder was used to remove everything including clues as to the maker and all metal has bee retextured. Another term that has crept in is, “Please see photos as these form part of the description.” Often the images are too bad, black or blurry to form much of anything. That said there are chances we take that turn up trumps and out of every hundred items or so I think perhaps two might be dishonestly described. On the whole, eBay has been the best resource for inexpensive goods in general if you are buying second hand. I noticed that every saw on eBay is sold as a crosscut saw. My theory on this is that crosscut and saw kinda go together; like peaches and cream or something like that. The truth is 99.999% of the sellers don’t know whether it is a rip or a crosscut saw so don’t take this as part of that which, “form part of the description.” Because there is usually an additional get-out clause somewhere that says they are “not experts, just being honest.”
Having seen the new vernacular being used to create bolt holes from responsibilities by sellers, I still find that my best buys come from there. Some of the saws are becoming quite scarce if not rare. These two from the mid sixties have Rosewood handles were the offering of Spear & Jackson.
I bought these saws over the past two months because they are ones I find the least expensive with the best quality of materials. They are mostly saws people bought and used until they stopped cutting and then got stuffed in a dark hole somewhere and were forgotten until eBay came along. The average price was around £12 plus £3 for shipping. They take me 4 minutes to sharpen them and usually they always have enough set.
The saws I buy usually are almost rust free and I generally look for that. Try to avoid pitting. Deep pitting can be very hard to work with. Whether you buy a new or old saw, within a few hours you must learn to sharpen them. That is the most simple of all sharpening tasks. Saws like these with unbreakable handles don’t have to brass backs as steel backs work well and cost less. Secondhand saws are good to practice on.