Skip to content

Poor-man’s Saw Tooth Setter (tutorial and video)

In a fix recently a small toothed dovetail saw needed setting before I could use it and I had no access to the usual nail punch (set USA) I use. I looked high and low for an alternative possibility but found nothing remotely suitable until I found a 2″ long wood screw.

Perhaps, I thought to myself, I could use this punch-like on the side of the teeth as I do normally on smaller teeth like these, but with the first couple of attempts the point glanced off the teeth without setting anything but my own teeth on edge. Then, as with many serendipitous eventualities, I pictured in my mind’s eye the edge of the screw head filed at 90° as shown below. With a 10″ flat file I filed the edge to a flat and offered it to the saw plate so that when I pinched it between my thumb and forefinger the flat edge was oriented according to the plate and the sides of the saw teeth. The threads on the screw aided the setting too in that they rested in the teeth as I tapped the edge of the screw head with the hammer to set each alternative tooth. This has proven to be the simplest saw setting device and perhaps the least expensive of all too. Once both sides of teeth are set, gentle tapping of the teeth as per my usual way, between two hammer faces, refines the setting and I was fully back to sawing action. It may not be sophisticated but it works extremely well;  as good as any saw-set I’ve ever used anyway!

OK. if you’ve read the blog you’re entitled to watch a very brief video on how it works here:





  1. Mike Ballinger on 28 July 2017 at 11:16 am

    That’s brilliantly simple. I’ve heard of saw sharpeners of a past era setting saws without a saw set, but never seen it done. How was it done?

    • Michael Ballinger on 1 August 2017 at 5:40 pm

      Oh just discovered Paul’s video on masterclasses showing the hammer and punch method for saw setting. Question answered.

  2. Brian on 28 July 2017 at 12:33 pm

    This is a great idea. I don’t have a saw set yet but I have a bunch of screws. Looks like one is going to be made into a saw set and go into my “poor man’s” drawer with all the other tools ive learned to make from you. 🙂

  3. Ivan Stanković on 28 July 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Is this garage workshop? Can we have a tour? 🙂 you mentioned in some blog while a go about saving floor space… Anyway, thanx for all…

  4. Jozef on 29 July 2017 at 5:17 pm

    I love simplicity,Paul. Thxxxxx a lot.

  5. Debra on 1 August 2017 at 5:24 pm

    I will try this! I been having trouble setting a 16pt saw. Thanks!

  6. Simon on 3 August 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Other people sell things on their blogs; Mr. Sellers teaches us to think and work through issues without quitting. Thank you so much, Paul!

  • Paul M Clifford on Two OppositesOops! "from" not "form". Back to square 1.
  • Paul M Clifford on Two OppositesA very nicely presented perspective! It greatly reminded me of a synopsis which I learned form a course over twenty years ago about the steps in a learning process. The stages were…
  • Paul Sellers on Vlog 015 Up!Not sure what this refers to, Gerald?
  • Hayden Thurston on Two OppositesI did an introductory woodworking course as I love woodworking but was having continuous problems and unfortunately fell into the latter category. Everything I had gone there to le…
  • gerald anania on Vlog 015 Up!paul will you be giving us a schedule of location(s) and times if we want to see you.
  • Landon Vaughn on Two OppositesGreat read! Thanks for you wisdom and all you do!
  • Jeremie G. Doiron on Two OppositesBravo! I love these musings. As always, your generosity in sharing wisdom is a spacial gift to those listening.
Scroll To Top