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Gent’s Saws

Gent’s saws are basically smaller back saws that generally range from around 3″ on up to 10″. I’m writing this blog to simply say no woodworker should be without one. The 10″ is my favourite size and what cuts a lot cuts a little so I have little use for the smaller versions. All of these saws have different names on the plates and this causes confusion if you look in a catalogue and try to choose the best for your work. What might help is that there are indeed very few makers out there, so few in fact we can narrow it down to just two. Whereas there are some bijou makers who are usually engineers of one kind or another, most of their prices are for the wealthy collector user and not really for the working man. I mean they go up to £500 but they cut the same as a £20 one and they go dull on the teeth at the same rate so they will need resharpening in a few weeks.

The main supplier is based in Sheffield. The company produces the same basic saw with different brand names but the saws are all the same in terms of functionality, sizings and so on. Why I think everyone should own one is because they cut terrific dovetails and really, even the inexpensive ones cut equally to the very best.

My testing out half a dozen of them made me wonder how to address the confusion because they re all the same and looking through any of the catalogs can give the impression that there are differences that matter when that’s not the case at all. Well, the term one-size-fits-all in this case really does measure up; man, woman and child can use one and it will generally suit every user with no changes necessary. That means that for a family working in the garage the saw can be passed from one another without any issues.

The list of saws made by the one maker are: Crown, Pax, Garlick, Dorchester, Lynx, William Greaves and Victor. I suggest you ignore the 6″ and 8″, they’re too short.

32 Comments

  1. Simon on 13 September 2019 at 5:05 pm

    I like my Veritas Gents saw a lot and think it’s fair priced with under 50€ here in Germany. I have the 20 TPI rip pattern version and like to use it for dovetails. I sometimes even grab it for tenons when I feel I need to be extra careful.

  2. Phill on 13 September 2019 at 5:23 pm

    does the design of the handle affect your use? holding your wrist differently? Just a matter of getting used to the grip?

  3. Scott on 13 September 2019 at 5:31 pm

    I think the difference between the Thomas Flinn brands is that the cheaper models aren’t as well finished as the more expensive. Things like the set might be off for example.

    Certainly that was what I found with a Lynx brand rip saw. However, that shouldn’t be an issue for fans of Paul Sellers. Following his guides I did a quick re-set of the saw and it cuts perfectly now.

    • Paul Sellers on 13 September 2019 at 8:01 pm

      I tested out six of them and they are very much identical; same set, plate thickness but some have a rosewood handle, others a beech handle and the other a stained wood that looks like maple. One thing they all have in common though is they need sharpening from the manufacturer to saw more efficiently which is poor standard of the manufacturer. They do comer with the right quality of brass, wood and steel so it just means you sharpen before use rather than after a month’s worth of use. No big deal but they should take care of that I think.

  4. Bill on 13 September 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Just to confirm, in comparison to the Japanese Gyokucho Dozuki Saw I have, these saws cut on the push stroke vs pull stroke, correct?

    They look similar except they don’t have the long handle typical in the Japanese saws.

    • Paul Sellers on 13 September 2019 at 8:02 pm

      Yes, they can look similar but chalk and cheese difference.

  5. Jim on 13 September 2019 at 7:02 pm

    I am a rookie to saw sharpening and not sure how to sharpen my nice old Gent’s saw? Do you file it for rip or crosscut? Thanks for any advice! Jim

    • Paul Sellers on 13 September 2019 at 8:03 pm

      Generally all the tenon saw range including these are sharpened for a ripcut though some manufacturers unscrupulously try to tell you you need both a rip and a crosscut.

  6. Steve on 13 September 2019 at 7:29 pm

    I thought it was just my imagination when looking at all these saws the other week and realising they were all the same with various prices thanks for confirming this my peace of mind is restored.

  7. Miikka on 13 September 2019 at 8:13 pm

    Thomas Flinn saw lines differ in the quality of secondary materials (handles) and the level of finishing and sharpening.

    Do you want a hand-sharpened, rosewood-handled saw with mirror polished brass back? Get the Pax. If you are satisfied with machine-shaped teeth, beech handles and rougher backs, get the Greaves.

    All of them use the same excellent saw plates and heavy folded backs. This means they can all achieve the same performance. It comes down to the amount of work required to get said performance, the feel of the tool and the level of fanciness.

    I have a 1776-range dovetail saw which I adore. I just ordered two more saws of the same series. I wholeheartedly recommend them if anyone is looking for a quality option and has the budget to purchase one.

    They are excellent tools made by skilled people.

  8. Miikka on 13 September 2019 at 8:15 pm

    P.S. The sharpening on my 1776 DT is nothing short of superb. Hand filed with a fresh file. Works like a charm out of the box.

  9. David R on 13 September 2019 at 9:24 pm

    Please check the TPI for the saws, I found a “Pax” with 21 TPI and a “William Greaves” with 15 TPI. Just make sure you know what you get. The finer 21 TPI is supposed to be a bit harder to resharpen.

    @Paul Do you recommend a specific teeth size?

    • Paul Sellers on 13 September 2019 at 9:27 pm

      All the ones I just bought in to are 19 ppi. Anything smaller will be more difficult unless you are practiced at sharpening.

  10. Paul G on 13 September 2019 at 10:00 pm

    If it’s okay to share it, I’d like to attest to how very helpful Katie Ellis and her colleagues are at Flinn-Garlick. As the grand-daughter of Frank Ellis, a young lad who started his apprenticeship with Thomas Flinn back in the 20’s, I’m happy to say she seems to do her best to keep a family owned business running during these days when many are off-shoring their production. On more than one occasion, and as a totally unknown end-user living in another country and with no vested interest to benefit from, she has helped me out with replacement parts and advice for very old Flinn saws. While their latest saws are not perfect, things really have improved in quality during the past few years. I’ve bought many of the Pax saws over the past 10 or so years and the most recent show they’re paying attention and bringing some previously missing quality control back to their production. I’m glad they’re still in business, still have a family-run business approach and that they’re trying to ‘save’ some other Sheffield brands while still keeping production right there, only down the road from many of the original works. In their own way, this is helping to pass down some old and still valuable skills to younger generations. Anyway, just wanted to give them at least some recognition as not everyone makes any effort at all these days.

    • Paul Sellers on 14 September 2019 at 8:50 am

      Really, whether a saw is sharp or not at the beginning is immaterial because within a few hours of use they will need resharpening anyway and that of course is a task that is ongoing throughout the woodworker’s life. I’m sure they’re not spending time on sharpening what would be an excellent saw to keep their costs down. Funny though, even hand sharpening a saw is only four minutes. On the other hand they have come in at a price point where no one else competes with them so they have the corner on the market. Good strategising on their part.

  11. Miikka on 14 September 2019 at 4:13 am

    I posted a comment yesterday explaining the differences in Thomas Flinn models yesterday, making a recommendation based on my own experiences. Now the comments have disappeared. Have they been deleted?

    • Paul Sellers on 14 September 2019 at 6:57 am

      Not deleted. I took it down temporarily so I could think about it because it was confusing and a little off topic. The saws you were describing were 10″ tenon saws with pistol grip handles at a cost of £125 – £145 and not the £20 gent’s saws of the article yet they had the same name of Pax. The maker’s gent’s Pax version is the general quality identical to all its other gents saws they make and not the higher quality. Otherwise it expands into many of the other bijou makers when with a quick filing the inexpensive gents saw gets the exact same results.

  12. Miikka on 14 September 2019 at 7:18 am

    The differences in saw lines are similar across all saw types. Here is a rundown of the lines, although dated: https://www.flinn-garlick-saws.co.uk/acatalog/Key_Features_-_A_Quick_Guide_to_The_Differences_In_Our_Saws.html

    However, it seems I recalled the sharpening part wrong, the gent’s saws are not hand sharpened. This means the differences in these lines are purely cosmetical. (Finish of the brass back [or steel back] and handle material.) This being the case, they should all cut wood the same. My apologies.

    I also talked about the pistol-grip saw I do own. That part was not about the gent’s saws specifically but rather intended as a testimonial of the maker’s ability to produce excellent saws. They are a quality manufacturer, based in the UK and working with very traditional methods. I think they should get more praise for their work.

    It is a shame that the gent’s saws are not sharp. The dovetail saw I have came hand sharpened to a level I could not match myself.

    So all in all, I was not talking of the gent’s saws alone but rather the manufacturer and their processes as a whole. Perhaps I should have made that clearer but late evening thinking is not always as cohesive as it could be.

  13. Keith W on 14 September 2019 at 7:56 pm

    I have a small (4″) Tyzack gents saw, mainly used for model making. Love its design, especially the handle, it is a joy to hold. Don’t recall how I obtained it. Also do buy disposable 40tpi blades for modeling, but fit in wooden handles.

  14. António Santos on 14 September 2019 at 11:39 pm

    And what about the saw you mention in this blog post?

    https://paulsellers.com/2012/03/veritas-gents-saw-wins-hands-down/

    Is this still valid?
    I’m a novice woodworker and I would like to buy one, but I don’t know which one.
    Why isn’t the gents saw in the Common Woodworking Buying Guide?
    Which one should a novice woodworker buy?

    Thanks, regards.

  15. John Ferrier on 15 September 2019 at 12:23 am

    I obtained one of German origin a few months ago that was so unbelievably dull, it had have been abused, returned, and resold without inspection. I sharpened it and fitted it with a flatter handle for greater control, and it works well enough, although I use ‘pull’ type saws most of the time. Of course, I don’t sharpen pull type saws, and they can be a bit delicate, and demanding of technique,but they make good scrapers when dull.

  16. Max™ on 15 September 2019 at 12:56 am

    Seconding the scrapers comment, I’ve used my solid DFM scraper, the curved jaw from a garden shear, razor blades, and none of them are as nice to use or as easy to get a flawless finish with as the skinny little 44 and 56 tpi zona saw blades I snipped and trimmed down to size before putting a little hook on to work with.

    Those and some iwasaki files turned my dust production into wispy curlicue production.

  17. Augustine on 16 September 2019 at 8:10 am

    Hi Paul,
    Something I have a little trouble imagining is picking the correct file for a given TPI.. do you have any guidelines (or a future post someday) of what size file works for what range of saw teeth? I am slowly working my way into hand tools thanks to your writing, but I do get stuck a little at sharpening the (admittedly low quality) saws I have picked up. Hand saws, and especially tenon saws are a rarity in the flea markets here in France, any kind of iron frame planes are vanishingly rare, but wooden planes of all varieties (usually in bad state) are common. Thanks for all the inspiration!

  18. Kevin Harris on 16 September 2019 at 1:26 pm

    I use mostly Japanese pull style saws. Our of curiosity, do these gents saws have folded backs and is it possible to flip the saw plate around in the back to convert it to a pull style – if that is the case, that might make me a convert as it would be easier to sharpen than a Japanese saw.

    • Paul Sellers on 16 September 2019 at 2:01 pm

      You can simply take out the plate and turn it end for end but I have never understood people’s resistance to developing push stroke skills. Pull stroke saws are really no easier nor is the kerf thinner as promoted by sales people. I could go on in defence of my inheritance but never mind.

  19. Paul Frederick on 16 September 2019 at 3:51 pm

    I’m not wild about the trowel style handles on gent saws. I have taken some and put western pistol grip handles on them. Then they become usable for me. Super fine tooth pitch is not something I’m interested in either. I find 13 TPI is plenty fine enough for me. It leaves a clean cut and still cuts at a reasonable pace. Plus that’s about my patience limits when it comes to sharpening saws. Any finer a pitch saw and I can’t say I’m a fan. 19 TPI would drive me to tears. It’d cut too slowly and be too hard to sharpen. I’d file them teeth right off and put coarser ones on the plate.

    • Paul Sellers on 16 September 2019 at 4:31 pm

      That’s a really silly statement, Paul. Go here to see what I value most. You are talking major work for almost no advantage at all and sharpening takes under four minutes. And of course there is a major difference between 13 and 19 ppi too.

  20. Dan Miller on 16 September 2019 at 5:54 pm

    Hi Paul, A few years ago you recommended the Veritas gent’s saw. Is that still your opinion. https://paulsellers.com/2012/03/veritas-gents-saw-wins-hands-down/

    • Paul Sellers on 16 September 2019 at 6:01 pm

      It’s a good saw. yes, but even that one is improved by hand sharpening when it arrives.

  21. Kerry on 16 September 2019 at 6:48 pm

    To Augustine-Paul’s book recommends a 6 inch(150mm) XX Slim taper file for 12-16 PPI and a 5 inch(125mm) XX Slim taper file for finer dovetail and gent’s saws of 16 PPI and smaller. But also, do not discount the wooden bodied planes. There’s a reason a lot are around-generations of craftsmen used them to make their living, and they were used to create the finest masterpieces of French furniture. Using them is a joy. Like any vintage tool the hardest part may be finding ones in decent condition, but if the body is sound and there is sufficient iron left and it is not badly pitted, they are worth the restoration. There is a little bit of a learning curve involved in learning to adjust them, but it can easily become second nature.

  22. Augustine on 18 September 2019 at 7:18 am

    @Kerry, if I could figure out this reply button on my phone.. Thanks for the tip – @Paul, I’ll get the book someday!

  23. H.R. Vaughn on 20 September 2019 at 3:52 am

    I keep a couple of back saws on a magnetic strip behind my joiners bench within easy reach. When I grab my bench hook, I inevitably grab the gents’ saw also. They seem to me to be meant for each other. I very much enjoy your insights Paul; thank you for sharing.

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