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Sharpen a Saw in 5 Mins???

I was teaching saw sharpening when almost everyone I ever met or knew of had abandoned such practices. As a direct result from my efforts more people are sharpening their own saws than I have ever seen before and the numbers keep on growing. Who’s doing it? Amateur woodworkers all around the world are!

I put this video together to encourage anyone out there who might feel intimidated at the thought of taking a file to their tenon saws or handsaws, be they economy purchases from eBay or premium saws from high-end makers.

Five minutes and your saw will cut like a hot knife through butter – even in oak!

30 Comments

  1. TC on 17 October 2019 at 11:53 am

    My dad gave me an S&J tenon saw in about 1980 “for your kit”. And I had never sharpened it. I got through a few plastic-handled cheapo saws over the years. The other edge is useful for spreading glue when the blighter won’t cut anymore. And then I came across you and your sharpening. And now I am one of those people. Thank-you, Paul. BTW I have given my S&J – sharpened, and with a file – to my lad, for his kit.

    • Mic on 17 October 2019 at 1:06 pm

      Awesome!

  2. Kelvin G Foster on 17 October 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Good afternoon Paul and team,
    I find your tutorials on woodworking along with all your tips of the trade like this one excellent easy to understand and follow, for a novice wood worker like myself.
    I have been given a S&J tenon saw from a friend, which is fairly old and in need of some maintenance and sharpening. I can now give it a new lease of life.
    Thank you for this episode on how to sharpen a saw, great clarity easy to follow advice.
    Thank you.

    • Michael Ballinger on 21 October 2019 at 8:03 pm

      There’s some other great videos about if the saw is older and if the teeth are out of shape.

  3. Tom Bittner on 17 October 2019 at 12:35 pm

    My brother sawed through a live wire by accident and melted a couple of teeth.
    He took it to “a professional “ service and they sent it back unsharpened and told him they couldn’t fix it. I was able to sharpen it for him, second time I ever attempted to do my own. One tooth looks a bit funky but the saw cuts just fine. Since then I have sharpened and restored saws for my sons

  4. Mike In MI on 17 October 2019 at 1:32 pm

    I watched your saw sharpening videos several years ago and used that knowledge to sharpen a saw that my dad had given me 30 years ago (He had sharpened it before he gave it to me and then I promptly ruined it the first time I tried to sharpen it on my own).

    I just assumed he would be around forever when a saw needed a little work but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I wish I would have paid a little more attention when he was doing it but your instruction has given that saw, and many others that I’ve acquired over the years, a new lease on life. Thanks so much for what you do.

  5. Michael Perkins on 17 October 2019 at 1:33 pm

    I cannot thank you enough……
    When I was a child my father was a carpenter, he did very well for himself and work his way up to become a senior surveyor for the local council, but he never forgot how to work with his hands. All through my childhood we would spend hours in the garage making things and doing DIY round the house with me as his shadow and probably getting in the way.
    I eventually left school and became a carpenters apprentice. Apart from a few years when I got myself a proper job in an office, that didn’t workout well, I’ve spent nearly 20 years on the tools, I have never been taught to, or even tried to sharpen a hand saw having always worked with throw away plastic hardpoint saws.
    My father passed away 11 years ago and I kept a lot of his tools many of them with not only his, but previous owners names on.
    I have been following you on YouTube and your blog for about 18months and I find them fantastic and it was only last week that I order some saw files and sharpened an old Tyzack rip saw and dove tail saw. The joy I had not only sharpening them but also in using these tools have been so pleasurable with such a personal connection.
    Truly from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

  6. Michael on 17 October 2019 at 4:10 pm

    Saw manufacturers never wanted customers to gain this knowledge.
    They didn’t provide instructions for sharpening, setting, or saw-files with a new saw. Hoping to sell another new one when the last one went blunt. This perpetuated the ‘dark art’ sharpening myth.
    Manufacturers shot themselves in the foot. Existing customers wouldn’t repeatedly buy new and Saw Doctors were expensive and inconvenient. So well-crafted saws were seen as a waste of money and manufacturers went bust.
    Hopefully, makers of disposable saws will lose their market too.
    Thanks to Paul, I feel we’ve gained an upper hand.

  7. sla on 17 October 2019 at 7:18 pm

    how to fix small bends? many old saws are banded, or it could arrive to bend one

    • Michael Ballinger on 21 October 2019 at 8:13 pm

      If it’s a curve down the length sometimes you can straighten it by gently pulling it in the opposite direction in a loose vice. If it’s a hardbacked saw sometimes you can knock it back into the brass back to straighten them. But if they have a kink forget about it, you’ll never straighten it. Paul’s put out a video on it a few years ago if you search for it. In my limited experience though I’ve found it better to get a saw that’s straight, with a handle that doesn’t move about. Teeth are easy to fix. It’s probably not such an issue if you’re experienced and know how a saw should feel – but when you’re starting out it can be very hard to know what’s the saw and what’s the skill level that needs work!

  8. Carlin Green on 18 October 2019 at 2:30 am

    A big thank you to Paul. This and other instruction has made a big difference for me.

  9. lou on 18 October 2019 at 2:39 pm

    It’s the simple things like this that will take you to a whole other level.

  10. Gregg on 18 October 2019 at 3:02 pm

    I’m a little confused by one aspect in the video:

    You say tilt the file forward for that “extra punchiness”. How far?
    Are you changing the angle of the cutting edge, and removing material from the non-cutting edge in front of it? It sounds as if you are altering the angle of the gullet.

    Perhaps I misunderstood.

    Thanks for the video. The reduction of the required strokes by half and improved kerf makes me want to do this to the gent saw I have.

    • Janes on 19 October 2019 at 4:45 am

      Hi Gregg,
      You are always filing the face of one tooth and the rear of the tooth in front of it, because the saw-file sits in the gullet and meets the two faces at the same time. It also files the gullet a little deeper (3 strokes deeper).
      The saw-file is rotated as you progress, so you create the angle-of-attack between tooth and wood. Passive-Intermediate-Agressive.
      Paul began at the toe, creating a passive rake, with the top of the file horizontal. So the first few teeth are like a ‘V’.
      Then he rotates the file slightly for the next few teeth, counter-clockwise as he views it, so the forward-facing cutting faces of the teeth are almost vertical, but not quite.
      Then for all remaining teeth (the majority of the saw) the file is like this <| and the forward-facing cutting face of the tooth is filed vertical; like \| \|. That's the "extra punchiness". Each tooth now cuts with maximum aggression. Like a bevelled chisel. When the saw is turned upright, the teeth look like this |/ |/ |/.

    • Michael Ballinger on 21 October 2019 at 8:16 pm

      It’s changing the angle on the front of the tooth to produce a more aggressive cut. Sometimes you can do the first inch or two of the saw passive and then the rest more aggressive so you get an easy start in the cut.

  11. Joe on 18 October 2019 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you Paul for making this video. I watched it last night on YouTube. The saw stroke count change from before and after was amazing.

    I think I am over the fear of sharpening.

    Would it be possible in a future video talk at length about setting saw teeth and how often this is needed, etc. That’s where I still feel a bit nervous. For a new saw (or maybe one that I had had professionally sharpened that is now dull) I am not worried about setting the teeth. Many thanks.

    • Tom on 19 October 2019 at 6:08 am

      Hi Joe,
      Nothing to be nervous about. You’re just prying the teeth outward with pliers so they create a kerf, and the sawplate can’t jam.
      Paul did very-briefly mention setting here, but you may have missed what he said.
      Saw teeth can be set either before or after sharpening. Usually they’re set once for every six sharpenings. As you re-sharpen and progress further into fresh, flat, sawplate, the set will become finer and finer until there is none. There’s not much point trying to re-set strong sprung steel by a gnat’s whisker each time we sharpen, so we re-set after half-a-dozen or so sharpenings.

      Paul covers all aspects of saw-setting here on WWMC.
      Search [Video Library] [Tools and Techniques] [Standalone] “Saw Set”.

      Paul covers Choosing and modifying a saw set, Rip saw setting, Crosscut setting, Setting with a hammer & punch, and Reducing saw set.

      • Joe on 21 October 2019 at 5:23 pm

        Hi Tom,
        Many thanks. I will dig more into the videos you mention. Knowing that I can go quite a few without having to set the teeth greatly helps. I guess I should buy a saw set that covers from my rip saw to my dovetail saw.
        Sincerely,
        Joe

  12. Reggie on 21 October 2019 at 10:59 am

    Paul “360” your videos are a ton of help. With your videos on sharpening saws, chisels, planets and other tools helped me to understand all of my tools. I now recondition my straight slot screwdrivers, gardening tools(grass shears and even my utensils. I even noticed that I drive less to the big box stores because I’m now making and resharpening my tools. Thank you again. Reg

  13. Johannes Linkels on 21 October 2019 at 11:37 am

    I have seen the tutorials on Youtube some time ago, and the results are amazing. Never knew I could do this. As with more techniques that Paul explains.
    It is only too bad that it gets harder and harder every year to buy saws with non-hardened teeth. That is, non-hardened becomes the exception, and if they can be obtained they are (much) more expensive. Fortunately I still owned some saws with non-hardened teeth in various sizes.
    The problem with hardened teeth is that they get dull anyway and your options are to keep using dull teeth or throw away the saw. Welcome in the 21st century!
    A saw which can be sharpened on the other hand never has to be dull and lasts forever.
    I big thank you to Paul for teaching something I was not aware I could learn.

  14. Eric McRory on 21 October 2019 at 12:42 pm

    @paulsellers.com Thank you for another excellent video. I have a lovely old tenon saw. Unfortunately it has some broken teeth; the previous owner must have hit a nail or something. How do I sharpen it? Do I need to effectively remove all the teeth down to the level of the broken tooth and recut new ones?
    While not too difficult to file the teeth to a uniform flatness it does seem like a fair bit of work? Is there a shortcut to this?
    Thanks
    e

    • Johannes Linkels on 21 October 2019 at 2:00 pm

      Although I am not Paul Sellers: https://youtu.be/mTqZTGPPRj0

    • Davs on 21 October 2019 at 2:56 pm

      Eruc: Just skip past broken/missing teeth and sharpen the rest. The saw won’t cut in that spot for a while. As the other teeth are sharpened over time, you’ll reach a level where the new tooth emerges.

  15. Daniel Majul on 21 October 2019 at 2:12 pm

    After restoring them, this weekend I’ve been sharpening your way the chisels my father gave me many years ago, and my first Tramontina N3 planes.
    They never cut like they do now!
    Now I’m about to sharpen my recently restored old tenon saw.
    I’m confident I’m going to hace equal results!
    Thank you very much, Paul!!!

  16. Michael O’Brien on 21 October 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks Paul. Thanks to your sharpening videos and clear commentary on hand saw sharpening, I now sharpen my own handsaws with new confidence and the rip cut ones I have sharpened cut great. I next will try a cross cut sharpening and with your instructions assume it will go fine too.

  17. Marcus on 21 October 2019 at 7:45 pm

    Cheers Paul. Thanks to you I’ve managed to get my late Dad’s Disston No7 or 8 (I’m not sure which) pre 1917 24 inch 7 tpi rip saw cutting rather well…. along with a 10 inch 14tpi (was a very wavy 12 tpi) Wm Marples & Sons 1920 tenon saw sawing very nicely. Also helped a friend sharpen his decent but unidentified 7tpi rip saw. …Next job is to find a nice old saw and convert it to a cross cut jobbie. I owe you a pint a three. Best wishes Marcus, Swansea, Wales.

  18. Sandy ONeal on 21 October 2019 at 10:56 pm

    Who’s doing it.. I sure am. I took a hand saw to a shop a while back to have it sharpened because I just didn’t feel confident. In fact I had already screwed up one saw and will have to file it down and recut. But, I waited three weeks for my saw back and got an excuse about why they hadn’t gotten to it. Then 6 weeks later their machine broke down and they couldn’t sharpen it at all. So, I got out the PC and watched your videos on sharpening several times, sat down with my files and did it myself. Darn thing cuts better than it ever did. Why would I not? Takes 5 minutes and your back to making chips again.

    • Michael Ballinger on 22 October 2019 at 10:11 pm

      Nice one 😀 power to you!

  19. Robert Brunston on 22 October 2019 at 9:59 pm

    I learned how to sharpen saws from you years ago! Thank you Paul.

  20. Brandon Lee on 30 October 2019 at 1:15 am

    Some people underestimate the importance of topics like these. Not only is it a quality thing, it’s necessary for your own safety. Thanks for this Paul.

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