Recommendations on Sawmakers, Restorers, and Sharpeners
Every once in a while I'm asked if I could restore or make a saw for a fellow woodworker. Unfortunately, my current employment situation allows me little time for personal endeavors (like finishing my shop!), much less that for others - so I've had to severely cut back work I do for others.
Gladly, I'm certainly not the only game in town, and my response is invariably to recommend one of the others I know that are in the business. It seems that just a few years ago when I first posted the article about making your own saws, there were only three premium sawmakers with product on the market(perhaps more, it depends on your definition of "premium"). Now - it seems - there are many, many more to choose from. When asked, I usually steer someone towards what I believe would fit them best, and wanted to compile that list in a single location - here, obviously. If I don't mention everyone that's out there, please forgive me - these are only the ones I've had some direct experience with.
So, with no further ado - here's the rundown of what's available as of today that I regularly recommend to inquisitors and queriers, when so pursued for an answer. NOTE - I have not asked for any permissions from any of the people or companies I mention, nor am I receiving any compensation whatsovever. I even stole the photos (from public web sites)... But if someone here doesn't want me using their name or photo, let me know and I will gladly pull it from the website.
Let's start with the big boys first.
Here's a list of the established premium sawmakers I can recommend for those who want a tried and true product that's backed up by a well-known name:
The first real saw innovators in a generation, Independence Tools line of saws (founded by Pete Taran and Patrick Leach) were bought out by Lie-Nielsen, who is still producing high quality version of their saws.
Lie Nielsen saws are of a consistent, high quality. They do not make a full-size saw, but do offer a full array of backsaws including a unique option on some - progressively pitched filing. And - their customer service is second to none.
The Adria Toolworks line of saws are also of fine quality and which are also still produced today.
Adria was the first major competitor to arise after Independence Toolworks. Eddie Sirotech offers a full line of backsaws with a fine, well-deserved reputation.
Mike Wenzloff started making saws just a couple years ago, but has already garnered a large piece of the pie - and with good reason - Wenzloff & Sons are high-quality tools. Demand is high, so a wait may be in order if you want one - but it's well worth the wait if you have the patience. Unfortunately, Mike has had to suspend orders for custom-made saws because of the high demand.
His saws are available through Lee Valley and The Best Things.
While a relative newcomer to the premium saw manufacturers out there today, Mike's saws are setting the standard for quality in today's market.
Another recent entry into the sawmaking world is Gramercy, which is in essence the toolmaking arm of the Tools for Working Wood online tool company.
Gramercy adds to their already impressive line of tools with a dovetail and a carcass saw that harkens back to the finest tools of the 18th century. They also set a high standard and are also a tier above nearly every other saw out there. Besides the 9" dovetail saw and a recently introduced carcass saw, they also offer a split nut screwdriver for use with their saws and saw kits for those do-it-yourselfers out there.
Disston, Japanese, and other Saws
In the back of the latest Rockler catalog, an ad tells us that the Disston name is making a comeback - we'll have to wait and see if the saws can live up to their storied heritage. I don't think I'm going to hold my breath - but I'm sure the saws will be serviceable, so long as you are able to sharpen them yourself.
Others - and there are many other saws out there - but as most of these are not what I would call "premium" saws in the true sense of the word, I'll not include them here - your mileage may vary.
Then of course there are Japanese saws - but as I know little of the qualities, makers, and nuances of their manufacture, I'll not display my ignorance of them to the reader.
The Up-and-Comers and Lone Wolf sawmakers
There are several new sawmakers of merit out there that are worth checking out. These are entrepeneurs that are willing to take that extra step to make sure you get exactly the saw you want. If you have an independent or maverick streak, these are the makers for you. All of them produce a quality product - and each can give you that personal service you may want that you aren't going to get from the "Establishment"
Tim Hoffman makes saws of excellent quality, and as a bonus also makes an excellent spokeshave as well:
I don't have a web site for him, but you can contact him through the Woodnet woodworking forums or if you want to drop me a note I can get you directly in contact with him.
After successfully making saws in his spare time for the last few years, Ed Paik recently went full-time and launched his Medallion Toolworks line of saws.
His saws are meticulously crafted, and Ed can also do custom work for you, too.
Have a bit of an artistic flair? Then Andrew Lunn may be your man:
Andrew is one of the more creative souls out there making saws today. His handles are exquisite, and his etching work sets his saws apart from the crowd.
There are tons of saws out there that are vintage high quality - but you don't always know what you are getting. Or - maybe you already have the exact saw you want, and it needs sharpening or restoring... There are options for those with an eye on the past, too.These guys don't make new saws - but they do make vintage saws sing.
Marv Werner (the link above is to his Ebay store) restores and sells classic handsaws. His refurbishments are top notch -if you can snag one of his saws off of Ebay, you do yourself proud.
Marv sometimes does custom restorations, too - but I'd ask first.
Daryl Weir has to be the premier saw sharpener out there today. The saws he sells on ebay always command a premium - and with good reason.
Again, if you can corner one of Daryl's saws you've got a real prize.
Another relative newcomer, Afghanistan war veteran Mark Harrell has already garnered accolades of his work, one from Chris Schwarz, editor of Popular woodworking.
His work speaks for itself - and he's even got prices listed on his website for the level of service you want on your saw. The kind of service he offers is unique, and needed - and gets my "blisters up" stamp of approval.
He also has an interest in alternate energies and green building on his site that is a good read.
Now - with all that in mind, I would still recommend the user fabricate their own or search out a quality used saw (preferably one that is dated pre-WWII) and bring it back to life. With the economy as it is, this may be the most economical route, and there are dozens upon dozens of manufacturers who made quality saws that can still be found pretty cheaply. In fact, the premium saws of today are only just starting to match the quality of some of these saws. You should know how to sharpen your own saws anyway - and what better way to learn then by doing? Look for any good saw and give it a go. The following are my favorite brands:
There are a myriad of others as well, all worthy of their time. If you want to practice and you are nervous about wrecking a nice saw, grab a post-WWII saw and have at it - there's tons of them out there and the steel is just the same. You could even make a new handle for one, and make it a nicer saws...
As for me...
What with the gathering darkness of late (Ragarok, anyone? ) and the limited personal time my career allows, I've decided to re-focus myself on personal projects, so won't be doing any saws in the near future (never say never). I've not given it up - I have new saw-filing equipment I haven't even had a chance to try out yet, and I'm continuing to experiment with new and different designs. I just need to get that honey-do list down a bit first...
As I said before, the companies and/or individuals I have named above are only those I have had direct experience or communications with. Some I even consider friends - but regardless of who or what they are, I can assure and attest to the reader of the high caliber of the company or individual's work ethic, honesty, and to quality of their product and/or service, and I can highly recommend each and every one.