- I recently completed an article on Hand Saw Basics, which includes sections on Sharpening as well as Tuning Hand Saws that might interest the reader.
First, I 'joint' the saw - that means filing the top of the saw so each of the teeth are just slightly flattened. I just use a file with a square scrap of wood to help hold it perpendicular to the saw, but name brand jointers are available as well. Here you can see the reflection of the freshly flattened parts of the teeth by their reflection:
I then spray the teeth with sight black to reduce the reflection of the freshly filed metal on the teeth. You can also use chalk or layout dye - Sight Black is a anti-reflective coating used by gun enthusiasts to reduce the glare of adjacent metal surfaces when using a scope. Wipes off easily, and does no damage to the saw in any way, and comes recommended by Tom Law - so it's what I use.
One thing I've found that has greatly increased my sharpening skills is a magnifying lamp:
Maybe it's age, but I always have trouble seeing where I've been and where I've got to go when sharpening, but more so lately. This lamp has made this way easier on me. It's also been suggested to me to use only the one light where I'm working, and darken the rest of the room to help my eyes focus. I've tried it, and it works. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.
This is a 10 point-per-inch (PPI) crosscut saw that will be used on hardwood, so I sharpen it with a 6" X-Slim taper file, using angles mentioned on vintagesaws.com, about a 12 degree back bevel with 15 degrees of fleam. I just love that word - fleam. Essentially, back bevel is the angle you hold the file at like below (crosscut profile shown, as that's what this saw is). I just jam the file into a square scrap of hardwood at about the right angle to get the bevel, though some use jigs to accomplish it. For reference - the direction of travel for the profile shown below would have the handle of the saw to the right side of the picture.
Fleam (don't you just love that word too?), for our purpose, is the angle you hold the file in relation to the blade itself - perpendicular, like for a rip saw, would mean you file holding the file 90 degrees to the saw. Since this is a crosscut saw, I'll use an angle of about 15 degrees off of perpendicular. Here you can see what I mean, though in the picture I'm exaggerating the angle partly to help explain, but mostly because I couldn't hold the camera and file at the same time:
They aren't all perfect, but they don't have to be. Many have commented that hand sharpened saws perform better than machine sharpened ones, and it's probably because of these imperfections. I don't know if that's true or not, but in any case, I do every other tooth, then flip the saw and do the remaining. That way, any mistake I make is repeated on the other side in the same manner, and they even themselves out.
I don't always set the teeth when sharpening, usually only every third time or so. I also went back and took another quick swipe at sharpening with the file after doing this to account for the new set.
This one saws pretty straight, so I'm not going to mess with it. If it wanted to drift to one side or the other, I would take a sharpening stone, lay the saw flat on a bench and draw the stone across the teeth on the side of the saw that it leads to on, then repeat this test until it sawed straight.
There it is - this one now joins the rest of my saws:
This new saw is now by far the nicest and most expensive panel type saw I own, and it cost only about $7.00. Of the back saws on the left, the most spendy one was about $25, most were about $10. I keep several saws on hand, each sharpened for a different task - rip, crosscut, hardwood, softwood, fine cut, coarse cut.