When it comes to teaching saw sharpening, I generally recommend students follow a hierarchy while developing their skills. By suggesting where to focus their attention first, it helps new filers get their saws sharp and cutting true with the shortest learning curve.
First, make sure all of the teeth are the same height. Jointing the saw before sharpening creates a visual “flat” on each tooth that guides this process. File until the flat is gone, but not a micro-spec further. At that moment, the tooth is sharp and it is equal in height to the rest of the teeth. Continue to file after the flat has disappeared and the tooth may remain sharp, but you have now filed it lower than the neighboring teeth. This tooth will then do no work in the kerf.
Once you’ve mastered this skill, you can turn your focus to evening your gullet depth, or tooth size. This is a more difficult skill for beginning filers to master. It requires mastery of your file stroke…knowing where and how to accentuate your stroke to remove more material from one face of a tooth while sparing a neighboring tooth.
The list goes on from there, but these are the two greatest elements in creating a toothline that functions smoothly and accurately. If all you accomplish is the first objective, then you’ll be able to make a saw cut true and smooth. For some, they stop there…they want to get back to making things out of wood, not fine tuning their saws. For others, they become obsessed with reaching the ACME of saw performance. There’s no right or wrong, just what works for you.
If you’d like to learn more about saw sharpening and are going to be in New England later this month, there are still 2 or 3 spots left in my upcoming ‘Saw Sharpening 101′ class at the CT Valley School of Woodworking on Saturday November 23rd. This class almost always fills up, so don’t wait. Details and registration here:
And I’m also very happy to announce that I’ve scheduled two classes next year at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking in Washington. I’ll be there in June 2014 for a week-long ‘Foundations of Handsawing’ course and a two-day ‘Build a Dovetail Saw’ . I’m very excited to be coming to the West coast…I’ve heard Jim Tolpin’s school is fabulous. More details soon.