Recently, a woodworking colleague suggested to me that saw teeth designed for crosscutting are an invention of modern marketing.
Early saws, he suggested, we’re probably filed for basically a rip cut. But because the teeth were hand filed, they probably had a little fleam, which made them cut more smoothly than a pure rip tooth with no fleam.
It’s an interesting argument that has no real answer – until we find the DNA of an 18th-century saw filer encased in some amber and decide to open a theme park on a deserted tropical island (sign me up).
Other woodworking authorities I trust have suggested that saw filing patterns were actually more complex in the 18th century than they are today. In other words, we are the primitives.
All I know is that they can take away my Zona Razor Saw from my cold, dead hands. Or they can take it when it’s kinked – whichever comes first.
The Zona Razor Saw is a marvel of modern manufacturing. Made in the USA for the price of 2.5 chai lattes, it’s a 24 tpi backsaw with a .01”-thick sawplate that cuts on the pull stroke. I use this $11 saw for almost everything. Rips. Crosscuts. Miters. Whatever.
The magic of the saw is not in the fact that it’s filed for a rip cut, but that it has 24 tpi. Once you get to teeth that small, it really doesn’t matter so much how they are filed. This saw leaves glass-smooth surfaces when it rips and crosscuts. It tracks beautifully. It is comfortable and balanced.
But before you think it also is going to mow your lawn, paint your house and raise your kids to be truthful and wise, it know that it has a fatal flaw. The sawplate is easily kinked. I’ve had one since 2006, and I have been using it on every project. The cherry-red-dyed handle has faded to pink, and the sawplate has a subtle wave to it.
It still tracks fairly straight – straight enough for most joinery. But this weekend I decided to try to fix the plate. I bent it this way and that with my fingers. I tapped it with a hammer on an anvil. I tweaked it with pliers. And eventually I buckled under and ordered another one from Lee Valley Tools.
If you haven’t tried the Zona Razor Saw, I highly recommend you get one for your tool kit.
By the way, the vast and insidious Zona model-making consortium did not pay for this blog entry. Just so you know.
— Christopher Schwarz