I often derive great pleasure and profit from reading the choice bits of information in “ours,” and was much interested in reading, in No. 623, suggestions respecting the purchasing of saws. They are from an American source, and will no doubt be very useful to any one purchasing an American-made saw, but are incomplete, and do not contain all the information necessary for any one to possess who desires to know what he is buying of any make. I take the liberty of sending you the following suggestions, and, if you think that they will be of interest to your readers, shall be glad if you will insert them in “ours.”
It would be invidious to recommend any name to be sought after in choosing a hand-saw, but I would say this, give a fair price, and go to a shop of good reputation, and trust to the seller, who should certainly, for his own sake, sell you none but the best maker’s. After trying if the handle suits your hand, and is fixed at such an angle on the plate as to present the teeth at the right angle to the wood when held in the position for working, so that the grain of the wood is not crossways of the handle, as every user of a saw knows to his cost that handles break soon enough with the fibre of the wood lengthways of the weakest parts, without the handle being weakened by the grain being crossways. I have never met with this defect in English-made saws, but have many times in American-made ones.
A well-made saw handle, and one that will fit the hand easily, should be well rounded in the part that fits the hand. This wants well looking to, as there is a growing tendency by both English and American makers to leave the handles too flat, caused by the introduction of imperfect machinery. The next thing to be noticed, and although nearly always overlooked, is of no little importance—viz., see that the blade of the saw in the handle rests against the wood, and is not held in its position by the screw only. If it is, a few months’ work will suffice to cut the screws in two and separate plate from handle.
Now, let the buyer grasp the handle of saw with both hands, resting the horns of the handle against his person, and gently shaking the saw he will find whether it shakes stiff or weak; if weak, it should be rejected, because it is faulty either in the hammering or grinding. The finer the teeth of a saw are, the thinner the blade should be—and the coarser the stronger; but mind and don’t get a blade thin with coarse teeth in it, and examine American-made saws more particularly for this defect; for, although they work well at first, yet if they have the least knocking about or unskilful usage, they get buckled, and never work well afterwards.
The next thing to be found out is its elasticity. To determine this, bend the point of the saw gently towards the handle, allowing it to spring back. If it goes back to its original place, showing no bend, it is all right in this respect. Next see that the saw is well set and sharpened. Prove the former by looking across the blade, holding the back towards you, and see that the set is equal on both sides. If you want to cut soft wood you must have plenty of set on; if hard, very little. To prove the latter, hold up the saw, handle down, and point towards you. You can then see the cutting parts of the teeth, the fronts of which should be filed all at the same angle, with no break caused by the file catching the next tooth, and gently raising the handle and lowering the point you will be able to see if the teeth are all filed to a sharp point.
Now comes the grinding—a most important part in a saw. It should be ground off thin to the back, the thinner the better, and also thinner towards the point on the back, and so ground that when the saw is bent it should bend like the top of a fishing-rod. If it bends from the middle, or too much towards the middle, it will never work well, and I should recommend buyers of American saws to examine them for this defect.
The temper of a saw is of the utmost importance; but this can only be proved by the saw being worked, and set and sharpened afterwards. If the saw is found to comply with the tests just enumerated it is not likely to be wrong in the temper, only great care should be used in setting it. On no account should hand-saws be set with a saw-set that bends the teeth by a pull, but should have the set put on by a blow.
English Mechanic and World of Science – No. 626 March 23, 1877
– Jeff Burks