Tools in ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest:’ Part 2, Saws


Though my days of teaching woodworking might be over, the process has left its mark on the tools I use. During the last 10 years, I made changes to my tool set to make it less intimidating to my students.

I gave my Eccentric Toolworks saws to a friend. I mothballed my Seaton saws from Mike Wenzloff. They were all fantastic tools that were made by people who I am proud to support. But they are unobtainable today. And I don’t want students to think there is anything magic about tools. The magic is in your fingers.

So here are the tools I use now. Only one is exotic. So let’s get that one out of the way immediately.

My tenon saw is a Wenzloff & Sons tool that was copied from the Benjamin Seaton tool chest. This saw was one of the first saws that Mike Wenzloff ever made – before he really decided to become a full-time sawmaker. It’s unsigned. It’s handle is polished and worn to fit my hands. I can no sooner get rid of this saw than sell a child. It’s sharpened rip at 10 ppi with just a bit of fleam.

My carcase saw is a vintage Wheeler, Madden & Clemson that I’ve owned forever. It’s sharpened crosscut at 14 ppi.

My dovetail saw is a Lie-Nielsen with an apple handle. Thomas Lie-Nielsen got his hands on a few chunks of apple and made this handle for me in exchange for a piece of furniture. While there are lots of good dovetail saws out there, it’s hard to beat the Lie-Nielsen. When I started woodworking they were made by Independence Tools (run by Pete Taran and Patrick Leach) and seemed exorbitantly priced at $125. Now the $125 seems the best bargain out there in saws (and I can’t believe it’s still $125).

The flush-cut saw in my chest is the Veritas one with the black plastic handle. I used to have the Veritas one with the bubinga handle, but after kinking its blade I went to order a new one and Lee Valley was out of stock of the bubinga saw. Hence the plastic one.

The saws I use for breaking down stock are vintage panel saws that Matt Cianci restored. I have a Disston panel saw that is sharpened crosscut at 8 ppi and a Spear & Jackson panel saw that is sharpened rip at 7 ppi.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my Stanley Sharptooth saw that I use for breaking down rough stock. It lives in my truck, not my tool chest, but has been an important part of every project during the last five years. I want to hate the $10, plastic-handled (but made in the USA) thing. But that would be disingenuous.

Speaking of saws that don’t live in the chest, I have a vintage Langdon miter box below my bench that I use for precision crosscuts and miters. The original sawblade was trashed, so I replaced it with a Lie-Nielsen miter box saw.

A lot of people ask me about the Veritas saws with composite spines and wooden handles. Why don’t I use those? They are excellent saws. I’ve used many of them that were owned by students and I regularly recommend them to beginners. When I assembled my kit of tools, Veritas didn’t make joinery saws. If Veritas had made joinery saws back in 1999 I’m sure would have stocked my chest with those.

Next up: marking and measuring tools.

— Christopher Schwarz

Part 1 of this series on handplanes can be found here.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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13 Responses to Tools in ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest:’ Part 2, Saws

  1. You probably just did my wallet a huge favor. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about why there is such a renaissance in Western style back saws but a dirth of options for full size handsaws. That took me down a long internet rabbit hole.

    My first choice was Wenzloff & Sons, but looking at their website I wasn’t sure if they were still taking orders. And, that being unclear, even though I still prefer full-sized to panel configurations I was even eyeing up the Lie-Nielsen panel saws.

    Do I have money for those saws? No.
    Do I need those saws? No.

    My vintage Disstons are working just fine.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. fitz says:

    You don’t have your LN panel saws anymore? I think those are nice for relatively short woodworkers with freakishly short arms (me). And yet I recall tagging the floor even with those.

  3. Rachael Boyd says:

    I don’t think I have ever bought a new saw when you can find vintage one’s all over the place. take them home clean and sharpen them the way you want but them in the till.

  4. Do you have a recommendation on a coping saw? I am using a fret saw at the moment because I don’t like my options all that much.

  5. Eric R says:

    My old Disston that you helped me get by sending me to Tom Law has served me very well all these years.
    Mr. Law sold me a beautiful saw, sharpened perfectly, for a very reasonable price.
    RIP Mr. law and thank you.

  6. I, too, have a Stanley Sharptooth saw for breaking down rough boards at the lumber yard ( ), but mine has a wooden handle. Alas, the newer ones now have plastic handles!

  7. meanmna says:

    I take it from the above that the TFWW Hardware Store saw is not in your permeant saw collection? I know your write up indicated that you thought highly of it. I was thinking of adding one of those for my main go to for breaking down stock initially and then just my two panel saws in my dutch chest for the rest of the non-back saw/non-frame saw work.

    • It is a great saw – perfect for a beginner or person who uses a panel saw occasionally. If you already have a rip and crosscut panel (plus a Sharptooth saw), then it’s redundant.

      I was asked to review it for PWM, so I bought one and put it to hard use. I have nothing but good things to say about it. But I can’t own all the tools and have them all in my chest – so I have to make hard choices.

      I guess this is the long way of saying: I stand by my opinions on tools. They were hard won by using the tool. But just because I like a tool doesn’t mean I am going to own it forever. I have a core set and I am determined to keep it small and I’m ruthless about it.

  8. wldrylie says:

    If you need a back saw, I suggest you make your own, Isaac Smith sells saw kits from 9 inch dovetail to 18 inch tenon. Teeth punched rip, x-cut, hybrid or specified. Different back materials and nuts. I made the 10 inch dovetail with 200 year+ old walnut for handle and everyone says it looks pro and feels really great in the hand. Even templates posted for handle patterns. Just print them out. Total cost to me when done was $60.00. I have never made a saw before but in my opinion, it was a lot easier than you think it is. His website has treatises on saw making, how to measure your hand, how to sharpen, it’s all there. He also makes saws, but is currently backlogged. If anyone wants to see what you can do first time out with simple hand tools, I could put up a picture of the saw somewhere, just ask, and no, I am not going into the saw making business.

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