Sunday, January 17, 2016

Saw maintenance tools

In the days before the chainsaw...

We used Felling saws and Bucking saws, and before that; Felling axes and Bucking saws.

It has been said that the North American frontiers were won by the axe and the saw. It defined us as we pushed further West. The size of the virgin's forest trees was something never really encountered before, it created a totally different and unique style of felling axes and saws, as compared with the similar tools overseas.

The saws, either felling or Bucking, were made in one (1) or two (2) man version. Depending primarily on the size of the logs to be cut.

Both Felling (to cut down a tree) and Bucking (to cut the log in manageable pieces) are essentially a "crosscut" (to cut across the grain) operation.

Felling on top, Bucking on bottom.
The concave back of the felling saw is to introduce
 quickly wedges as the saw progress

The sizes of the trees encountered and the growing demand for timbers, created a push to make these tools to cut more efficiently.
If you ever saw a Lumberjacks style competition, you probably witnessed how fast one of these two man crosscut saw can be, when maintained in peak conditions.

Two woman crosscut saw, because it's 2016 :-)

The types of operations carried out by lumberjacks was also done for the most part on freshly cut logs. The moisture contents would be quite high, but the sap would be low when cut in winter (as it was the customs, one of the reason for it)

In order to cut efficiently, the fibers cut by teeth must be cleared right away for the teeth to engage new wood, not torn fibers.

There was all kind of variations of teeth patterns (most patented) in order to best accomplished that;

Cutter teeth only. Best for cutting dry, very hard or brittle small diameter wood.
Also known as Peg tooth pattern.

Large cutter teeth and unset raker.  Best for heavy sawing in extra hard, dry or frozen wood. Also known as a Tuttle tooth pattern.

Competition saw.  Very aggressive cutting as teeth cut and rake.
Depends on arm strength, fatiguing. Best for cutting dry, medium to hard wood.

Best for cutting soft green timber. Fir, Spruce and redwood.

Competition saw. Very aggressive cutting as teeth cut and rake. Depends on arm strength, fatiguing. Best for cutting dry, medium to hard wood.

Bridge strengthen cutter teeth. Best for all but hard and frozen woods.

These fancy tooth patterns all have similar requirements; For best performance their heights among each other tooth, is critical.
It beg the question, if so? How does one ensure that relationship is not lost during subsequent sharpening?

With the uses of simple jointer and rake jig. Often combined together into a small patented cast iron jig. You just have to add a mill file, two if you want to be more efficient and leave one set in the jig.

How did Rudy got in there? :-)

With one of these and a file, you can joint all the teeth tops to be in the same plane, even in an arc, then file off all the raker's teeth at the correct height 

The screw retaining the file in the jig for jointing operation, can apply enough force to gently bend a file. The saw's tooth line is curved, but it is a big radius, does not take much bend to joint that curvature with the short jointer jig.

These three jigs will all joint the teeth of a saw flat, but the top two (one antique and one modern Lee Valley jig) are designed for handsaws, full size and panels.
The one in the bottom is designed for the big cross cut saws.

Once the teeth are topped or jointed (all at same height), the jig also contain a raker tooth height gauge on the other side. Both the Champion and Lance tooth pattern have the raker set slightly below the cutting teeth. Put the raker tooth inside the slot and file flat with guide.

Once all the teeth have been jointed and shaped, raker height adjusted, the set is checked and adjusted as required.
A plunger type saw set, as used on regular handsaws,  would be inadequate for the size of these big teeth. A small anvil and a hammer is used.

Then the spider is used to gauge the amount of set.
See Simonds Crescent Saw Tool for explanation of spider

Various models of Spider gauge

That saw is now ready to go back to cut some wood...

For a complete description of the process see The cross cut saw manual by the dept of Forest.

The other thing that a well equipped sawyer would take with him, was some sort of oiling device, usually an oil flask with a grooved cork stopper, to lubricate the saw plate in use. 

Bob, the lumberjack


  1. Interesting bit on the big saws with their gauges. I've seen spiders before but I had no idea what they were or what they were used for.

  2. I knew of these tools before hand, but I never head those small jointer jig designed for these saws. The sizes surprised me, I thought they were bigger.
    There is also a long jointer jig but it does not handle curved tooth line.

  3. Bob,

    I'm not manly enough of a man to use those saws. All mine are tiny :-) with tiny teeth.

    Thanks, good info.


  4. Just wanted to say how interesting I find your posts on various tools- screwdrivers, now logging saws. I learn quite a bit from them so thanks Bob.

    Jim B

  5. You are very welcome Jim, glad you learned a thing or two. I try to cover stuff I don't see much of everywhere else.
    I find tools fascinating, they have been refined to a very high degree thru the years, but nowadays, you often see some of these features disappeared because of ignorance on what it is suppose to do.

    Bob, the budding tool historian

  6. LOL Ken, just remember with tiny little saws, it is a two fingers grip :-)

  7. I recently rehabbed a 42" Disston crosscut saw with Champion tooth pattern which was given to my by my brother. Finding the right file helps tremendously. It took me a while but I finally found a NOS Nicholson Cant file which has 2 corners with more acute angles than the typical 60 degree triangular file. The Cant file makes the process much easier. I made my own raker gauge based on one found on "Old Sneelock's" you tube videos and it works very well. You will quickly learn not to reach across the saw while sharpening it. I can't count the number of times I nicked my arms on the teeth. A recent ice storm provided the need and means to test out the saw. While it required much more effort on my part, the saw cut much much faster than my chainsaw which had a freshly sharpened blade in it. Grab you a crosscut saw and fix it up! It's fun and a sense of accomplishment from doing something new. Plus that old saw now has a renewed lease on life. Thanks for the blog, I always enjoy reading your work

  8. Hi Brent

    Thanks for the feedback, I always like to hear success story about tools rehab. One of these 2 small jointer jig I got is marked Champion, designed specifically for that tooth pattern.
    Although I do not have such a saw to play with, I did play with them on exhibition ground, there sure are fast and lots of fun.

  9. Hi Bob,
    once again learned something new. It is somehow fascinating that trees were cut down that way.
    If I ever will have the chance I would try it.