I’m not sure why anybody sends their saws off to be sharpened. It’s fairly easy and inexpensive to sharpen your own saws, and the non-machined imperfection that you create give a better saw cut. Chris Gouchner shares two really great videos on saw sharpening here and here. In the videos you’ll see all the items that I mention below.
Make or Buy a Hand Saw Vise
If you are able, it is a great idea to build your own wooden saw vise. Here is a nice video by Shannon Rogers on building a traditional saw vice by hand:
Here’s another good free tutorial for building a saw vice: Lee Valley’s free saw vice tutorial
I also really love metal saw vises. They aren’t as wide, but they can be conveniently clamped to a lot of different locations, and they just look really neat.
On one of my saw vises I drew guides to assist with sawing at the appropriate fleam angle (above). The metal saw vices clamp firmly onto a horizontal board or bench.
Buy Triangular Saw Files
Triangular saw files are used for sharpening and shaping handsaw teeth. I’m going to keep this simple, because it can get complicated. The number of teeth per inch (ppi) dictates the size of file you should buy. I’ve found that Lie-Nielsen has been the most reliable source for saw files. Here’s their chart:
I also recently discovered that Tools For Working Wood is now selling saw files here. I’m sure they’re also good, since they seem to only carry quality tools. The prices are both comparable and pretty reasonable.
Buy a Bastard Mill File & File Jointer
You’ll need a bastard mill file and a file jointer to hold it. A few passes with this setup will enable you to bring all the saw’s teeth down to the same height. I purchased this inexpensive bastard mill file and this Veritas Jointer/Edger. And here’s an antique pair that I use too, so you can keep your eyes open for them:
Buy Two Handsaw Sets
Adding “set” to handsaw blades, means using a tool to push the teeth one way or another to create a slightly wider “kerf” (saw track) and more even cutting. It also prevents your saw from getting stuck in the kerf. A “Saw Set” is a simple, inexpensive, and mandatory saw sharpening tool. My recommendation is to purchase these two new and affordable saw sets (about $25 each):
- Course saw set (for panel saws & back saws with larger teeth: 4-12 points per inch)
- Fine saw set (for back saws with finer teeth: 13-27 points per inch)
They work amazing and are already in perfect condition. For a bit more money (unless you are lucky to find one in a flea market) you can look for a this popular vintage saw set: Stanley No. 42 saw set. There are some other vintage saw sets easily found on ebay.
But as you can see, my new saw sets don’t require refurbishing…that way I can spend my time refurbishing my saws rather than my saw sets:
Buy a Card Scraper Burnisher
A cabinet scraper (i.e. “card scraper”) gives one of the best finishes available (much better than sandpaper). You would use a card scraper to follow up after a smoothing plane. You can learn how to sharpen a card scraper by watching my video tutorial of Elia Bizzarri teaching how to sharpen a card scraper (here). A burnisher is a steel rod used to create a folded micro edge. Don’t try to use a screw driver. Instead purchase a dedicated burnisher. I purchased this Crown Burnisher on Amazon (around $20) and have found it to be satisfactory. Compare prices with these on Highland Woodworking.
Buy Slip Stones or Ceramic files for Molding Plane Irons
If you plan on getting into using molding planes then this would be an urgent sharpening accessory. Water Slip Stones (like waterstones) are the best option available. They come in a long cone-ish shape (see above) and can be modified to help you get into the various parts of a moulding plane iron. I would recommend that you start out with three grits: 1,000 / 4,000 / 8,000:
You can purchase these slip stones at Lee Valley tools (here). Norton also makes slip stones (find them here), but I have not used them. However, their waterstones are the highest quality, so I’m sure their slip stones would work just as well. Ceramic slip stones are another option (I own some), and they work fine for honing moulding planes. I use them alongside my water slip stones, but they may not be necessary.
I purchased this Spyderco set on Amazon, which comes with 4 shapes and a leather pouch. I’ve found these files work just fine.