Recently, I built a dovetail saw using parts from Blackburn Tools. It was a fun project but far more challenging than I anticipated.
I bought all the metal parts as a kit from Blackburn Tools, I already had the rosewood and figured it would be a fairly simple project. This was before I started cutting. Shaping the handle was actually fun, I had a variety of templates that I downloaded from Two Guys in a Garage. I chose a handle design with two bolts since that is what was included in the kit. But it was about at this time that I really started to appreciate the saw makers art.
I decided it was time to cut the saw kerf to receive the blade and I thought I would try a technique that I found on YouTube. It was a simple enough looking plan that involved pinching the new blade between two pieces of wood and clamping the whole stack to the bench top. Simple enough. Then I began slowly working the saw into the wood exactly in the middle. Again no problem – until I got in deeper and the thin blade began to follow the grain in the handle blank. Not a lot but enough. Well I fought with this a while and finally got the saw kerf what I considered at the time to be “good enough” (it wasn’t but I went on). I thought it was time to drill for the split nut saw bolts I had. I learned for the 1000th time that speed and confidence can be a good way to waste material and time.
Long story short. I cut a new blank and left the other one on my bench to remind me to be more careful.
The next thing I learned about building a back saw is that the mortise for the back needs to be let in with a freakish level of accuracy. My brother is a machinist and I am sure he would have been horrified by the way I did this with a chisel and a mallet. But I finally got the mortise done and was ready to try to put the whole thing together. The fit was not bad but I did have to shim one side with a piece of paper in order to keep the blade from distorting when the bolts were tightened down. A few thousandths is enough to make a difference here.
I then set the back on the blade according to the instructions on Blackburns site (very helpful site). And sharpened it up as a rip saw with a 0 degree rake angle. I was so excited until I tried to cut something with it and found that it was not a smooth cutting saw at all. The hang angle was not what it should of been it turns out. After reading a couple of articles on hang angle and contemplating making yet another handle for this saw I found another article on Blackburns site discussing the relationship between hang angle and rake angle. After relaxing my rake angle by 4 degrees I finally had a saw that I truly enjoyed using.
Now I just need to put about 10 more coats of Boiled linseed oil on the handle until it looks and feels the way I like it.
Bottom line, there is a reason why quality saws are expensive. But it was fun to build a saw from the ground up, I learned more about how a saw works in the few days I worked on this saw than in all the years of previous woodworking combined. (Which is more years than I care to mention.)
If you decide to do this save yourself a ton of trouble and read the entire set of articles on the Blackburn site that takes you from start to finish in the process of building a saw. You will be glad you did.
I will never see a saw the same again
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