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Thread: hand saw quality questions...

  1. #1

    hand saw quality questions...

    I have been furiously researching current hand saw makers trying to determine what is the "correct" price/performance intersection. Starting with a 10" dovetail saw as a template, here is what I find.

    The least expensive of the saws that people generally claim to be high quality seem to be made by Thomas Flinn. His dovetail saws range from about $80 to about $160. As far as I can tell, the biggest complaint about Flinn's saws has to do with the handle not being shaped by hand. There appears to be some limited hand-finishing on the saws in the higher end of the range. This is also one of the dovetail saws available through Lee Valley.

    Next on my list is the Lie-Nielsen. They only have one price point in traditional dovetail saws; $125. To my eyes the fit and finish of the handle on the LN looks nicer the PAX, which is Flinn's top-end model.

    Next I've looked at saws by Wenzloff and Sons. There is no direct comparison, as Wenzloff doesn't carry a 10" dovetail, but his 9" Harvey Peace dovetail saw is $150 and looks as nice as the LN to me. What I perceive to be his smallest high-end model is a Disston-reproduction 14" tenon saw at $300. The Wenzloff claim to fame seems to be that they produce accurate reproductions of best hand saws from the last 200 years or so.

    Next, my personal favorite so far based on the website/advertising budget/I drank the koolaid: Bad Axe Toolworks. With a dizzying array of customizable options including wood-species, sawback metal, fastener metal, custom tooth-filing and five handle sizes, this guy really gets my attention. The usual point of contention, handles, get plenty of TLC. In addition Mark Harrell makes a point about his skill as a saw-filer. This being the only comment I can recall reading that was actually about the quality of the blade - aside from a generic "highest quality" line. Prices for the 10" dovetail saw range from $225 to about $400 depending on your options.

    And finally, Rob Cosman. By all accounts, he produces a very high-quality dovetail saw for just under $300, but I just can't wrap my mind around the idea of a resin saw handle.

    Here's my problem: Aside from the differences in number of man-hours required to produce the saw handle and the associated perceived improvement in comfortable use, I can't really figure out how any of these sawblades are actually better then the other. They all claim to be of the highest quality.

    If there is a legitimate reason, other than coolness, to buy from Bad Axe instead of Thomas Flinn, for example, I really need help sorting it out. Otherwise I need to know why I shouldn't get a dovetail saw, a tenon saw and most of a panel saw for what I would pay for one dovetail saw from Mr. Harrell.

    thoughts anybody?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    Posts
    4,698
    Lots of folks don't like the handles on the PAX (flinn) saws. Haven't tried them myself so I can't say yeah or nay in that regard.

    I might add Adria, gramercy (their kits are a decent deal if you want to try making a handle yourself) and the lee valley molded spine saws to your list of possibilities. I have a couple of the LV saws and for the price they're quite nice (granted the molded back doesn't have the cool factor, but they seem to work just fine).

    I suspect that the blades are all within spitting distance of each other from a metalurgical perspective, all of the ones I know of use 1095 spring steel at ~RC52 or so (not saying that there isn't something else.. just don't know of it. There is undoubtedly some significant differences in the quality of the sharpening and the design (pitch, shape) of the teeth. So a lot of what you're paying for is the handle and the toothiness (its possible that there is someone making plates . If you really feel motivated buy a plate of 1095 steel from mcmaster and a pack of grobet files ($60 for 12) and set to (and a chunk of brass from mcmaster for the back I suppose).

    I do like the bad axe marketing as well He also puts a bit more plate on his dovetail saw which would imho make it a smidge easier to keep aligned (more visual delta vs a shorter plate) and offering a choice of handle sizes is smart.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Delton, Michigan
    Posts
    17,471
    i have used a cosman saw and the lee valley saw as well as the LN,, seen a gramercy kit saw and it was sweet.. so i as for the right one well i didnt buy one from wensolf when i was there but should have.. but for the price of them today and the others out there i would go with what fits you and your tastes ... go look first and use one to get the feel for it.. i know LN has shows where yu can test drive one oand of your close to one of us that has a saw your looking at .. i am pretty sure they would let you test drive there;s as well..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Bellingham
    Posts
    2,449
    Blackburn Tools is another option. I don't have one of Issac's saws (yet) but I have been looking at his small tenon saw. His Dovetail saw runs about $205.

    http://www.blackburntools.com/new-to...ail/index.html
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Delton, Michigan
    Posts
    17,471
    bill is awake today after being at work for so long... josh, bill is a good resource for hand tool research. he has had many classes by some real good teachers and loves hand tools
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  6. #6
    Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

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