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Hand saw sharpening is something that takes patience, a little skill and a little more knowledge but it can be done as long as you work through the process and use the right tools.
Cetainly repetition and experience go a long way to help perfect your technique and produce more predictable results, which is maybe why impatient people like me tend to send my saws away to be sharpened professionally.... or more correctly to be sharpened by an automated machine if you can find a company with staff that knows how to set-up the equipment properly.
Out-sourcing is great in concept, difficult in execution which gets back to the original premise of this article. Sometimes it is just better to learn how to do it yourself, so I tell myself to chillout and practice, thus read on. I'll try and follow my own advice!
The process of sharpening hand saws includes topping, reshaping the teeth, setting and sharpening. Each step has its own objectives.
That being said, note that it is not necessary to put the saw through the whole process each time. A few strokes with a saw file may be all it needs to put a blunt saw back into working order and delay that total overhaul for another day.
Either way, here's the whole gamut of steps in hand saw sharpening including what tools you need. Do the least you can to get the best edge. Filing takes away metal so you don't want to do it needlessly.
The cutting edges of saw teeth are sharpened with a special triangular file. The size of the file should be proportional to the size of the teeth. Smaller files for smaller teeth and larger files for larger more aggressive hand saws.
Don't buy cheap files as they just don't last.. kind of like cheap sandpaper that barely makes it to the end of the first board. Each face of the file should be approximately twice the height of the saw tooth so the sharp part of the file is coming in contact with the most important part of the tooth to be sharpened.
Remember that you have 3 cutting surfaces, each face of the triangle. If you completely destroy one face reshaping an old saw, use a marker to blacken the tip on this face and you'll know not to use it the next time around.
You will also need a mill bastard file ( a flat file) to joint and level the top of your teeth. Making or buying a holder that keeps this file perpendicular to the blade is a wonderful thing.
The purpose of a saw vise is to hold securely a section of the blade, while you draw a file across the teeth. If it can't clamp the blade without vibration, then the file will skip across the tooth creating a rippled surface rather than a finely filed one. Thus the vise clamps must close tight together at both ends and be able to snug up tightly just below the teeth, holding the saw firmly at a convenient working height.
Companys like Disston and Stover have been making hand saw vises for years (try ebay or amazon) but if you can't find such a beast , it is possible to just attach wood blocks to one of your existing vises or find online a pattern for making your own hand saw vice. (see below)
Hand Saw Set:
A hand saw set is a small pliers-type tool that bends the teeth of a handsaw to either side of the blade. It creates the "set" of the teeth.
Note that saw sets are available in various sizes to reflect the range of saw teeth configurations from very tiny teeth on a fine cross cut blade to the 2 tpi points on bandsaw blades I have set for my portable sawmill. Make sure if you buy a saw set that it has the ability to engage the size of teeth for your application.
A hand saw set is designed to clamp to the saw blade just below the tooth you are trying to set. The hammer component of the saw set bends the tooth against an anvil. The pressure you apply to the grips, and the settings (on more sophisticated tools) will determine the amount of set.
Experience allows you to predict how much the tooth will " spring back" when you release the handles, to ultimately get just the right amount of set.
Hone or Fine Oil Stone:
When you've finally got the teeth leveled and sharpened, a small hone is used to remove the bur from the sides of the blade, before you can actually say you're finished.
VISIT page 2 for more information on the actual process of hand saw sharpening ..
Your Hand Saw Guide : how to figure out what's best, sharpening, choosing and general informaiton about hand held saws, read more ...
Here's a one page guide on how to make a saw vise for a general purpose handsaw
And another modified version of this same saw vise that will accept a back saw.