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Love Your Saws with Matthew Cianci


What saws do I need?

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I get a lot of emails from woodworkers asking my opinion on what kinds of saws are essential in a kit of tools, or what kinds of saws they should get if they are just starting out in hand work.

Sometimes people even reference books like ‘The Anarchist’s Toolchest’ and want my opinion on the saws listed as necessary by the author.  I am always humbled when I get emails or questions in person like this.  After all, who the heck am I, and why should anyone care about what I think?!? 

Humility and self-doubt aside, this is not an easy question to answer.

On the one hand, I don’t think it matters one bit if your first saw is a 30 inch rip saw with 3.5 points per inch or a dovetail saw from Sears.  The thing that’s truly important is that you learn to use the hell out of it.

Use it in every way you can… as it was intended and in every way that it wasn’t. Hell, I think you should try to carve your dinner roast with it, that is if your wife will let you bring it in the house.  Then, take all that you learned from using that saw to within an inch of its life, and get another saw. 

Repeat the process.  And again and again and again.  This is honestly what I did, and the lessons learned literally cannot be put into words or have a real value assigned to them.  They are indescribable and invaluable.

On the other hand, I realize that the above suggestion is not all that helpful.  So, in the interest of providing some assistance to those wanting guidance, for what its worth, the following is my list of ‘necessary saws’ for the hand worker of wood. 

Keep in mind I try to be a bit of a minimalist… I think we can ALL make do with less, and not only is that better for our wallets, it’s better for our skills.  So here goes…

Sash Saw

No surprises here, right?  This is the number one saw on my list.

Whether you’re new to working by hand, or been doing it for a while, I think everyone can use a good sash saw.

Critical features are a 14 inch toothline, at least 3 inches of depth under the back and a proper filing for both ripping and cross cutting… that’s what makes this traditional form really sing.

For me, I like 8 degrees of rake and 10 degrees of fleam.  It will change your life. Right now, my every day sash saw is this 14 inch Disston from the 1880s.  It does everything. 

And if you absolutely insist, after you’ve mastered the sash saw, then you can go ahead and get a dedicated rip backsaw and crosscut if you want.  But I don’t think you ever “need” either.  And the historical record supports this idea as well.

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Simonds Backsaws

Atkins Saws


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