Questions and answers from the Saw Shop: cordwood saw nuts, circular saw cracks, and more!


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

The answer man is in the house!

1. (question about the direction of the arbor nut threads on a cordwood saw)

Cordwood saw (aka buzz saw) arbor nuts are always left hand thread. The nuts rotate clockwise to loosen, opposite the saw blade’s counterclockwise rotation. This means the nut has a tendency to tighten while running, instead of coming loose with drastic consequences.

2. (question about finding cracks in circular saw blades)

The first step to inspecting a circular saw blade for cracks is a thorough cleaning. You can’t see a crack if it’s covered by rust and/or pitch! In my experience, at good visual going over is adequate for detecting cracks in circular saw blades. You could, in theory, magnaflux the saw, but, in my opinion, that’s overkill.

3. (question about which side of the blade to stand on with a 2 man crosscut saw)

This all depends on your dominant hand. I’m left handed, so I pull 1 man and 2 man crosscut saws past the left side of my body. It really comes down to what the most comfortable position is for the sawyer and also whether there are any obstructions that might prevent safely standing on one side or the other.

4. (question about straightening bent scissors)

It’s critical that scissors blades run true for proper cutting action. Blades on less expensive scissors usually cross to some degree to provide the shearing action, blades on expensive scissors generally don’t cross at all. As a rule, if you can see light between the entire length of the blades, you have a problem.

As with other blades, a scissors blade that was soft enough to bend rather than break has about a 50/50 chance of being straightened with a combination of appropriately sized hammer and anvil without breaking.

5. (question about handsaw snaggletooth)

Snaggletooth is a term I use for handsaws that have been severely misfiled. This can include teeth that has been pushed out of shape, raked unevenly, or alternating tall and short teeth. As a rule, fixing a bad case of snaggletooth involves filing the teeth for some preliminary correction and to get enough depth that they don’t disappear when jointed, jointing the teeth to all the same height, and refiling the teeth for final correction and sharp.

Visit me at any of the following locations:

B&G Treasures, 11 Depot St, Norridgewock, ME (Mondays)

Tractor Supply, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday)

Somerset Woods turnout, Canaan Rd (Rt 2), Skowhegan,ME (Wednesday)

Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)

Fryeburg Flea Market (Fryeburg Fairgrounds), Fryeburg, ME
(Sundays, Memorial Day thru end of September)

298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!

Saw shop questions and answers: setting a handsaw, M tooth crosscut saws, and more!


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

The questions are piling up again, so here come the answers!

1. Should you sharpen a handsaw first or set the teeth first.

Set the teeth first, absolutely. If you file first and the teeth are significantly out of set, neither the bevel angles or the rake angles will come out correctly after the teeth are set.

2. (question about M tooth crosscut saws)

On my last sharpening run down to the Arundel Flea Market, I ran across the first M tooth 2 man bucking saw that I’ve ever seen in the wild. Considering I’ve been through dozens of perforated lance tooth and Champion tooth saws, this gives you some idea how popular the M tooth was (not very).

Myself, I see little to no benefit at the least to the M tooth pattern. If you find one, nail it up over the mantle and pick a more normal tooth pattern.

3. (question about repeat cracking of circular saw blades)

Overheating them from feeding the wood too fast, overheating from running them at the wrong speed, excessive pitch buildup on the blade, too much runout in the arbor causing the blade to wobble, or some combination of the above.

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Tractor Supply, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!

Old tool treasures from the flea market: Delta/Simonds Saw vintage dado sets.


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

When I go on my weekly sharpening run to the Arundel Flea Market, I always take a little time to wander around and see if I can find some “barn fresh” tools to restore. You just never know what’s going to turn up.

Today’s find is a pair of vintage Delta Milwaukee dado sets.

Delta 333 dado setDelta 33-207 dado set

The first set (left) is a Delta No. 333 6″ dado stack. The second set (right) is a Delta No. 33-207 8″ dado stack. These dado sets were made by Simonds Saw and Steel, so they were top quality. Both stacks date from the 1940s and include all their inserts and a pair of great slide top wooden boxes for storing. Another fine vintage tool that still can’t be beat today (especially by anything with Made In China on it!).

I cleaned these sets thoroughly, sharpened them, and they’re both available for $25 each. If you’re interested in either one of these super vintage dado sets, drop me an email or give me a ring at 207-399-7108!

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Tractor Supply, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!

Saw shop tech: Selecting an anvil.


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

It’s true, anvils aren’t just for hot forging in blacksmith shops anymore! From tightening rivets to straightening blades to setting teeth, a good anvil is an indispensable part of the sharpening shop. In this post, I’ll touch on the uses of the anvil and how to choose the right one.

When most people think of anvils, they picture red hot bars of steel and showers of sparks from a brawny blacksmith wielding a heavy hammer. Most blacksmiths would be horrified at the though of striking a piece of cold steel on the anvil, but that’s precisely what we do. Some of the tasks I use my anvil for include tightening the rivets in knife handles, straightening bent knives, chisels, and saw blades, and setting the teeth on heavy crosscut saws (competition, 1 man) and cordwood (buzz) saws.

Almost any American or London pattern anvil (the classic anvil shape) that is not cast iron, is in good condition, and of suitable weight would be appropriate for the saw shop. I use a 196lb London pattern cast steel anvil in my shop. This anvil is a bit of overkill for the weight, but it happens to be a family heirloom (my great grandfather’s blacksmith anvil) so I keep it ringing :). Most saw shop work won’t require anything heavier than 100lbs. One advantage of the heavier anvil is that the face is long enough that I can lay a cordwood saw on it with the arbor hole over the anvil’s hardy hole and drop a hardy tool in to hold the blade in place while I set the teeth. If you’re just straightening chisels or tightening rivets, you can certainly do with a lot smaller anvil.

One of the important parts of choosing an anvil is that, unlike blacksmithing, you don’t want a perfectly flat face. Since bent blades need to be bent back beyond straight so they’ll spring back to straight, an anvil with slight negatives (dips) in the face is the ticket.

Finally, forget most modern anvils with the exception of some (expensive) European types made of forged steel (anything made in China is an immediate reject). As long as there aren’t any large chips missing or severe face damage, it’s hard to beat a vintage anvil!

Stay tuned, in one of my next posts, I’ll be talking about hammers and accessories for use with the anvil in the saw shop!

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Tractor Supply, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!

Saw shop tech: crosscut saws, the good, the bad, the ugly.


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

I occasionally wander around YouTube seeking videos of folks using old vintage tools like the ones I restore. Unfortunately, a lot of these videos are poster children for how NOT to use or maintain these tools. In this post, I’m going to share a couple of the latest hits and misses I’ve seen on crosscut saws.

This first video is a one man crosscut saw and definitely goes in the miss pile. The first problem is using a crosscut saw that is WAY too long for the wood being cut. For one man, a crosscut saw much longer than 42″ is a pain to handle. For the size of wood being cut, a 36″ crosscut saw would be plenty long enough and a lot more comfortable to handle.

The second mistake of this video is sawing way out on the toe of the saw. Restrict your use of the toe teeth to getting the saw started, then do your sawing as much toward the handle as possible where the blade is stronger and you’ll be much less likely to bend or break the saw.

The second video is a definite win and an example of something you rarely see being done. Since the log in this video is only supported on the ends, attempting to saw it from the top would only resulted in a pinched saw. The axe handle is used to provide support to hold the crosscut saw blade up against the under side of the log. The only problem with this one is one man sawing with a two man crosscut saw. Use a one man crosscut for this and you’re spot on!

Finally, there’s the ugly video. Don’t use Western style crosscut saw handles without the knuckle guards! The first couple of times you get your knuckles pulled into the log hard, you’ll wish you had them.

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!

Saw shop tech: questions and answers about cordwood saws.


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

It’s time for a special question and answer session! I’ve been seeing so many questions come through about cordwood saws, this one is going to be just about them.

For those not in the know, a cordwood saw is a 30″ circular cross cut saw, usually powered by a tractor or a dedicated engine, and used to saw bolt length wood into stove length firewood. These saws are usually run by flat power belts from the tractor PTO or shaft driven directly for the newer ones. A properly tuned up cordwood saw can be FAR faster at working up firewood than a chainsaw (and, arguably, safer).

The first question is regarding the proper speed to the cordwood saw at. Existing PTO powered saws are normally set up already to run at the standard 540 rpm tractor PTO speed.

The actual running speed of the saw itself is set by the way the saw blade is “hammered”, usually 800-900 rpm for a classic thin blade or 1300 rpm for a thicker Vermont Woodsman type blade. At the right rpm, the blade will actually “stand up” straight. This can be seen by eye as the tractor or engine throttle is adjusted (the ONLY time you should EVER get anywhere near in line with the running blade!). If you purchase a used cordwood saw blade and you don’t know what rpm it’s hammered for, this is the way to tell. Blades can be re-hammered for different speeds but this requires a very specialized saw shop.

So, what happens if you run the cordwood saw blade at the wrong speed? Anything from not cutting straight and taking more effort to cut (minimally off) to actually setting up a ripple in the blade and possible structural failure (way off).

The second question is about slipping flat power belts driving a cordwood saw. Flat power belts tend to slip badly if they’re over tight ( counter intuitive to the way modern V belts work). Under load, a properly tensioned flat belt should “suck in” around the pulley, giving extra traction and avoiding slipping.

The last question is about telling if a cordwood saw blade is dull. That’s easy, just watch the cordwood saw videos on YouTube, 90%+ of those saws are terribly dull. Smoke from the blade, overly hard sawing, or lots of pitch buildup on the blade (not enough set) are the clear indicators that a cordwood saw blade needs attention!

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!

Saw shop questions and answers: bent cordwood saws, crosscut saw handles, and more!


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

It’s that time again! Time to reach into the big bag of questions that come via the search engines to this blog and the service web site and answer them!

1. (question regarding straightening a bent cordwood saw)

In a word, DON’T. If a cordwood blade has been overheated bad enough to noticeably warp the saw plate or the saw has come in contact with steel embedded in the wood and done the same (the two most common causes of cordwood saw blade damage), the blade has to be considered structurally suspect (possible loss of temper in the steel, possible cracking, etc). The last thing you want is high speed flying shrapnel when the blade fails catastrophically.

2. (question regarding crosscut saw handles)

There are 3 common types of handles for 2 man crosscut saws. The first is the loop type handle. This type of handle slides a loop over the end of the saw blade and turns to tighten down. This advantage of this type of handle is that it’s easy and fast to install or remove.

Second is the Climax type handle. These handles fasten with a bolt or pin in the holes at the end of the saw blade. The advantage of these are that the handle can be turned 90 deg, making the saw easy to use for both bucking and felling purposes.

Third is the Western style handle. This handle is similar to the Climax except it places one hand above and one below the saw, versus both above for the Climax. The advantage of this type of handle is that you can apply more power to the saw, since the blade is centered between the hands.

3. (question regarding handsaw straightness)

So, how do you tell easily and quickly if the amount of bend in your handsaw is enough to cause a problem with using it? Simple, make a cut with the saw to at least halfway up the blade. If the saw whips back and forth as it is pulled from the cut, the blade NEEDS to be straightened (the bent saw blade is actually hitting the sides of the kerf). There are other ways to tell also, but most handsaws with objectionable bends will fail this test conclusively.

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!