This rusty looking hand saw is actually a precision cutting tool
Hobbyists sometimes tend to spend thousands of rupees on power tools, some they end up barely using, which in my view is a little wasteful given that a cheap hand tool with a little practice can often be an equally versatile and accurate instrument. Hand tools have several other advantages as well: they are safer than power tools, much quieter and do not require complex jigs for different tasks.
Indian woodworkers have traditionally used cheap but well-designed hand tools for years to produce quality furniture. Contrary to popular belief, developing skills in hand tools do not require hundreds of difficult hours of practice. A good teacher, proper technique and a good quality (does not mean expensive) hand tool are all that is required.
A basic tool, the hand saw, can make incredibly precise cuts of various kinds, including the precise ones required for tenons and dovetails. However, like all tools, the hand saw too needs to be tuned properly for use.
The two things that need to be tuned in a hand saw are its “set” and its teeth. The “set” of a saw is the extent to which its teeth are twisted to away from the centre of the blade. A saw with all its teeth flush against the blade will barely cut. The set of the blade depends on the type of saw – rip or crosscut – and can be set pretty easily. The teeth are “tuned” by sharpening.
I thought a hand saw tune up would be a complex business until I saw a traditional woodworker doing it. To set the orientation of the teeth, he used an old hand plane iron in which he had cut a small notch. He expertly twisted each tooth – one left and one right – ever so slightly.
|Adjusting the set of the teeth|
He next squatted on the ground and holding the saw tightly against a wooden hand plane proceeded to sharpen each tooth with a triangular file. He did it so fast that the job was complete in a few minutes.
|Filing the teeth|
The hand saw was now perfectly tuned and deadly sharp. I tried cutting with the saw but found it very difficult. Then the carpenter said that I was doing it the wrong way; these saws he said cut on the pull stroke. I am used to working with Western style saws that cut on the push stroke and had never encountered anything like a traditional Indian saw.
He showed me how to cut gently but firmly on the pull stroke. His cut was to the line and incredibly precise because of the thin kerf of the saw blade. I realised that traditional Indian saws are much like Japanese saws that cut on the pull stroke and usually yield a straighter cut because pulling the saw tensions the saw blade and keeps it dead straight during a cut. No wonder Indian woodworkers can cut so well with a traditional hand saw. And the best part is the cost of the saw – about a hundred rupees!
1 March 2013
1 March 2013