A sharp saw blade is an essential element to the completion of any project. It can be particularly frustrating when a project has started, and the saw dulls partway through, highlighting the importance of doing it right to last throughout the process. Through a minor investment in time and money, you can keep your saw blades razor sharp and functioning like new.

Tools You’ll Need

When sharpening your panel saw blade, a number of small tools are of significant value in making your work easier. Some of the parts may be custom-made or tailored to your blades, although keep in mind that commercial tools offer adjustments and more options, making the process easier and more exact.

4 Key Steps In Sharpening Your Panel Saw Blade

The sharpening of your panel saw blade is accomplished through moving through the four key steps, those of setting, jointing, filing, and stoning. Through moving through each of these steps in order, your saw blades will be prepared for whatever you have to work them through. Also, always apply a common safe guide every time you work.

Setting

The set of a saw is the right and left projection of the teeth from the saw plate. The saw’s setting determines the width of the kerf and helps prevent the saw from binding up during the cut. It may not be necessary to set the teeth of your saw, so it is important to evaluate it first. To evaluate the saw’s set, make a cut in a piece of stain wood that you traditionally work with. Should the saw bind and get stuck in the cut, it requires setting, and if it is too loose, it may be over-set which can be corrected during the final step.

To set the saw, first grip it into a vice with about 2 inches of the saw blade above the jaws of the vice. Move down the saw one side at a time with your saw set tool, aligning the teeth on one side to the appropriate size for the blade, then flip the saw around the vice, and repeat the process on the other side for the teeth skipped during the first half of the process.

Jointing

The purpose of jointing a saw is to ensure the teeth are all the same height, while also creating a flat facet at the point of each tooth that serves as a guide during the filing step.

To perform the jointing process, keep the saw firmly in the vice with about 2 inches of the blade above the jaws. Take hold of the mill file with both hands, and rest it on the tooth line at the heel. Run the file down the tooth line in the direction of the toe of the saw, applying moderate pressure, until you see a flat facet on the point of each tooth. For most saws, two or four passes is enough.

When jointing, it is essential that you keep the file perpendicular to the side of the saw blade as you joint the saw’s teeth. A card scraper jointing guide or a block of wood can be used to assist in the jointing process. Prior to moving onto the filing of the teeth, attach a rake-angle guide to the tip of the file to create consistent geometry for each tooth’s cutting face.

Filing

The filing process brings the geometry of the blade’s edges into place and differs slightly depending upon whether a ripsaw or a crosscut saw blade is being filed. For the purpose of being comprehensive, a brief consideration of each is presented.

Rip Saw Filing

The purpose of the rip saw filing step is to file each tooth until the flat created by jointing disappears. The process should be stopped at the moment the flat created by jointing disappears and not a bit more. When the flat has disappeared, the tooth is sharp and remains exactly the same height as the other teeth on the saw. Sharpening beyond this point would continue to sharpen the tooth, but make it shorter than the others and thereby useless.

To begin the rip saw filing step clamp the saw in the vice with the heel in your right and the bottom of the gullets above 1/16 of an inch above the jaws. Put the saw file into the first gullet while making sure the file is seated fully in the bottom of the gullet. Grasp the file perpendicular to the saw blade’s side and to the tooth line, while also level with the floor.

Having set the saw in place, use the full length of the file and push it across the saw, applying only gentle pressure. While often during the first attempts it may feel more comfortable to use short, chattering, and heavy strokes, it is more effective to use light, full, and even strokes to achieve the best outcome.

When the file is pushed across the saw, you should notice bright, fresh steel exposed on three surfaces: the gullet and the back face of the tooth on the left of the tile, and the cutting face of the tooth to the right of the file. Continue filing across the tooth keeping an eye on the flat on the right of the file, stopping at the exact moment the flat disappears. Move on to the next gullet, and continue the process down the entire length of the saw on every tooth.

Crosscut Saw Filing

For this type of saw, after jointing it, re-clamp it with the bottom of the gullets about 1/16 of an inch above the vise jaws. Place the saw file between the first pair of teeth at the heel, with a tooth set toward you on the right side of the file, and a tooth set away from you to the left, either the first or second gullet on the tooth line.

Rest the file in the gullet and use your index finger on the file where it rests on the saw, pressing the file firmly into the gullet. The file will rotate away from the perpendicular line, the bevel angle of the teeth, the angle of which creates the knife edge on the blade.

Take the first stroke with the file fully seated in the gullet while maintaining the bevel angle, with the goal being filing until the width of the flat on both teeth has been reduced by half. Once each pair of teeth have been filed in one direction, return to the heel, and now remove the flats from the previous step to bring all the teeth to a sharp edge.

Stoning

The final step in the sharpening of your saw is to stone it. Begin by placing the tool flat on your bench with the handle overhanging the edge. Using a fine India stone or #600-grit diamond stone, use light pressure while running the stone along with the teeth down the length of the saw in order to even the set and to remove the burrs that created by filing. Flip the saw over, and repeat the process. Generally, one pass per side is enough, although if the saw is over-set more may be required.

The stoning process is also known as side jointing and serves to keep your save aligned and functioning smoothly. Should the cut seem to steer to one side over another, take an extra stoning pass on the side towards which the saw is steering. This removes the bur and evens the cut in the kerf.

When working through the blade, it is useful to try and keep track of the number of strokes you do on each bevel and keep it the same throughout. Uniformity in the bevel and height of the teeth on your blades will keep your panel saw cutting uniformly.

Why Keep My Blades Sharp?

Keeping your cutting blades sharp will maintain the performance of your panel saw. To maintain the life of your saw blades, sharpening them is essential. The effort that is required to cut with a dull blade is significantly greater than for a sharp blade, so the outcomes are of value in many ways.

The task of sharpening your saw blades may to some people seem to be more challenging than it is worth, particularly with blades tipped in carbide or diamond. However, with the right tools, including a diamond file, you’re able to sharpen your own blades to maintain optimum performance and life, making the most of your investment.

Mercer Industries BCDMR10 Mill File Bastard Cut Individually Sleeved,...
  • Primarily used for sharpening saws, lathes and tools
  • Uses include draw filing, finishing and general shop use
  • Regular tapered at the point for detail work

Conclusion

Sharpening your own saws is an excellent skill to learn, with the Wood Craftsman making sure to keep the saw blades sharp, so the projects run smooth. Your panel saw will function infinitely better when the blades are sharp, and doing it yourself saves on sending them out for sharpening, or replacing them when they are no longer capable of performing. To keep your panel saw cutting, sharpen your blades with the techniques presented above.

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