Hand Saws

Handsaws are sharpened using a number of tools.
  1. Required
    1. Flat, mill file
    2. 60° triangular file
    3. Saw set tool
  2. Optional -- wooden jigs can be made
    1. Jointer tool
    2. Hand saw vise, or some form of clamp-on filing guide

Sharpening steps:

  1. Clean & de-rust the saw blade; repair as necessary.
  2. Joint the tops of the teeth.
  3. Set the teeth.
  4. File the teeth.
  5. De-burr / Dress the teeth.
  6. Wax the blade.

You make me believe in reincarnation because no one could become that stupid in one lifetime.

Unknown Sergeant

Side View

End View

Top View
Saw Type Rake Fleam Drop Set Comments
Range Recom. Range Recom.

-10° to +5° -5° 0° to 6° 50% of saw blade's thickness


  • For general, all-around use, set to -10°.
  • Higher rake angles make the saw's cutting more aggressive (and faster).


  • For dense wood with wild grain, increase to 10°.

-12° to -30° -15° 10° to 45° 10° 10° 50% of saw blade's thickness


  • Higher rake angles make the saw's cutting more aggressive (and faster).
  • For soft, fibrous woods, consider rake = 45° and increase Set.


  • Generally fleam = drop.
  • With fleam at 10°, a crosscut saw acts more like a modified rip saw.
  • At 45°, it requires more resharpening and is less tolerant of variable grain alignment.
  • For soft, fibrous woods, consider fleam = 30°.
2-Man Crosscut (same as for Crosscut Saws) 0.020"  
Compass (same as for Rip Saws)  
Dovetail (same as for Crosscut Saws) 0.002" For backsaws, Set should be 0.005".
Reciprocating Saw Blades   50% of saw blade's thickness  
Veneer     0 Use a stone to de-burr, and then bevel the sides of the teeth.

Notes & Comments

Another View of Filing Angles

Triangular File Used vs. Saw TPI

Image courtesy Tools for Working Wood

Jointing: When jointing the tops of the teeth, a saw jointer makes this easier. However, you could also use one of the jigs in the recommended books below. Engler's and Lie-Nielson's books show this best.

Setting:. When setting the teeth, a saw set is critical for this.

If buying one, get one with a pistol-grip, and which accommodates 4-16 TPI. The saw set I use is a Stanley model 42W. It works much better than the models 42 or 432. I have not tried the Stanley model 42X, nor have I tried any of those newer ones available on eBay, so I cannot speak to their abilities.

Only set the top 1/2 of the teeth.

Increase Set for saws with coarse teeth. Decrease Set for saws with finer teeth.

For very fine saws, the burr from the filing will probably give adequate set.

Filing:. When filing the teeth, the saw must be held solidly along a straight edge. The goals are to

  1. ensure consistent gullet depth, and
  2. ensure the angles (flame, slope, and rake) cut in the gullets are consistent.

A saw vice like the Gramercy Tools 14" Saw Vise is very good for this, but it can also be made from wood (e.g., a 2x4).

There are jigs in the recommended books below. Engler's and Lie-Nielson's books show the options best.

For the triangular file, use the specified size based on the saw's teeth per inch (TPI) as shown in the lower picture to the right.

French veneer saws have a variable rake towards the center, and only have a bevel on one side. Best to have a professional re-sharpen these.

Blackburn Tools' web page, Saw Tooth Geometry, has good visuals to explain Drop (which they call, Slope), Fleam, and Rake.

More Information

Books & Papers

Recommended references (listed alphabetically, not by preference).

Videos & Presentations

Web Sites

About this site
Remember : The goal of sharpening is to produce sharp tools, and these tools can injure you if mishandled. Safety measures should be followed to protect yourself and those in your shop. Be sure to read and follow all instructions from the manufacturer, and and utilize proper safety equipment. Never consume alcohol or anything that could impair your judgement before sharpening tools, or using sharp tools. Comments can be sent via eMail to me at SharpeningHandbook@Gmail.com.