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Saw filing/Sharpening 2023-09-19

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Saw Filing--A Beginner's Primer


What Size File to Use



The next thing that you need is the proper file for the job. You should seek to buy the highest quality file that you can find. Avoid "bargain" files that are made in India or China. The teeth are not hard or durable enough to sharpen a quality hand saw. While they may seem attractive due to price, they will only waste your time and money. I use Nicholson brand files which are available in the maintenance section of this web site.


You should seek to use the right size file for the job. In general, saw filing files common is four tapers: Regular, Slim, Extra Slim and Double Extra Slim. There is a lot of mystique and confusion about what size file to use for a certain size saw tooth. The bottom line is that you should use the file which is not too big or too small. You should be able to easily see the teeth when you are filing. In addition, when each edge of the file is used, there should be no significant over or underlap among the three edges. If you use a file that is too small, you will use the same middle section of each face, which will be dull right where you need it to be the sharpest. Near the middle of each face is where the cutting edge of the teeth is sharpened. If you use a file that is too big you will not be able to see the teeth. Also, larger files do not come to as sharp an edge as smaller files. If you compare the edge of a 7" file with a 4" file, you will see that the edge of the 7" file has almost a 1/32" "flat" on the edge. Compare that to the edge saw of the 4" file. It comes to almost a knife edge. It is no accident that shorter files as used to file smaller teeth. If all this in confusing, don't worry. Just use the files that are recommended in the table below and you will be all set.


File TypePPI of Saw
8" Regular Taper3-4.5
6" Regular Taper5-5.5
7" Slim Taper6,7
6" Slim Taper8
6" XSlim Taper9,10
6" 2XSlim Taper11-13
4" 2XSlim Taper13-20

Finally, many people make a big mistake when they buy a saw file in thinking that it will last forever. You are only wasting time and producing dull teeth if you try to extend the life of a file. Each file has three cutting edges. The rule of thumb I use is that it a saw is really dull requiring teeth to be reshaped and filed, plan on only using one cutting edge per saw. If the saw only need a light touch up, then you may be able to get two saws sharpened per cutting edge. If your file makes a loud screeching sound when you use it--it is telling you that it is dull and that you should switch to a fresh edge. Saw files are so inexpensive, that there is no reason to try to use a single file to sharpen 10 saws. Use the guidelines above, and you will get the maximum benefit from each file. To remember which edges on a file are used up, I lightly dress the dull edge of the file on the grinder, removing the cutting teeth from the extreme edge. This will remind you that edge is used up and prevents you from trying to use it beyond its normal life span.
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Mike Davis
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