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Sharp. Stones


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Love Your Saws with Matthew Cianci


 
 

Vises with vices…

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One thing I’ve learned over the years is that a good saw vise is hard to find. It’s not a matter of quantity… finding one is very easy…they are everywhere on eBay, antique shops and tool dealers.  The problem is finding one that functions well.

As I learned to sharpen saws early on, my experiences with saw vises paralleled very closely with my experiences with women.  At first, I didn’t know what to look for, so I would just buy everyone I found and stick my saw in it to see how it worked.

Soon enough, in addition to lots of sub-par vises (and unsavory ex-girlfriends) I ended up with a very clear idea of what was required of a solid, functional vise.  It wasn’t until then that I was finally able to find a great vise that could serve all of my needs, because until then, I never knew what I needed.

So, now I know exactly what I require in a good vise.

And what it all boils down to is that because I do a lot of re-toothing by hand, I need a vise that is as solid as a Nazi bunker.  When you’re re-toothing a 4 or 5 point rip saw, any weak point in the vise will flex with your file stroke… and this robs your file of its work.  Not good.  So I can now look at a vise and tell if its going to be any good without even picking it up.

Now before you start lauding me with praise, I should probably tell you that being able to tell a good saw vise from a bad one is not rocket science.  In fact, it’s probably common sense for your average second grader… in most cases, bigger equals better.  Why it took me so long to figure this out, I don’t know (I never was very smart anyway).  Perhaps, just like those many ex-girlfriends, I wasn’t paying attention to the right… details.

Anyway, I figured I would share my experiences and critiques with each vise I’ve been enamored with over the past few years.

It all started 8 or 9 years ago the first time I sharpened a saw.  At that time, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a saw vise, so I did what any power tool woodworker would have done and used my Black and Decker Workmate.  With two pieces of MDF as vise jaws, I clamped my vintage Disston dovetail saw into the Workmate and had at it… with surprisingly good results. 

The Workmate performed admirably, and if all I ever needed to sharpen was back saws, then this would probably be all the saw vise I would ever need.  The jaws held the work more securely than you’d ever need, it was easy to operate, and didn’t deflect under my file stroke at all.  Again, I was filing a 15 point DT saw, so the stroke had minimal force behind it, but this set up could easily handle anything up to an 11 or 12 point saw with no problem.  Go figure!

Alas, the burgeoning saw disease was destined to soon metastasize to my brain and completely take over my life, so when I started to file hand saws I quickly outgrew my Workmate.  I did try to make it work, but the poor bugger just didn’t have the mass to pull it off, and with its splayed steel legs, getting a stool close enough to the vise for long filing sessions was an exercise in futility.  Oh well… who doesn’t like an excuse to buy a new tool?!?!?

Here’s the point in the story you all know so well… your first love… and boy, was she a looker!  A vintage, turn of the century Disston #2… you know… the one with the raised lettering proclaiming her father’s name…


 
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