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To give some context: my cheap, £10 tenon saw that I've used for nearly everything for the last 2 or 3 years is showing signs of becoming dull. As it's the usual hardpoint type, I have read that it can't be re-sharpened, so I have to buy a new one. I am considering whether to buy another of the same kind of non-resharpenable saw, or whether to buy one that can be resharpened.

I understand the trade-off is that the re-sharpenable kind will be made of softer steel and so will need to be sharpened several times in the lifetime of one "disposable" saw. For me, one of the deciding factors in whether that trade-off is worth it is how difficult the re-sharpening process is. I have read descriptions of how to do it and it looks difficult but doable to learn to sharpen one saw tooth. But there are a lot of teeth and I haven't seen any mention of how long the whole process takes.

I may have other questions on the subject of saw selection but for now, to prevent this becoming too broad, let's stick to the question of how long the re-sharpening process takes.

  • when you say that you "use it for nearly everything" do you mean joinery-wise or really full-on miscellaneous? I have an old Diston crosscut panel saw with a slight kink in it that I use for really rough work. I just sharpened it this morning, took about 5 minutes. I don't have a saw vise, just rest it on the edge of my workbench. If you're not too exacting in your angles you can really power through it quickly. If on the other hand, you are using it for joinery only, you would want to take greater care and use a saw vise, more exact angles, etc. But none of it is hard or very time consuming! – aaron Sep 9 '16 at 14:09
  • When I say nearly everything - I first bought it for my first woodworking project a couple of years ago to make mortise and tenon joints to build a framework for a fitted wardrobe and to cross-cut some lengths of wood I needed for that. I'd like to have more time for that sort of thing, but most of the time it's general DIY like cutting wood to replace rotten bits in my garden shed, or even cutting laminate floor (something I don't think I would like to do with an expensive saw). I have other saws I use for sheet materials; this one is mostly for making joints and cross-cutting. – MarkH Sep 9 '16 at 15:29
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    gotcha. Well, it's still really very simple and won't take more than a 5-10 minutes. Look up some Paul Sellers videos on the subject. – aaron Sep 9 '16 at 20:15
  • Mark if you'll be cutting more laminate flooring and other board materials (ply and OSB in particular) those are good cases for continued use of hardpoint saws, the glue lines in these products are very wearing of traditional saws (which are tempered quite soft). – Graphus Sep 10 '16 at 5:42
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For a saw that has not been abused (ie missing teeth or other non standard use problems) you will only need to run the file across the teeth several times per tooth to restore the edge and points. Going too deep will only cause more problems. So assuming that it takes, say 5 to 10 seconds to file and examine each tooth, you can do the math base upon the teeth per inch and the length of the blade. Don't forget to add time to clamp the blade, sip your beverage and admire your handiwork. I have never found the time needed to sharpen a blade to be an obstacle. I use that time to think about what project I want to do next and how the shop really needs a deep cleaning (if only I didn't have to sharpen this blade instead). Good luck!

BTW I have taken several old second hand saws and restored them. I get more pleasure out of using them than a new, cheap, disposable saw. (I think I have bonded with them).

  • Thanks for the answer. The comment about second had saws reminded me that I think there are some old saws handed down from my Grandfather buried away somewhere that I might be able to bring back to life. – MarkH Sep 12 '16 at 11:09
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I understand the trade-off is that the re-sharpenable kind will be made of softer steel and so will need to be sharpened several times in the lifetime of one "disposable" saw.

Revise "several times" to "many times". You can sharpen a resharpenable saw as needed for years, decades even, depending entirely on the use to which it is put.

Figure 50 resharpens at minimum and quite likely a lot more if you adopt the little and often practice rather than waiting for the teeth to be quite blunt and then doing a full resharpen.

For me, one of the deciding factors in whether that trade-off is worth it is how difficult the re-sharpening process is.

It's doable, and for most handtool woodworkers shouldn't pose too great a challenge once you commit yourself to doing it (the hard part is starting out). And we are lucky now to live in the Internet age where you can watch and listen to many experienced saw sharpeners doing the work on video and not just have to try to pick it up from books.

That's not to say you can't learn how from books, it's not inherently a complicated process. It's just physically a little challenging, but there are tips and aids that can help with all aspects of it, including teeth spacing and holding a consistent filing angle.

I'd say it's within the grasp of nearly anyone to sharpen a panel saw with rip teeth, most people to sharpen the same saw crosscut. The challenge comes with smaller teeth and the smaller they are the harder it becomes, purely because of the scale of the work.

You will of course need some sort of saw vice if you want to do this, although you can make up something quickly with two boards held in a vice it's better to have a purpose-made tool, whether bought or made. A saw vice raises the work to a more comfortable working height* and is quicker and easier to adjust for longer saws as you work your along the length of the blade in stages.

*If you use two boards in a vice you should definitely sit on a low chair or stool when filing to bring your eyes more in line with the saw file (helps with accuracy and your back will thank you).


As it's the usual hardpoint type, I have read that it can't be re-sharpened, so I have to buy a new one.

This perception is not entirely accurate.

You can, in theory at least, sharpen hardened teeth but because they're so hard there's a risk of fractures or breaking off of tips or whole teeth. However with the right setup (e.g. the right grinding head on an angle grinder) you can buzz away all the hardened teeth and then work with the steel behind them, just as though you were re-toothing a normal saw (this is quite commonly done on old saws if the existing tooth line is heavily damaged by rust, or so irregular from many inept sharpenings that the teeth are unsalvageable).

  • +1 for the "non-internet" snark alone! The rest of the answer is up to usual par. – FreeMan Sep 9 '16 at 15:16
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    in paragraph 5, did you mean lucky to live in the internet age? – Ast Pace Sep 10 '16 at 1:58
  • @FreeMan Not a snark, typo! So -1 for me. – Graphus Sep 10 '16 at 5:39
  • @AstPace Pesky typos! Thanks for bringing it to my attention, it completely changed the intended tone of that line :-( – Graphus Sep 10 '16 at 5:40
  • Thanks for this answer - you have given me some useful tips, such as sitting in a low chair, that I wouldn't have thought of. I'm going to accept Ashlar's answer as "the answer" because he answered the specific question of how long it would take, but I do appreciate this answer too. – MarkH Sep 12 '16 at 11:07

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