Best Way to Restore Hand Saws?
Issue: Issue 323
Posted Date: 4/9/2013
I have a couple of somewhat rusty hand saws from my dad, and I'd like to use them. How do I clean and sharpen them? Thanks. - Ron
Tim Inman: Short answer to "how to clean" is my Grandmother's old adage: "Elbow grease." If the saws are only "somewhat" rusty, then I'd just get out the finest easiest abrasive that will do the trick, and start rubbing. Steel wool would be my first choice. Four-hundred grit sandpaper might be a little aggressive, but it would work too. Get the metal slick, but it doesn't need to shine like a mirror to be workable. When you're done, oil it or wax it to preserve the new polish.
To sharpen an old abused hand saw, you'll probably need to learn how to "set" the teeth, and file the right way. Get a book or go online and get a tutorial on this. Saw sets are common at garage sales. They look like fancy pliers that you don't know what to do with ... While at the garage sale, you might find a saw vice, too. It looks like a long skinny clamp. There are two basic filing patterns: rip and crosscut. You'll need to identify which pattern you're working with. Today, rip saws are seldom used. You'll more than likely want to begin learning how to file a saw in a crosscut pattern. You'll also need a three-cornered "extra" or "double extra" slim tapered file. They're common at a good hardware store or online. I still use my hand saws for special cuts. When sharp and set right, they are a true joy to use. If not, they're a real pain!
Chris Marshall: I'm not a hand saw user, so I can't provide much information about the best methods for sharpening them. That work will require some fine files and practice, from better tutelage than me. But, in terms of removing the rust, that's pretty standard metal care. You can use a liquid rust remover like Naval Jelly and let chemicals do the work, then scrub off what's left of the corrosion with medium and then fine steel wool. If the blades are severely rusted, to the point where you can't really see bare metal anymore, they may be more decorative than functional at this point. But if there's still plenty of shiny steel around patches of rust, a little elbow grease and chemical stripper should bring the blades back to serviceable condition again. I've also had good luck with a Boeshield product called "Rust Free." It comes in a spray bottle and will dissolve rust with very little work from you, but it will take the gleam out of the steel and turn it a gray color. If you can live with that, Rust Free makes rust removal really simple.