Wenzloff & Sons

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Setting Your Saw

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The instructions below specifically refer to the Somax saw sets available at several retailers. However, the priciples are the same for any type of saw set.

Setting teeth on a western saw is simply a process of bending alternate teeth to opposite sides of the saw plate. In general, one should set the teeth no firther than is necessary to accomodate the woods one primarily uses. This means that in softwoods one should set a bit more than in dry hardwoods. Most often a person uses a mix of each and so needs to compromise the amount of set to accommodate the softer species unless one sets up saws specifically for each general designation, softwood or hardwood.

The relationship between wide set and narrow set is simply greater kerf width typically requires more effort to saw with and a rougher finish on the cut piece. One should begin by adding as little set as necessary--it is far easier to add set than remove it. It is important to apply even pressure when setting teeth. Uneven set causes wander and increases effort in sawing.

Uneven pressure when applying set can distort the tooth. We recommend watching the tooth bend over to the anvil and releasing the pressure once the side of the tooth touches. This will help allow an even set for the articular setting on the saw set from one end of the saw to the other. Relying on "feel" usually results in uneven set.

Both the blue and gold colored Somax saw sets are similar. The main difference is the width of the plunger. The blue set is designed for 11 ppi and higher saws. The gold colored one is made for saws from about 4 ppi to 10 ppi. you will note the numbers around the anvil. They do not represent the PPI of the saw being set. They are index numbers for repeatability only. Once you achieve an amount of set for a particular saw you like, note the number and reuse it for that saw and similar conditioned saw of a similar PPI.

Saws with lower PPI require less set than saws with greater PPI. It is always best practice until you gain experience to use a higher number setting on a saw set until you can determine what is best for a particular saw. In general, a setting of about 10 is a good starting place for the gold colored set on an 8 ppi saw. A setting of 12 is best for a fine dovetail saw of 15 ppi and greater.

Once a saw is set and the final sharpening pass is completed, test cut in a typical wood species and thickness you would use the saw on. If the saw wanders to one side, that means there is more set on that side. If the wandering is a slow curve to one side, you can easily correct this by using a natural sharpening stone (not a waterstone) to remove set in a controlled fashion. If a saw wanders slowly to the right, one would lay the saw down on the bench so that the right side of the saw is face up and all the teeth are on the bench. Beginning at the heel (below the handle), slide the stone while pressing lightly but maintaining firm contact across all the teeth until you reach the toe of the saw.

If the saw seems to bind, increase the amount of set by adjusting the set to a lower number in small increments and resetting the saw until you achieve the proper amount of set. Please pay attention to apply more set to the teeth to the same side they are already bent towards. Setting a tooth to the opposite side to which it is already bent will weaken and probably break the tooth.

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