Handsaw Essentials, by Christopher Schwarz
by J. Norman Reid
Have you been bitten by the hand tool bug? Are you ready to plunge yourself in the world of hand saws? Or, do you think that a saw is just a saw? Read this book and you'll understand just how much depth there is in this fascinating aspect of hand tool wordworking.
This well-stuffed Popular Woodworking volume, like its earlier companion, Handplane Essentials, is a collection of articles from the magazine or blog entries posted over the past decade or so. Taken together, it's an excellent collection that probes the depths of a great many topics related to handsaws.
It begins by considering why to use handsaws, saw teeth characteristics and types of saws. It proceeds to review a number of topics about how to saw properly, after which it discusses in depth panel saws, tenon saws, carcase saws, dovetail saws, Japanese saws, miter saws and boxes, frame saws, including bow saws, coping saws and fret saws, Gents' saws and flush cut saws. After this comes appliances--saw horses and saw benches, bench hooks, dovetail saw guides, saw vises and other vises. The coverage of saws concludes with a comparison of various current handsaw makers. The volume is completed with a full reprinting of H.W. Holly's 1869 classic, The Art of Saw Filing.
The book is not without some flaws. It would have benefited from a through proof-reading, which would have caught the numerous dangling commas and the occasional hyperlinks that necessarily go nowhere. More serious is the fact that some articles are now over decade old and contain information that is less relevant than more current material and is occasionally now out-of-date.
Despite these irritating flaws, this is an estimable volume that brings together a great wealth of detail about handsaws. As such, it has great value for hand tool woodworkers, who will not find its likeness anywhere else. In addition, being mostly authored by the well-spoken Chris Schwarz, it makes for an entertaining as well as informative read. All hand tool and hybrid woodworkers and those considering taking the hand saw plunge should own and study this book.
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The author is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living with his wife in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who believe they are cabinetmaker's assistants.
He can be reached by email at