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How to sharpen a hand saw with a file: choosing the right files

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Image of two different types of commonly found saw There are two main different types of hand saw: rip cut and crosscut.
Image showing the directions in which rip and crosscut saws are designed to cut wood Rip cut saws are designed to cut along the grain, whereas crosscut saws are designed to cut across it.
A DIYer shows us what rip cut saw teeth look like Rip cut saws can be identified by their straight teeth.
Image of a DIYer demonstrating the configuration of teeth on a cross cut saw Crosscut saws seem more three dimensional when you look at them side on, as each alternate tooth faces in the opposite direction.

Saw sharpening tools

Image showing a vice, a mill file and a taper saw file In order to sharpen your saw, you will need a vice, a mill file and a taper saw file.
Image of a cross cut file showing cut and outline If you’re sharpening a crosscut saw then you may decide to use a crosscut file instead of a taper saw file. Read on for more information!

What size taper saw file should I use?

Image of a DIYer showing a taper saw file that fits between a saw's teeth and is therefore able to be used for sharpening Any taper saw file that fits between the teeth of the saw you are trying to sharpen can be used for this process.
Diagram to explain how to choose the correct file size to sharpen your saw However, if you really want to make your files last a long time, it’s better to use one that is at least double the size of your saw’s teeth.
Diagram illustrating the cutting surface of a taper saw file if the DIYer has chosen the correct size for their sharpening task If you do, you will only wear down the bottom half of the two faces of the file that are engaging with the saw.
Image to show that you can rotate a taper saw file to use fresh cutting edges once it becomes worn This is an advantage because once they wear out (after multiple sharpenings), you can rotate the file and you will have two new, sharp faces still left to work with.
Image showing that the life of a taper saw file can be greatly extended by making sure you only use half of two filing surfaces when sharpening your saw The part of the file that is worn out will not be coming into contact with the saw, so it won’t matter that it’s blunt.
Image of a DIYer who is confused about which file they should use for their DIY project For ease of reference, the table below should help you to choose the right file for sharpening your saw. It’s the size of the teeth that will matter rather than the size of the saw itself.
Image to illustrate the fact that saws are categorised according to the number of points per inch there are on their blades The term ‘PPI’ stands for ‘points per inch’, which is the way the cutting edge of a saw is measured. The higher the number of points per inch, the smaller the teeth on the saw.
PPI on blade Size and type of file
5 175mm (7″) taper saw file
5.5 175mm (7″) taper saw file
6 175mm (7″) taper saw file
7 175mm (7″) or 200mm (8″) slim taper saw file
8 150mm (6″) slim, 175mm (7″) extra slim or 200mm (8″) double extra slim taper saw file
9 150mm (6″) extra slim or 175mm (7″) double extra slim taper saw file
10 125mm (5″) or 150mm (6″) extra slim taper saw file
Image to show a cross cut file that fits between the teeth on a cross cut saw If you are using a crosscut file, all you need to worry about is making sure the file fits between the saw teeth. Most crosscut files should easily fit!
Image of a mill file to show the shape of the outline When it comes to choosing your mill file, size absolutely does not matter.