Thursday, January 26, 2012

Making a Tenon Saw

The grave itself is but a covered bridge,
Leading from light to light, through a brief darkness! 

I've always wanted a tenon saw.  I did not want to pay a lot of money for one however.  So when I was in an antique shop, I bought a big hand miter saw.  You can pick these up for around $20 but the problem is they are too big, at around 21" long, they are simply unwieldy.  But I thought if I cut one down, it may work.

So I put a 3/32 zip (cutoff) wheel in my 5" grinder and marked a line and in about ten seconds it was cut.  I should say two things here.  First off, if you buy one get a 5" angle grinder.  They are actually easier to handle and much more balanced than the smaller 4" ones.  Second, be careful with a zip wheel.  They can kick back quickly and violently.  I'm kinda lax about safety glasses, but I wear glasses and a shield with these things.  Anyway, quick work.  In the background you can see a flap wheel sanding disc that smooths out the edge.  These also work great on wood, if you can stand the dust. 

I jointed and filed the saw as usual.  For this saw, because tenon cutting is primarily a ripping cut, I went with 10º fleam, 10º rake and about 10º slope.  This is what Leonard Lee suggests in his book, so who am I to argue.  

Here you can see my setup for sharpening, the light is key.  

I usually stone the sides with a diamond hone to take the burr off; again Leonard Lee.

And here it is all done and put back together.  It's 5' wide and 16" long.  I cut about 5" off and it's amazing how it improves the balance.  Before it felt like a chainsaw, but now it feels like a really big handsaw, is. 

It cuts really well too.  The weight is such that it really zips thru the wood.  I'm not sure how much I'll use it; I still prefer a bandsaw but at least I have the option now.

Below are a couple pictures of a Rod Back Arm Chair that was recently selected for the Society of American Period Furniture Makers  gallery show in Hartford, Conn. this spring and summer.  It's one of thirty pieces selected and one of only a few Windsors.  Needless to say I am honored and excited. 


  1. Terry,
    You should be honored and excited about the SAPFM. You so deserve it too. This chair has always been one of my favorites you made and it is truly just an awesome looking chair. Congrats buddy!

    1. Thanks Matt, I owe you one cause you liked it so much I thought that out of all the chairs, I'd enter that one. You should enter the Jefferson next year, Conn is a hike though. If you don't I will lol.

  2. Congrats on the chair being selected for the gallery show!


    1. Thanks Wilson, I am really honored. Snowing here today, 10-12 inches, we needed some really. If it;s winter, may as well have snow.

  3. I'm going to keep my eyes open for a flea market find and try to make my own saw. This is something I think I could do. I've been looking for an excuse to buy a grinder.

    1. Not telling you what to do, but get a 5" grinder. Much more balance and power, and easier to use. I like makita and the flap sanding discs are great for sharpening mower blades. You can find them at welding stores. Be careful with the zip wheels, never cut at the top of th wheel, always cut at 9 o'clock or 3 o'clock, never betw/ 11 and 1, like a chainsaw.