Like any item designed to be used and then chucked, hardpoint saws are not the best type of tool to be promoting.
But I did decide to use one throughout my workbench build.
It was difficult to know what tooling to use in our video because I’m hoping that many people will want to watch and learn from it, so I want it to be accessible. If I used a beautiful array of well set and specialised tools then I get concerned that I’m creating a message that this is the only way to go about it – that a workbench can’t be built without heavy investment.
On the other hand using cheap and disposable tools could be setting a very bad example.
With the saw I opted to set the bad example. Not because I’m bad really, but because I feel there’s something much more important than tool choice to be highlighted; and that’s good technique.
I find that choice can be a very distracting thing, and when it comes to learning a new skill what better excuse than to blame your tools?
I’m not proposing that my tool kit for the workbench is what you should aspire to, only that these tools for this project are more than adequate. I’m assuming that no one will see me using a disposable saw and think, ‘yup, I best go sling my lovely Disston and buy one of these instead’.Cheap, new tools are generally pretty grim so I don’t extend my recommendation much further than the saws. I bought a spoke shave once and wouldn’t have had much luck cutting myself with it, let alone cheese… or wood. Saws though are a little different.
With any tool purchase I suppose we have at least three choices; splash out and buy something well made and new, scour second hand sales or ebay and take a punt on something old, or buy new but very cheap.
The third category is generally best avoided if you don’t want to get put off woodworking for life, but what if you simply can’t afford to buy something half decent, do you just put it on hold until more prosperous times?
I find that a different approach is needed for each tool.
Chisels for example are a good place to start with old ones. They can be found abandoned by the bucket load and are a very good way for getting a feel for sharpening.
Old saws are not quite so simple.
Good ones attract very healthy prices, and bad ones require a lot of work. I don’t want to mystify the skill of saw restoration and sharpening because it’s a very satisfying and important skill to learn, but I do feel that it’s one to be learnt after you have a full understanding of the sawing itself. Anything is easy once you know how to do it, but I know I would struggle to set up a saw myself if I wasn’t already confident in sawing with it, I simply wouldn’t know what I was aiming for.
Hard point saws might just fall in to the same dismal cheap tools pile if it wasn’t for one important thing. They are good.
They aren’t beautifully balanced and glide through the cut good, but they are sharp and do cut well. They aren’t designed as a cheap alternative for the hobbyist, but for real work, for tradesmen, and so extensive research has gone in to maximising the durability and sharpness. The price reflects the sheer quantity that are made rather than the quality- they are very cheap, so cheap in fact that you would barely cover the postage of an old saw bought on Ebay or even the saw files you’d need.
I’m only talking about panel saws here, tenon and small dovetail saws are a different story and perhaps I’ll go on to those another time. The hardpoints are optimised only for cross cutting, and for this they cut extremely quickly, you can get them working for light ripping as well but it’ll be slower. It may seem like a sad thing to be recommending a disposable saw but they can make a very good learning aid if you haven’t yet got used to sawing by hand. They come ready to use and you’ll get feedback right from your first cut, so you’ll soon learn if you’re holding it wrong or pushing down too hard.
Once you have that technique mastered you’ll be ready to treat yourself to something much finer as your work requires, or maybe try your hand at bringing something lovely and old back to use.
Rather than simply supporting a disposable product, I like to see it as supporting getting started in woodworking.
Many people are learning woodworking on their own today, not in the capable hands of a master, so I think it can be wise to start out with at least a few things ready set. This way results from making can be seen early on, which should prove the best encouragement for the enthusiasm needed to delve in and learn some more.
Once you start to progress with your woodworking it will come natural to want to learn how to sharpen a saw, and by that point you’ll be ready to learn it quickly.
And the disposable saw will likely keep itself away from the bin, safely stashed in the garage instead, ready and waiting for when you need to trim some plasterboards or some other makeshift diy.