Tooth shapes and patterns for sharpening traditional west coast lance tooth crosscut saws

As I have been learning to sharpen the old crosscut saws for wilderness trail work, I have wondered about the most effective cutting angles that might be desired for good performance.  To that end, I have made some close-up photos of some samples of crosscut saw teeth for comparison so that I can share this information with other crosscut saw fillers.  I am curious if other filers could compare their shapes to these, and also if optimal angles of shape could be determined.

It is a challenge to control the shapes of the cutter teeth when filing, and I do not know of any way to precisely control this shape, other than by duplicating the established shape and by developing enough practice to be able to use muscle memory and habit to create the shape.  I have tried using blocks and markings on files to control orientation of the file, but nothing seems to work well for me.

What I have noticed though, is that when a dull saw is to be sharpened, the jointing process reveals a general shape of the cutting angle of the cutters.  In my case it also reveals the common lack of symmetry that my less than ideal technique creates.

Below I have close-up photos of one saw that I have sharpened several times.  Our crew has named this saw Sherman.  The photos are taken mid way in the sharpening of the cutter teeth, to show the angle that jointing reveals.  There are other views and angles shown and measured.

My sample is shown in contrast to two other samples.  One sample was made by the master crosscut saw filer and instructor Warren Miller.  This sample was given to me by a former student of his, and I keep it as a reference and template for setting raker gauges.  The other sample is from a saw that came to me in almost new condition.  I have not filed it and I have no idea who did the filing.

The saw dubbed "Sherman" was used as a preferred saw by the Darrington crew which does quite a bit of cutting in doug fir, cedar, hemlock, and silver fir.  The saw stayed sharp for two seasons of heavy use.  Only in the last tour of the second season did the crew loose satisfaction with its performance.  So I wonder, was it was more durable than might be the case if it had been sharpened with narrower angles in the side profile and end profile?

As a side note, the effort at getting close-up photos of the saw teeth was a challenge.  I needed to use a tripod and also trick the auto focus function of my camera by having wood pieces next to the teeth where I wanted to focus.  The photos also gave me highly magnified views of some of the teeth I had just sharpened.  They are not as nice looking as I had hoped.

Saw Performance Testing

We had a day of side by side saw cutting tests in a 24"Douglas Fir that has been down for several seasons and is quite hard.  The teeth shapes with the steeper profiles seemed to both feel better and cut better in that test.  The #2 saw in the table below cut as well as a heavier and longer saw.  All of the saws we tested were set with the same general cutter set and raker depth, at least that was the sharpening plan.  The raker depth on some of my saws were inconsistant.

Images are below and here is a summary table of the shapes and notes about use:

Cutter side profile

cutter end view profile

cutter top view profile
after jointing
notes from side by side cutting on an old hard 24" Doulas Fir log

all angles measured in degrees
cuts well but not as good as #2 and #4
Bud's 63 inch saw
not measured
Best, matched #4 in cutting performance
Bud's 5'6" inch saw
not measured
matched #1
6 ft bucking saw from Jim's Crosscut
not measured
Best, matched #2 in cutting performance
Simonds 519
(Bridget's small falling saw)
decided that raker back slope was too flat, and this saw did not cut well.  This saw ran too smooth, and had no "bite"
Warren Miller Sample
only a small section of a saw so this was not part of side by side cutting test.


teeth shapes for saw named sherman

For comparison purposes Here are similar views from my Warren Miller sample.   I have not jointed this to establish the top view cutter teeth angles, so instead I painted the cutter tooth in an attempt to reveal the same shape cross section:

saw tooth shapes from Warren Miller sample

Below is a sample from a saw I have not sharpened and I do not know who did.  It is a saw given to me in seemingly almost new condition.

Simonds 519 felling saw, filer unknown

For the following saws I have not attempted to find the cross section angles that would be revealed if the saw is jointed.  

The next two samples below were sharpened by Bud Siliman, who has been doing some of the crosscut sharpening for Washington Trails Association:

Buds 63 inch saw

Buds 68 inch saw

The next saw is a 6 foot Simonds bucking saw that I bought from Jim's Crosscut Saws and I presume was sharpened by Jim Talbot.

Saw from Jims Crosscut

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