Can You Sharpen a Hand Saw? How To Do It

A hand saw is one of the most basic and essential tools in any woodworker’s arsenal. Whether cutting through lumber or trimming a piece of wood, a hand saw can be a lifesaver. But like any tool, a hand saw will eventually become dull and need to be sharpened. 

You can sharpen your hand saw. However, getting the blade back to its original sharpness will take some time and effort. You will need to use a file or a sharpening stone to grind away the blade’s metal until it is razor-sharp.

However, it’s essential to know how to do it properly. If you don’t, you could damage the saw or injure yourself. In this article, I’ll show you how to sharpen a hand saw correctly.

How To Sharpen a Hand Saw

Sharpening a hand saw can be a little daunting at first, but with a few simple steps and the right tools, it’s actually quite easy. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to sharpen a hand saw.

1. Clamping the Saw Blade

You’ll need to clamp the saw blade with something sturdy like a vise, keeping the teeth facing upwards, so that you can safely sharpen the saw. If you don’t have a vise, you can use a C-clamp to clamp the blade to a work surface. This will keep the blade from moving while you sharpen it.

2. Inspecting the Height of the Teeth

Before you start sharpening, you need to check the height of the teeth. They should be about 1/8 inch (3 mm) above the gullet (the space between the teeth). If the teeth are too high, it will cause the saw to bind in the cut. If they’re too low, it will not cut smoothly. You can use a feeler gauge to check the height of the teeth.

3. Leveling the Teeth

If the teeth are not level, you need to level it before sharpening. You can use a saw set, which will level the teeth, allowing you to get a better grip and sharpen the saw evenly.

  1. To use a saw set, insert the tip of the saw set onto the gullet of the tooth and press down to achieve the desired level.
  2. To use a hammer, place the claw behind the tooth and tap it lightly with a hammer to bend the tooth down. The goal is to get the tooth as close to level as possible.

4. Sharpening the Tooth

There are two ways to sharpen the tooth: filing and grinding. Filing is the traditional way of sharpening a saw, which most people still use today. It’s a slower process, but it’s precise. Grinding is a newer method of sharpening, and it’s much faster. However, it’s a bit more difficult to control.


You will need a grinding wheel and a saw set to grind the tooth. If your wheel is too coarse, it will remove too much metal and overheat the tooth. It will not do a good enough job if it is too fine.

Here’s how to set up the grinding wheel:

  • Chalk: To ensure the wheel doesn’t slip, put some chalk on the workbench under the grinding wheel.
  • Wrench: To tighten or loosen the wheel, use a wrench.
  • Clamp: Use a clamp to keep the saw in place while sharpening it.

To set the angle of the tooth, you’ll need to find the bevel angle. Also termed the ‘fleam’ angle, this is the angle between the face of the teeth and the back of the blade. For most hand saws, this is between 15 and 25 degrees.

To grind the teeth: 

  1. Put the saw in the clamp and position the grinding wheel so that it is at the bevel angle.
  2. Turn the grinder and slowly lower the blade onto the wheel.
  3. Apply pressure to the back of the blade and move it from side to side.
  4. Sharpen all teeth on one side of the blade before moving on to the other.
  5. When you are finished, turn off the grinder and clean the teeth with a file.


If you don’t have a grinding wheel, you can use a file to sharpen the teeth. To set the angle of the tooth: 

  • Use a protractor to find the angle of the tooth.
  • Mark the tooth with a pencil.
  • File the tooth at the marked angle until it is sharp.

To sharpen the teeth:

  • Fix the saw into a secure position with a vise or other tool with a steady grip.
  • Start at the top corner of the tooth and file downwards. 
  • File the teeth on both sides of the saw.
  • Repeat this process until all the teeth are sharp.

5. Cleaning the Teeth

Once you have sharpened all the teeth, you need to clean them. This will remove any metal filings that are stuck to the teeth. You can use a toothbrush or a cloth to clean the teeth. 

Be gentle with this step, since you don’t want to injure yourself with any metal fragments that haven’t been properly filed down. 

6. Checking the Sharpness of the Saw

After you have sharpened and cleaned the saw, you need to check the sharpness of the blade. The best way to do this is to cut a piece of wood. If the saw cuts smoothly, then it is sharp enough. If it does not cut smoothly, you need to sharpen it again.

7. Maintaining the Saw

To keep your saw in good condition, you must regularly clean and oil it. Clean the saw after each use with a cloth or toothbrush. Apply a light coat of oil to the blade before storing it. This will help to prevent rust.

Tips When Sharpening a Hand Saw

When you are sharpening the teeth, it is important to keep the following tips in mind: 

If You Don’t Have a File or Grinder, Use A Sharpening Stone

A sharpening stone is a flattened piece of stone, usually about the size of your palm. It’s used to sharpen knives and other tools. When sharpening a hand saw, you want to use a sharpening stone at least as wide as the blade. This will give you a large surface to work with and make it easier to keep the blade level.

Use a Honing Oil and Guide

A honing guide is a tool that helps you keep the blade level, while a honing oil is a lubricant that helps protect the blade of the saw and keep it cool while sharpening it. The oil also helps remove any metal filings stuck to the blade. Using a guide and oil will help keep the blade level and make sharpening the saw easier.

Be Careful Not To Overheat the Blade

If you overheat the blade, it will eventually become brittle. This means that it will be more likely to break the next time you use it. To avoid this, sharpen the teeth in short bursts and take breaks.

Don’t Press Too Hard

When you’re sharpening the teeth, you want to apply just enough pressure to remove the blunt metal edges. If you press too hard while sharpening the saw, you will remove too much material from the blade. This will make the blade weaker and more likely to break.

Keep the Blade Clean

Throughout the sharpening process, it’s important to keep the saw’s blade clean. This will help to prevent the formation of burrs. Burrs are small pieces of metal that can get stuck in the teeth of the saw and cause it to cut unevenly.

Final Thoughts

Sharpening a hand saw is not difficult, but it does take some practice. It is important to use the proper tools and to follow the steps carefully. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to sharpen your hand saw quickly and easily.

Damien Madeira

Damien has been doing woodworking for the last 5 years. He began as a hobbyist with hand tools and slowly worked his way up to own larger machines and mill rough wood into beautiful creations. While still considering himself a hobbyist, he has a passion for woodworking and enjoys working with epoxy as well.

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