A sawyer’s study of cadence

Jean-François_Millet_(II)_014Sorry to drop off the grid.  . . with spring comes the yard work along with my hobbies and saws hasn’t left much time to pontificate on life.

March and April always getting me thinking about biking weather. I’ve spent a good deal of my life around bikes, first BMX then as a roadie.  Cadence, or the rhythm of motion, is just something I notice or maybe, I should say, pay attention to.

In road cycling, it’s something you’re continually working on and refers to the spinning of the cranks as it relates to the energy and effort put forth.  Perfection is near impossible and the pursuit leads to a lot of hyperawareness, case in point this blog. . .

In cycling, the goal is to balance maximum forward speed using the least amount of energy. The speed is easy enough to understand but the expenditure of energy, often measured in watts, is a little more tricky since it’s human, not petrol powered and comes with the another factor: fatigue.

So the right cadence is one that allows you to cover the distance in the given time and uses the least amount of energy. That’s about the depth of cadence as it relates to cycling that I’ll get into other then to say the proper gearing is often less resistant and more rotation than one might first think.

So with that in mind, understand that many of the conventional recommendations for ppi (points per inch)/ tpi (teeth per inch), also knows as pitch, for sawyers do not take ones body size or the amount of energy (watts) used to cut a given amount.  So in the 130 years since “Grimshaw on Saws” was written, the size and physique of people has changed quite a bit.  For one thing, woman for sure were never include in the recommendations, but “Let’s not bicker and argue about who killed who”.  Rather my point is, when selecting a panel saw, perspective is needed when applying the recommendations.  Understand it’s just a stepping off point and for the smaller framed sawyer, the right size may be outside the guidelines.  I’m 5’8”, 160 lbs and I really like a 6 ppi rip saw for most jobs. The same is true with cross cuts.  I often favor a 10 ppi for most work including thicker boards.

 A few caveats to all this cadence talk. . .

First is set and it’s a wee bit of a wild card.  Nothing will rob efficiency like a poorly set plate regardless of the configuration.  Over set plates hog out wood great, but that extra wide kerf takes energy.  Extremely tight set causes some wicket friction and the plate could easily get hot enough to fry an egg.  In general, if the saw was last set by an automatic setter, like a Foley power setter, you can bet the farm it’s over set.

Saw plate length I’m sure there is a rule of thumb but most average people should find 26″ works fine. However if you shop in the “big and tall” section or  your friends regularly address you as “shorty”, you may want to look at longer or shorter plate length accordingly.  I’ll be honest, I quite enjoy a shorter saw for cross cutting.

Tooth geometry is a religion, or should I say cult, all of its own.  Rake, fleam and slope all play a part, but for the purposes of cadence, I feel they shouldn’t really play a big part.  Most people filing saws use standard geometry for cross cut and rips saws.  Backsaws vary a little more, but again, not hugely from conventional geometry.

I don’t have a conclusion, rather, this is all food for thought when considering the next saw or the saw(s) to use.  I guess like all things, with practice comes insight. So when considering the next rip don’t just grab the 5 or 5-1/2 maybe try and 6 and see how it goes.

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone gets out and enjoys the spring. I just returned from the tool show in Nashua, NH.  Had a great time seeing all my New England friends.  This weekend I’ll be hanging with some VW friends and the first weekend in May is the Cheat River Festival.  I’ll do my best to keep the posts on a regular schedule.

One last note: I’ve been actively trying to add some saw related products to the site and recently added bent handles brass brushes, perfect for fine detail cleaning and also my new favorite saw filing aid, the hog bristle brush.  Both of which are made in the US and available direct through my website or my ebay store.

Joe Federici
Saw Mechanic


One thought on “A sawyer’s study of cadence

  1. Speaking of rip saws, I took a Disston 8 pt Xcut and filed it rip, with 5 deg. rake.
    It has become my favorite rip saw! Cuts fast and clean and leaves a very smooth cut.
    More people should consider higher tooth count rip saws.


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