JoshClark



Bad Axe Tool Works 14" Sash Saw, $265: aka 'the Sandbar Bowie'
(Delivery: 5-7 weeks)

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Type Filing
Desired Pitch
Gauge Plate
Sawback Preference
Handle Species
Hand Size (how to measure)
Preferred Fasteners
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bowieLong before Santa Anna's troops pumped several musket balls into his head with the fall of the Alamo, James Bowie had already established himself as a real Bad Axe in 1827 when a duel suddenly turned south on a bloody sandbar in Natchez, Mississippi. Bludgeoned, shot, and with a cane sword sticking through his chest, Bowie held his own against four opponents with a large knife his brother Rezin made for him--and that's how the legend of Alamo defender Colonel James Bowie and his knife was born.

bowieKnifeSo let's take it a step further and see how my 14" sash saw compares to Bowie's knife in the sandbar fight, particularly when filed 12 ppi hybrid-cut on a hardy .025-gauge plate. This is where rugged durability and precision converge at a high level, especially when you're new to hand tools and you want the perfect starter saw that will never outlast its usefullness. It can be used as a larger carcase saw for cuts against the grain, or a medium-range tenon saw when you want to sink it up to the hilt when crafting tenon cheeks with the grain. It's just a great all-around size, and that's why Disston made so many back saws with the same specs well over a century ago that are still floating around on eBay today.

Here's a run-down on the specs:

  • Traditional Wheeler Madden Clemson-pattern closed handle, available in standard cherry, or optional walnut or mesquite.
  • Traditional folded gunsmith-blued carbon or optional stainless steel, brass, copper and bronze backs.
  • The carbon steel sawback is now available in black-pearl nickel finish (looks fabulous and highly corrosion-resistant).
  • Fasteners in standard brass or optional gunsmith-blued or stainless alloys. You may also choose the niter-blued or nickel-plated finishes for the carbon steel fasteners.
  • RC 50-52 .02-thin premium Swedish spring steel sawplate for carcase configuration, and .025-gauge for the sash configuration.
  • Filed 12 ppi rip or hybrid-cut on the .025-gauge plate, with moderate-to-aggressive rake, and slight fleam & gullet to reduce tearout for sash configuration. For carcase configuration, I recommend 13 ppi x-cut with the .02 plate.
  • Depth of plate under the back for the .025-gauge hybrid and ripping plate runs 3 5/8" from heel to toe.
  • Depth of plate under the back for the .02-gauge dedicated x-cut plate runs 3 3/8" from heel to toe.

BAH14Why do I want this saw? Because it will fit YOUR hand regardless of whether you enjoy wrestling large Japanese men or play first-chair piccolo for the Chicago symphony, and tracks the line like it's on rails. Above all, you get choice: choice in plate gauge, how the toothline is filed, and how you want the saw to look. This saw will certainly be one of the go-to weapons in your woodshop arsenal, serving multiple roles particularly when filed hybrid-cut.

Hand Measurement
Sizing Handles: Here's my hand: it measures about 3 3/4" across. That's what I'm calling regular, and it will work with a range from 3 5/8" and start getting tight at 3 7/8." Bigger hands just under 4" up to 4 1/8" spans will require the size Large handle, and 4 1/4 to 4 3/8 will want an Extra Large. Going the opposite direction, if the span of your hand measures in the 3 ¼ up to 3 1/2" range, then we're looking at a size small handle. Really tiny hands from 2 ¾ up to 3 1/8 should warrant an XS handle.
(return to sizing menu)

What's the best pitch and filing? I personally recommend 12 ppi dedicated rip or 12 ppi hybrid-cut for the .025-gague plate, or 13 ppi dedicated x-cut with the .02 gauge plate, depending on your requirements. If you're new to hand tools, then the hybrid-filing is a great choice--you won't regret it. For more info on sawfiling angles and how that coupled with plate gauge optimizes the kind of saw best suited for your woodworking method, be sure to read Albert Einstein's treatise on sawplate physics.

HandlesBacks.jpg There's a new wood in Tombstone: Mesquite. That's right, mesquite--an attractive, yet quite rugged species capable of sinking a taproot 120' down in the arid soils of the American southwest, and harder than a whole barrel full of woodpecker lips. The Janka Scale rates mesquite nearly twice as hard as white oak, and the hardest speecies native to the North American continent. Like Texans themselves, mesquite has an enduring beauty and resilient character borne of droughts, wet years, cold snaps and extended heat waves (I guess I can say that as a recovering redneck originally from southeast Oklahoma). And apart from its natural beauty and innate toughness, the tangential fibers of mesquite shrink evenly while curing, so what we have here is an incredibly stable, attractive, and underutilized wood species just begging for service in the hand tool world. You won't be disappointed--mesquite rocks.

A high-end, black pearl nickel-plated finish is now available for the sawback on this saw. Nickel-plating is particularly durable, on par with stainless steel in its ability to withstand the corrosive nature of humidity and coastal air on carbon steel. You'll find this finish on high-end firearms, and on other applications where form and substance converge at a high level. And on that note, it looks just great--the deep black pearl lustre of this finish on carbon steel polished at 400 grit not only looks fabulous, but serves a completly practical role in scratch and corrosion resistance. With proper care, this saw will look just as good a century from now as it does today.

fasteners


Brass and Copper sawbacks are also now available on the Bad Axe saw you design. Brass is timeless, heavy and appeals to the eye the same way a Hawkens .50 caliber rifle does to muzzleloading enthusiasts. As for copper--copper is heavy. It's the other red metal that just looks stunning against walnut and mesquite, and apart from a scotch more weight in proportion to the other backs, copper is mostly an aesthetic choice. Take a moment to look at the various pics I've loaded up on my Bad Lexicon page to see how the various combinations work together, along with the nicknames I've assigned these looks. And watch out for choice overload--you also have alloy and finish options with my line of slotted and split-nuts fastener sets.

Proposition 65 Notice: Bronze and brass alloys contain lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects, or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.

bhDon't forget the bench hook set. IMHO, the 14" saw is the perfect size for bench hook utility. They're indespensable when making repetive cuts to length or miter, such as running through a series of baseboard cuts without haluing in a powered chop saw into your living room. And you really don't want to inadvertently saw into the nice Roubo workbech you spent the last few months making because you didn't take the time to make one of these. My bench hook sets are pretty bomb-proof, and while they don't come cheap, you will get double-duty out of it (when one side wears out, just flip it over), and they are very well-made. So for those of you who'd rather spending time working wood rather than making accessories, you might give mine a try.


14 Inch Large Tenon Back Saw

All Bad Axe Tool Works Saws Feature the Following:

  • Custom filing available at same price per request
  • Highly-figured 19th-century patterned cherry handles
  • Flush-face slotted or split-nuts sawbolts/nuts in three alloys and four finishes with a 13/16" deep-dish decorative medallion
  • Firearms-quality hot-blued finish on traditionally-folded steel back
  • Optional bright-polished stainless steel back
  • Premium-grade Swedish Spring Steel, RC50-52
  • I personally guarantee that these saws are SHARP out of the box, with appropriate joint, set and rake. Every tooth does its duty. I fully guarantee this saw for one year after purchase.

Learn more about my material choices and rationale.

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