What are saw set pliers and how do you use them?

When your hand saw starts to bend or gets stuck when cutting, you probably need to set the teeth. In this article, I teach you how to do it with a pair of saw set pliers

Before power tools came by, everything was done using hand tools. Today, most hand tools have been replaced by power tools except for a few of them. Hand saws are some of the few reigning hand tools. Experienced woodworkers and beginners alike use these saws to make cuts in their woodworking projects. Furthermore, hand saws are inexpensive hence easier to acquire than electrical saws.

However, for a hand saw to cut effectively and accurately, you need two things. First, you need to know how to use it. Second, you need to know how to keep the teeth sharp and set at the proper angle.

Learning how to properly use a hand saw requires practice. But for you to set the angle of the teeth of your hand saw correctly, you need a pair of saw set pliers and a little bit of skill. You also need to know how to sharpen a hand saw.

In this article, I teach you how to adjust the angle of the teeth of your hand saw with saw set pliers. The purpose is to help learn how to keep your hand saws in good shape all the time.

What is a saw set tool or pliers?

Saw set pliers are a type of pliers for setting the angle of bend of teeth on a hand saw. Woodworkers use them to reset the teeth of hand saws to a proper angle when servicing them. The reason you would want to set the teeth of your hand saw is to make the kerf wider than the blade so that the saw can cut without getting stuck.

When setting a saw, the rule of thumb is not to bend more than half the tooth from the tip. Moreover. the set on the teeth varies between applications. For example, the teeth of a rip saw are bent more than those of a crosscut saw. Similarly, a hand saw for cutting wet or resinous lumber should have a more pronounced set than a saw for cutting dry wood.

The good thing is that the saw set tool determines how much to bend a tooth based on the teeth-per-inch setting. Ideally, you should set the same TPI as the saw you are servicing. But you can set a lower or higher TPI depending on how you intend to use the saw.

Parts of saw set pliers and their uses

Most modern saw set pliers have these parts:

Hammer

The hammer on saw set pliers is the narrow point or protruding part of the plunger that pushes a saw tooth onto the anvil to bend it. It ensures that only one tooth is set at a time.

Anvil

The anvil is the circular platform or block with pitch numbers on the side and dint in the center. It is where the hammer on the plunger punches a saw tooth onto when setting. The anvil is also called a punch block.

Oscillating plunger

A block with a protruding narrow point in the middle. The plunger oscillates back and forth the barrel to push its narrow point onto a single tooth. The rest of it pushes the neighbouring teeth against the flat surface of the anvil.

Barrel

The barrel hides the plunger when the handles are open or not squeezed.

Triggers/handles

The trigger handles of a saw set tool are the hand grips for operating it. When you squeeze the handles together, the plunger moves forward toward the anvil and when released, it moves back into the barrel.

Hinge

A hinge allows the handles to close and open so that you can operate the tool.

How to use saw set pliers

1. Prepare the workspace

Set the hand saw firmly on the bench with the teeth facing upward. Use a clamp and wood pads on both sides of the blade to hold the saw firmly in place.

2. Set the pitch on the saw set tool.

Turn the anvil to set the pitch. The anvil has numbers etched on the side that indicate the pitch. Set the pitch to match that of the saw. For example, if the saw has 12 teeth per inch, set the anvil to 12. However, if you want a wider kerf, you can set a lower pitch and a higher pitch for a thinner kerf.

3. Install the saw set on to the hand saw blade

While the saw is still clamped in place, install the saw set by sliding the saw blade teeth through the gap between the anvil and the plunger. You should see the teeth through the saw set pliers from the top.

4. Set the teeth

Position the saw set so that the hammer on the oscillating plunger points directly onto the first tooth that bends away from you or toward the anvil. Hold the tool firmly and press the trigger handles together to set that first tooth. The hammer will push only one tooth to set its angle.

Then release the handles and move the tool to the next tooth bending it away from you. Work your way down the length of the blade punching every alternate tooth leaning away from you.

Turn the saw and clamp it in place then repeat steps 3 and 4.

5. Test the saw!

After setting the saw, test it by cutting a piece of wood to find out if the teeth have the right amount of set. Look at the size of kerf and the quality of the cut to tell if the angle is good. A properly set hand saw should cut smoothly without binding. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a saw set used for?

A pair of saw set pliers is used to set the teeth of a hand saw so there is enough clearance for the saw to cut without binding. Saw setting is done by bending the teeth of a saw outward from the centerline in an alternating pattern. Learn more about saw setting here.

Can a saw set sharpen saw blades?

A saw set does not sharpen saw blades. It only sets the angle of bend of the teeth while a file is used to sharpen the teeth after they are set.

What is pitch?

Pitch is the number of teeth per inch of a blade. This number is set on the anvil of the saw set pliers.

What is a kerf?

Kerf the width of the slot a saw makes by cutting. Hand saw teeth with a pronounced set have a wider kerf than saws with a marginal set..

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